Agriculture is a cornerstone of daily life in the Central Valley, and the products that are harvested locally make a national impact as Stanislaus County was the seventh highest county in terms of national agricultural sales in 2012.
The 2012 Census of Agriculture, which is produced by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Services, provides a wide range of information regarding demographics, economics, land, crop and livestock production information and more. Often reported only every five years, the censuses are reported at the national, state and county level and play an integral role in farmers and agribusiness people’s decisions for the future.
Of the top 10 counties ranked in the country for agricultural sales, nine were from California with Stanislaus County taking seventh place and the only outlier being Weld, Colo. sliding in at ninth. According to Wayne Zipser, Stanislaus County Farm Bureau executive director, the county’s success is a testament to the farmers that work to produce the best products each and every day.
“I think it says great things about our region. Our lead commodity is dairy and our second is almonds and there is certainly a huge demand for those products. This shows that the ingenuity and the forethought of the farmers in this area and that they are doing a great job,” said Zipser.
The market value of agricultural products has also risen by $8.7 billion from 2007 to a total of $42.3 billion of products sold in the state in 2012. California is also the top state using renewable energy producing systems in agriculture, the most popular being solar energy, across the 5,845 farms within the state. However, statistics demonstrate that the average age of the farmer in California has risen since the 2007 census from 58.4 to 60.1 in 2012. Age is often a cause for concern in the industry and the USDA has been making efforts in recent months to increase awareness for younger farmers in the hopes that they will be drawn to agriculture or return to the family farm. According to Zipser, these efforts need to be maintained.
“It has always been difficult to try to make sure that young people know that there are opportunities in agriculture. A lot of folks are coming back, but maybe not towards agriculture production and we’re trying to encourage them to go that direction, to come back to the family farm,” said Zipser.