Statistics from the 2011 Canadian Census of Agriculture show Ontario following nationwide trends with overall declines in acreage and the number of operations.

Details of the census, released in mid-May, showed land devoted to fresh produce in Ontario did not see as much decline as the overall numbers did.

Total farm area in Ontario decreased 4.8% from 2006 to 2011 to 12.7 million acres. Acres for field vegetables other than potatoes were 1.5% of the Ontario cropland in 2011, down from 1.7% in 2006. Ontario had 10.2% of all the cropland in Canada in 2011.

The overall percentage of Ontario farm land defined as cropland — used for field crops (which include potatoes), hay, fruits, field vegetables, sod and nursery — increased, reaching 70.5% in 2011, compared to 68% in 2006.

Notes on the census from Statistics Canada credited increasing prices for cash crops, coupled with declining cattle and pig numbers, for sparking a shift in farm operations away from forage and feed crops to more profitable commodities, including vegetables.

Ontario is following the international trend of consolidation and larger growing operations.

Using 2010 constant prices, the 2011 census showed farms with $500,000 or more in gross farm receipts increased by 5.8% compared to 2006. Farms with less than $500,000 in gross receipts decreased by 10.7% compared to 2006.

There were 5,609 of the larger farms in Ontario in 2011, representing 10.8% of all farms in the province. However, they accounted for 68.1% of total provincial gross farm receipts reported for the year 2010.

Other stats on Ontario’s agricultural scene revealed in the census data:

  • The average age of a farm operator in Ontario in 2011 was 54.5 years, up from 52.6 years in 2006;
  • Ontario had 25.3% of Canada’s 205,730 census farms in 2011. A census farm is an agricultural operation that produces agricultural products intended for sale;
  • Ontario had 51,950 census farms in 2011, a 9.2% decrease since 2006. This compares to a 10.3% decrease at the national level;
  • Of all Ontario farms, 44.7% have high-speed Internet, similar to the national average of 44.8%;
  • There were 774 farms with certified organic and/or transitional organic production in Ontario in 2011, representing 1.5% of all farms in the province, compared to 2% nationwide;
  • Over half of Canada’s total greenhouse area, 54.2% was in Ontario in 2011. Total greenhouse area increased by 6.7% to 135.1 million square feet. Greenhouse vegetables accounted for 86.2 million square feet and floriculture products for 42.6 million square feet;
  • In 2011, Ontario had the largest area of grapes, apples, peaches, sour cherries, pears and plums in the country. Apple area decreased 21.5% to 15,830 acres in 2011. Grape acres also decreased between censuses by 10.7% to 18,383 acres in 2011. Nearly two-thirds, 61.3%, of all grape acreage in the country was reported in Ontario.