AGRICULTURE & FISHING

We understand that not everyone who looks at the dashboard is an expert in “food systems” facts and terminology. For those who would like more context, we have developed these introductory resources. Data and materials here are about the whole New England food system (not just the part related to institutions).

This page provides background about food production, processing, and distribution in our region. It uses data from the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture and other sources to show the current agricultural landscape in New England, and how this landscape has been changing over time.


Change in the Number of Farms in New England States from 1910 to 2012

The number of farms has decreased drastically across the region, especially between 1945 and 1969. We continue to lose 50 acres of farmland every hour, according to the American Farmland Trust. Causes of loss of farmland include urbanization, poor land use planning, and the challenging economic situation that farmers face in trying to make a living off the land.

Source: USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture


Change in Acres in Agriculture in New England States from 1982 to 2012

New England states have been working hard to maintain the acres they have remaining in farmland in the last few decades. Preservation of farmland programs and practices have become more widespread. Increasing interest in “eating local” has contributed to all states actually increasing the acres they have in farmland in the last 10 years.

Source: USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture


Market Value of New England Agricultural Production Compared to the U.S.

Although New England is a small region geographically and contributes less than one percent of the total value of national agricultural market value, agriculture is an important part of New England’s economy. Between crops and animal production, nearly three billion in regional agricultural products are sold each year. The bar chart below shows regional sales on the leftmost bar, followed by state sales. 

Source: USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture


Composition of New England's Agricultural Production

All kinds of agricultural products are grown in New England. Across New England, milk, nursery products (greenhouse, floriculture, and sod), and vegetables make up over 60 percent of all product. On the state level, there are significant differences. You can scroll over the state charts below the bar chart to reveal how much each state produces by category.

Source: USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture


Average Size of Farm & Average Farm Income

In New England, the average farm size is quite small, ranging from just over 50 acres in Rhode Island to over 175 acres in Maine. This map shows average farm size by state. Average farm income is also viewable by scrolling over each state

Source: USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture


New England Food Hubs

Food hubs are defined by USDA as “businesses or organizations that actively manage the aggregation, distribution and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.” These alternative distribution channels for local and regional food products are tracked by the USDA Food Hub Directory, where you can view additional information about each food hub.

Source: USDA AMS 2012 Working List of Food Hubs


Rank of New England States in Direct Sales to Consumers

The USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture asked farmers if they sell any of their products directly to consumers through farmers markets, roadside stands, pick-your-own operations, community supported agriculture (CSA) arrangements, and other efforts. Throughout the U.S. 144,530 farms sold $1.3 billion directly to consumers in 2012. Although this was only 0.3% of total agricultural sales, this represented a 6% increase in farms and a 8% increase in sales over the last time the Census was conducted in 2007.  The map below shows each state's rank in terms of direct sales as a proportion of total sales. All New England states were in the top 10. The chart below shows each states' direct sales in comparison to all other sales. 

Source: USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture State Summary Highlights Report


New England Direct to Consumer Produce Sales

New England farmers sell food direct to consumers through farmers markets, roadside stands, pick-your-own operations, community supported agriculture (CSA) arrangements, and other efforts. The first chart below shows the percentage of total farms engaging in direct to consumer sales by state. The second set of charts the percentage of  total farms engaging in particular types of direct to consumer sales by state, including farm stand, farmers markets, pick-your-own, CSA, mail order/Internet, and "other." The third pair of charts shows the percentage of total farms engaging in other types of sales, specifically 'direct to retail' and 'wholesale' markets. 

Source: USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture State Summary Highlights Report