(June 7) Only 2% of U.S. farms are involved in vegetable and melon farming and an additional 4% of the nation’s farms are in fruits and tree nuts.

But the 2002 Census of Agriculture noted fresh produce sales helped make California’s Fresno County the top county in value of agricultural products sold. The first data sets from the census were released June 3 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Besides the 6% of farms in fruit and vegetable production, an additional 3% of farms were involved with greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production, according to the census.

By sheer numbers, vegetable and melons farms tallied nearly 35,000 units, while fruit and tree nut operations topped 95,000, and greenhouse operations totaled about 65,000.

The census, available at www.nass.usda.gov/census, revealed that Fresno County held its place as No. 1 in value of agricultural products sold. The 2002 census said the county’s output was $2.8 billion.

The data are available by state and commodity designations.

The census showed that vegetable, melon, potato and sweet potato production in California together accounted for 18.6% of that state’s 2002 agricultural sales.

Fruits, tree nuts and berries accounted for 33.9% of agricultural sales in the state, and nursery and greenhouse production added 12.8%.

Taken as a group, fruit, vegetable, nuts and nursery products accounted for 65% of the state’s agricultural sales in 2002.

Other findings of the 2002 Census of Agriculture were:

  • 50% of the nation’s 2 million-plus farms have Internet access, and 39% use a computer to run their business.


  • 90% of farms are operated by an individual or family.


  • Direct sales to consumers have jumped 37% since 1997 and reached $812 million in 2002.


  • The value of organically produced commodities was $392.8 million in 2002; no comparison figure is available because the statistic was not tracked in earlier studies.


  • The top five states in value of agricultural products sold were California ($25 billion), Texas ($14.1 billion), Iowa ($12.3 billion), Nebraska ($9.7 billion) and Kansas ($8.7 billion).



CALIFORNIA’S ACREAGE TRENDS

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

  • Cantaloupe acreage declined from 60,707 acres in 1997 to 52,727 acres in 2002.

  • Carrot acreage declined from 86,684 acres in 1997 to 68,635 acres in 2002.

  • Lettuce acreage declined from 227,566 acres in 1997 to 219,701 acres in 2002.

    FLORIDA ACREAGE TRENDS

  • Harvested Florida vegetable acreage slipped from 253,321 acres in 1997 to 219,412 acres in 2002.

  • Tomato acreage harvested rose from 39,977 acres in 2002 to 45,648 acres in 2002; the number of tomato farms in the state declined from 228 to 218.

  • Citrus acreage in the state declined from 971,577 acres in 1997 to 871,773 acres in 2002; grapefruit acreage declined from 154,955 acres to 119,364 acres.

    WASHINGTON ACREAGE TRENDS

  • Apple acreage declined from 215,463 acres in 1997 to 172,810 acres in 2002

  • Pear acreage increased from 27,931 acres in 1997 to 30,979 acres in 2002.