The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.
Just a couple of days ago, on November 11, Washington celebrated its 125th anniversary of statehood, and farming has been one of the cornerstones of the Evergreen State since the very beginning. Using new information from the Washington Department of Agriculture, which is spotlighting farms that have been in the same family since before statehood, combined with the Census of Agriculture, we can easily see this connection.
The 1890 Census of Agriculture reported that apples were already Washington’s top fruit and the state’s dryland wheat farms were tremendously productive. Our farmers stay true to this tradition to this very day. Almost half of all apples grown in the United States come from our state. The 2012 Census of Agriculture counted nearly 175,000 acres of apple orchards in Washington.
Today, our orchards are not limited to apples, however. Washington also ranks #1 in sweet cherry production, with nearly 35,000 acres harvested in 2012. And we had more than 22,000 acres of pear trees in 2012, putting us in the lead in production of this delicious fruit as well.
The 2012 Census of Agriculture also highlighted emerging trends in Washington. For example, Washington grapes are now a major element of our agriculture landscape. Only California farmers grow more grapes than Washington growers. In 2012, our grapes covered more than 70,000 acres of Washington farmland.
Another interesting Washington agricultural sector is aquaculture which now has a tremendous presence in the state. According to the 2013 Census of Aquaculture, our producers led the nation with nearly $190 million in sales of fish, crustaceans and other seafood. Most of these came from sales of farmed mollusks, such as clams, mussels and oysters.
So as we continue to celebrate our state’s anniversary, we have to recognize all of the numerous achievements by our farmers. Our producers have done a magnificent job preserving our state’s farming traditions, while innovating to keep up with new markets, keeping Washington at the forefront of the national agriculture industry.