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The changing landscape of farming in Alberta

The changing landscape of farming in Alberta

Posted on: 10/3/2017 | Author: ATB Financial's Economics + Research Team

The number of farms in Alberta has been shrinking for some time. In 1996, there were 59,007 farms in the province compared to 40,638 last year. That’s a drop of 31.1 per cent in 20 years.

Total farm area in Alberta, however, has stayed roughly the same, contracting by 3.3 per cent between 1996 and 2016. As a result, the average size of a farm in the province has gone from 881 acres in 1996 to 1,237 in 2016– an increase of 40.4 per cent. Razor-thin margins, economies of scale and fewer young farmers taking over the family farm are some of the reasons for this shift.

Interestingly, it’s not just large operations that are on the rise. The number of farms under 10 acres (the smallest category tracked by Statistics Canada) increased by 15.8 per cent between 2011 and 2016 (from 879 to 1,018). The number of farms 3,520 acres and over (the biggest category tracked by Statistics Canada) increased by 6.0 per cent (from 2,838 to 3,008).

The capital (land and buildings, livestock and poultry and farm machinery and equipment) required to operate a farm has also been on the rise. The number of farms with capital investments of $3.5 million and over jumped by 60.9 per cent between 2011 and 2016 (from 6,456 to 10,389).

Keeping up with technology, the larger scale of farming and demographic shifts is an ongoing challenge for many Alberta farmers.

Number of farms in Alberta, graph

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