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Agriculture Grows in the Land of the Midnight Sun

Posted by Suzan Benz, Alaska State Statistician, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service in Research and Science
Dec 27, 2019
Mountains and hay bales in Alaska
Mountains frame farm operations in many places in Alaska, much like the hay bales shown here resting in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Photo taken by Suzan Benz, USDA NASS.

If you had to guess which state led the nation in the percent increase in the number of farms, which would you guess? Or which state had the highest percentage of new and beginning farmers in the country? Which state had the second youngest average age of producers? Or which state is number two in the percentage of female producers or in the percentage of producers with military service? ALASKA is the correct answer for all five questions. Surprised? People involved in agriculture in Alaska aren’t!

The 2017 Census of Agriculture showed farming in Alaska is thriving and growing across many different sectors. Alaska saw increases in the number of farms with cut flowers, hogs, layers, vegetables, bees and honey, bedding plants, food crops grown under cover and more. Increases were also seen in the value of food sold directly to consumers as well as the value of sales of all crops and all livestock.

In case you want all the facts, the 2017 Census of Agriculture data showed Alaska had a 30 percent increase in the number of farms from 2012, while nationally the number of farms was down 3.2 percent. Forty-six percent of Alaska’s producers were new and beginning farmers while 47 percent are female and 14 percent have military service. The average age of a producer in Alaska is 55.2 years, compared with the national average of 57.7 years.

Data chart of 2017 new and beginning farmers 10 years or less
Alaska leads the nation in the percent of new and beginning producers. Almost half – 46 percent – of the state’s farmers have 10 years or less experience on any farm. In the United States, 27 percent of all producers are new and beginning.

It’s exciting to witness the growth of agriculture being fueled by the demand for local food, innovation and the increasingly diverse number of crops and livestock being produced. A special thanks to all the Alaska farmers and ranchers who took the time to fill out the 2017 Census of Agriculture. This census shows how bright the future of agriculture is in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

To learn more about Alaska agriculture, please see the 2017 Census of Agriculture state level data, area level data and the Alaska State Profile.

Category/Topic: Research and Science