Skip to main content

Ringing in the New Year with Traditionally Lucky Foods and Their Facts

Posted by LaKeya Jones, Agricultural Statistician, National Agricultural Statistics Service in Research and Science
Dec 27, 2017
Make sure these “good luck” foods and all food count. Be a part of the 2017 Census of Agriculture. The Census is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them.
Make sure these “good luck” foods and all food count. Be a part of the 2017 Census of Agriculture. The Census is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them.

The holidays are often a time for family, fun, and food. New Year’s is no exception. One thing many nations around the world have in common is the belief that eating certain foods on New Year’s will bring good luck and prosperity in the 12 months to follow.

One New Year’s tradition the South is especially known for is eating black-eyed peas and collard greens. It is believed that a meal with black-eyed peas and collards symbolizes humility and a new year full of coins and “green” (money). Lentils are another popular legume on New Year’s for the same reason.

How do our farmers contribute to this traditional fare? According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, our nation’s 1,407 collard operations harvested 12,542 acres. North Carolina ranked first for number of farms (202), but Georgia led in collard acreage (3,081).

The data for collards are only available every five years in the Census of Agriculture, and it’s that time again. Census questionnaires have been mailed to farmers and ranchers across the nation. By participating in the Census of Agriculture, producers can influence decisions that will shape the future of American agriculture. 

In 2016, California ranked first in black-eyed pea production, accounting for 31.9 million of the 57.2 million pounds produced nationally. Texas ranked first in harvested acres, with 23,000 of the nation’s 35,300 total harvested acres of black-eyed peas. In the same year, farmers produced 1.3 billion pounds of lentils on 908,000 harvested acres. Montana ranked first in lentil production, with more than 737 million pounds.

Pork is another popular New Year’s tradition. In various cultures, pigs are perceived as representing progress because they look and root forward. In 2016, U.S. farmers produced more than 35 billion pounds of pork, with Iowa, at more than 12 billion pounds, accounting for almost a third of U.S. production. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, there were 63,246 hog operations across the country. Iowa led the nation with 6,266 operations. What will the 2017 Census of Agriculture tell us?

A fun New Year’s tradition is trying to eat 12 grapes at midnight. Some believe that each chime of the clock represents a month of the year and that the reveler must eat one grape with each chime for 12 months of good luck. Some even say you should make a wish with each grape. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, our nation had 23,420 grape bearing operations and more than 1 million bearing acres. In 2016, the United States produced 7.7 million tons of grapes, of which about 1 million were utilized as fresh grapes. California is consistently first in grape production. The 2017 census will provide additional information on number of grape operations and acres.

Across the United States and around the world, people incorporate a variety of other New Year’s food traditions, including eating noodles to symbolize a long life, ring-shaped cakes to represent the year coming full circle, and many more. Wishing everyone a very happy New Year!

For more information about the 2017 Census of Agriculture or to respond online, visit agcensus.usda.gov.

Category/Topic: Research and Science

Write a Response

CAPTCHA This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.