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.
Farming is pretty sweet in Vermont. After all, our producers rule U.S. maple syrup production. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Vermont’s 1,523 “sugar makers” produced just under a million gallons of this sweet syrup. That’s more than 44 percent of all the maple syrup produced in the United States. The 2015 maple season will be starting soon. Daytime temperatures in the 30s and 40s with nighttime temperatures below freezing are needed for the maple sap to start flowing.
While Vermont’s terrain is excellent for maple trees, our hills and valleys are also pretty ideal for livestock. The dairy sector stands out in Vermont with about 900 dairy farms that generated more than 65 percent of the total value of agricultural product sales in 2012. That’s more than $504 million and makes us one of the top 20 states by value of sales of milk from cows. You have to admit that’s pretty impressive, considering that we are one of the smallest states in the union. More than 428,000 acres of our cropland are dedicated to corn and hay forage crops, largely supporting the dairy sector.
Even though dairy is the largest agricultural sector, there is a lot of diversity on Vermont farms. You can find horses, cattle, hogs, poultry, sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas and even rabbits on our farms. In all, about half of the 7,338 farms counted in Vermont in the 2012 Census raised livestock. In addition there are more than 800 farms growing vegetables, over 650 farms growing nursery and greenhouse products, and nearly 600 farms growing fruits and berries.
Farmers in Vermont are also continuously adapting new practices. For example, a couple of decades ago, we started our own wine industry. Demand for local wine expanded, and now according to the 2012 Census, there are 127 farms in Vermont growing grapes, with 221 acres of our farmland dedicated to this crop. In all, there were more than 1,000 farms in Vermont selling value-added products, such as wine, cheese, jams, and bread, in 2012.
The latest Census provided us with a snapshot of Vermont agriculture, but here at NASS we are always striving to remain on top of any new development and keep our data as current as possible. Right now, for example, we are surveying farmers for our newest organic survey to get a glimpse at that valuable sector. And of course, we’re already gearing up for the next edition of our Census.