Number of farms in Hamilton dropped by 16% since 2016 as farmers get older


Published April 24, 2023 at 11:59 am

farming hamilton
Photo by Mark Stebnicki

A new report shows less land is being farmed in Hamilton and farmers are getting older.

The City of Hamilton released the Hamilton Agriculture Profile last week using data from Statistics Canada 2021 Census of Agriculture, Economic Development.

The report, prepared by Invest in Hamilton, found the number of farms declined by 16.2 per cent from 810 in 2016 to 679 in 2021.

This is a much high number than in Ontario overall, which saw a decline of 2.5 per cent.

But the average size of a Hamilton farm increased from 159 acres in 2016, to 174 acres in 2022, representing an increase of 9.4 per cent. This is compared to a 2.8 per cent increase for the entire Golden Horseshoe. Approximately 54.2 per cent of farmland was owned, compared to 45.8 per cent that was leased, rented, or crop shared.

Despite the growth in farm size, the total farmland in Hamilton still declined by approximately 8.1 per cent, down from 128,532 acres in 2016 to 118,070 acres in 2021, according to the report.

farming in hamilton

Total farmland in the Golden Horseshoe also declined by 4.3 per cent between 2016 and 2021.

The most common type of farming is oilseed and grain at 217 farms in 2021.

More than half of Hamilton’s farms (approximately 63.2 per cent) produce either oilseed, grain, animal products, or are engaged in greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production.

Hamilton and Ontario farmers are getting older.

In 2021, the average age of Hamilton’s farm operators was 57.9 years old.

Although there don’t appear to be statistics for Hamilton, in Ontario, the average age of farm operators was 56.7 years old. This has increased from 54.9 years old in 2006.

And almost 65 per cent of Hamilton’s farm operators are age 55 and older.

Hamilton’s proportion of farm operators in the age 55 and older cohort is slightly higher than the average of 62.3 per cent for Ontario.

Although Hamilton has a slightly higher proportion of farms with both written and verbal succession plans, the vast majority of Hamilton and Ontario farms are operating without any defined succession plan.

Hamilton Agriculture Snapshot

  • 679 farms operate within the City of Hamilton with a total combined farm area of 118,070 acres;
  • The average size farm is 174 acres;
  • 32 per cent of farms in Hamilton are oilseed and grain farming (the most in the city), followed by other animal production (16 per cent), greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production (15 per cent);
  • 2,207 individuals are employed in Hamilton’s agricultural sector. This includes full-time, part-time, and seasonal workers;
  • Total operating revenues for farms in Hamilton was $366 million in 2021, while total operating expenses for farms in Hamilton was $299 million in 2021;
  • Hamilton’s farms are the most profitable in the Golden Horseshoe (average of $104,764 per farm);
  • The gross output impact of Hamilton’s agricultural sector is roughly $1.3 billion.

Click here to see the full Hamilton Agriculture Profile.

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