Farmers are older than they once were. It’s an obvious point, but in this case it appears, from the data, that the lost generations of prairie farms are starting to turn up missing from the middle years.
The Canadian Census of Agriculture data for 2016 shows producers older than 55 are growing in numbers, while those between 35 and 55 are falling fast. There is, for the first time in a long while, an uptick in growers younger than 35.
The 35 to 55 group dropped by about 25 percent since the last tally in 2011.
In Manitoba, farmers older than 55 increased by 3.2 percent, from 10,165 to 10,495, while the 35 to 55 group dropped 26.7 percent, from 10,190 to 7,470. Farmers younger than 35 grew 10.7 percent, but in absolute terms only 210 new ones were minted.
Next door in Saskatchewan, 50 new, young farmers were added, but more than 5,000 younger, middle-aged operators either moved into a higher age bracket or quit farming, dropping from 20,700 in 2011. The older than 55 crowd grew about four percent to 32,535, adding 935 producers to its ranks.
In Alberta, 360 younger farmers were added since 2011, but 6,565 were lost from the 35 to 55 group or became part of the older bunch. Producers older than 55 grew six percent, by 1,750 to 32,535.
In British Columbia, older farmers dropped by 735, about 4.5 percent, while the 35 to 55 group fell 24.5 percent with younger farmers the only growth area, adding 205, up 12 percent.
Total farmers for the West saw Manitoba with 20,140, Saskatchewan with 45,350, Alberta with 57,600 and B.C with 26,425. Not all of these are commercial-scale growers with only 33,265 producers having gross receipts of more than $250,000.