Food Counts: A Pan-Canadian Sustainable Food Systems Report Card


Pillar #2: Values Food Providers

This principle speaks to respecting the work of all food providers and supporting sustainable livelihoods.

Summary of Indicator Data

Farm Characteristics Indicators

14. Number of farms, Status: “Getting Worse
15. Farm size, Status: “Getting Worse
16. Farm operating management, Status:Getting Worse
17. Farm land tenure, Status: “Getting Worse
18. Type of farm, Status:One Point in Time Data*
19. Farms by commodities, Status:Mixed
20. Farm area use of land, Status: Mixed
21. Production of livestock, Status:Mixed
22. Production of poultry, Status:Mixed
23. Production of eggs, Status:Getting Worse
24. Number of people employed in agriculture, Status: Mixed

Farm Profitability Indicators

25. Gross farm receipts, Status:Mixed
26. Net farm income, Status:Mixed
27. Farm debt, Status: Getting Worse
28. Farm capital, Status:Getting Better
29. Average hourly and weekly wages in agriculture, Status: Getting Better
30. Household income class for farm population, Status:One Point in Time Data*

Farm Operator Characteristics Indicators

31. Number of farm operators, Status: Getting Worse
32. Age of farm operators, Status:Getting Worse
33. Sex of farm operators, Status: Mixed
34. Country of birth of farm operators, Status:One Point in Time Data*
35. Farm operators with paid non-farm work, Status: Mixed
36. Farm operator activity in labour force, Status: One Point in Time Data*
37. Hours worked per week for farm operators, Status:One Point in Time Data*
38. Distribution of farm population by location, Status: One Point in Time Data*
39. Number of people in SAWP program, Status:Getting Worse

Food Worker Characteristics Indicators

40. Number of employees in food service, wholesale and manufacturing, Status:Mixed

Farm Safety Indicators

41. Agricultural fatalities, Status:Getting Better

*For this indicator we were only able to extract data from one point in time. We expect that this data will continue to be collected on a regular basis; therefore this current data point will act as the baseline for future reports.

Farm Characteristic Indicators

Indicator 14: Number of farms

Indicator 14
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting worse”

The overall number of farms has gradually declined over the last two decades from 280,043 farms in 1991 to 205,730 in 2011.

Indicator 15: Number of farms by size

Indicator 15
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting worse”

The average farm size has increased from 676 acres in 2001 to 778 acres in 2011. The distribution of farms by size has changed between this same time period. The proportion of the smallest farms, sized under 10 acres, has slightly increased over this time period as well as the proportion of farms sized 10 to 179 acres. The proportion of those farms sized 180 to 759 acres and 760 to 2,879 have slightly declined between 1991 to 2011. The most significant change has been in the proportion of the largest farms, sized 2880 acres and above. Between 1991 and 2011, the proportion of these farms has more than doubled.

Indicator 16: Number of farms by operating arrangement

Indicator 16
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting worse”

Shifts in the operating agreements of farms occurred between 1991 and 2011. The proportion of individual or family owned farms decreased from 63.5% of all farms in 1991 to 55.5% of all farms in 2011. During the same period, the proportion of farms owned by a family corporation increased from 6.9% to 17.4% of all farms. The proportion of partnership farms, with or without a written agreement, decreased between 2001 and 2011, while the proportion of non-family corporations increased from 1.4% in 1991 to 2.4% in 2011.

Indicator 17: Farm land tenure

Indicator 17
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture ^ The proportion of area owned and area leased does not add to 100% due to the total farm area being the difference between “total area of all land tenures” minus “total area used by others”. Please see the Census of Agriculture survey for more information. ^ Area rented or leased from others includes the “Area leased from governments” as well as the “Area crop shared from others”, the area “Rented or leased from others” and “Other areas used by this operation.”

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting worse”

The proportion farm area owned decreased from 66.1% in 2006 to 64.6% in 2011, while the area rented or leased from others increased from 39% in 2006 to 40.5% in 2011.

Indicator 18: Type of farm

Indicator 18
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture ^ This data is based on the total number of farms using the North American Industry Classification System categories. Each census farm is classified according to the commodity or group of commodities that accounts for 50% or more of the total potential receipts.

Interpretation of Findings: “One point in time data”

As of 2011, the largest proportion of farms fell into the category of beef cattle ranching and farming which includes feedlots (18%) followed by ‘other’ animal production (12%), hay farming (12%), and ‘other’ grain farming (11%).

Indicator 19: Farms by commodities sold

Indicator 19
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture ^Totals do not add up to 100% because farms could report more than one commodity sold.

Interpretation of Findings: “Mixed”

Between 1991 and 2011 the proportion of farms reporting the sale of wheat fell drastically from 38% in 1991 to 25% in 2011. The proportion of farms reporting the sale of cattle and calves also decreased from 52% in 1991 to 42% in 2011. In 2011, only four percent of farms reported the sale of pigs compared to 11% in 1991. The proportion of farms reporting the sale of tame hay, sheep and lambs as well as laying hens remained relatively consistent throughout this time period. This indicator reflects variation in demand and prices as well as disease (e.g. Mad Cow disease and the closing of the US borders to Canadian cattle).

Indicator 20: Farm area use of land

Indicator 20.png
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture

Interpretation of Findings: “Mixed”

There have been notable changes in farm area use of land between 1991 and 2011. The proportion of land in crops increased from 49.5% in 1991 to 54.5% in 2011 and the proportion of land used for tame or seeded pasture also increased within this time period (6.1% in 1991 to 8.5% in 2011). The proportion of summerfallow land has decreased from 11.7% in 1991 to 3.2% in 2011. The proportion of land used for all other purposes has remained relatively stable between these years. A decrease in summerfallow land suggests less land resting between planting and harvest cycles. Increased pasture means more land is not disturbed by ploughing annually and that roots under the pasture are able to sequester carbon.

Indicator 21: Production of livestock

Indicator 21
Source: Statistics Canada, Livestock Survey

Interpretation of Findings: “Mixed”

Cattle and calves, as well as sheep and lambs are fairly constant. Hogs declined in large part due to falling commodity prices. Given the demands of livestock for feed and as producers of manure, falling numbers can be a positive trend for more sustainable diets and environmental pressures.

Indicator 22: Production of poultry

Indicator 22.png
Source: Statistics Canada, Production of Poultry and Eggs

Interpretation of Findings: “Mixed”

While poultry production is more sustainable than beef production, poultry farming often occurs in cramped cages with low genetic diversity and the associated disease pressures. As a result, the increase in poultry production between 2011 and 2015 demonstrates both positive and negative impacts.

Indicator 23: Production of eggs

Indicator 23
Source: Statistics Canada, Production of Poultry and Eggs

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting worse”

The average number of layers per operation (registered flocks, non-registered flocks and hatchery supply flocks) has increased from 26,808 in 2011 to 28,646 in 2015. This is a cause for concern as it indicates an increased concentration of layers (i.e, more large, industrial operations).

Indicator 24: Number of people employed in agriculture

Indicator 24
Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey ^The data depicted represent the number of individuals employed in agriculture in the month of August of each year (unadjusted for seasonal variation)

Interpretation of Findings: “Mixed”

The number of people employed in agriculture has varied over the years. In 2016, there were 314,600 people employed in agriculture compared to 331,500 six years earlier in 2010. After a large decrease in the number of people working in agriculture between 2013 and 2015, we see an increase between 2015 and 2016.

Farm Profitability Indicators

Indicator 25: Proportion of farms classified by total gross farm receipts

Indicator 25
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture ^Gross farm receipts include revenues from the sale of agricultural commodities, program payments from government agencies, and payments from private crop and livestock insurance programs.

Interpretation of Findings: “Mixed”

The proportion of farms classified by the various gross farm receipts categories has varied between 1991 and 2001, with increases in the proportion of farms in some categories (e.g., farm receipts over $1,000,000) and decreases in the proportion of farms in other categories (e.g., $100,000 to $249,999). Of note, and cause for concern, is the proportion of farms which report gross farm receipts of under $25,000 per year. At least one-third of farms have fallen within this category over the last 20 years. Specifically, in 2011, 37.4% of farms received less than $25,000 per year in gross farm receipts. It is important to note that operating expenses (i.e., business costs incurred by farm businesses for good and services used in the production of agricultural commodities) have not been deducted from gross farm receipt figures.

Indicator 26: Net farm income

Indicator 26
Source: Statistics Canada, Agriculture Economic Statistics

Interpretation of Findings: “Mixed”

Net farm income in Canada between 2011 and 2015 has varied, peaking in 2013 at just over 12 billion dollars.

For additional reading on this indicator, please see: Qualman, D. (2011). Advancing agriculture by destroying farms? The state of agriculture in Canada. In H. Whitman, A. A. Desmarais & N. Wieb (Eds.), Food sovereignty in Canada: creating just and sustainable food systems (pp. 20-21). Halifax, Nova Scotia: Fernwood Press.

Indicator 27: Farm debt

Indicator 27
Source: Statistics Canada, Farm Debt Outstanding Survey

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting worse”

Farm debt in Canada has increased from about 68 billion in 2011 to just under 92 billion in 2015.

Indicator 28: Farm capital

Indicator 28a
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting better”

Over the years 1991 to 2011, the total value of farm capital increased from about 131 billion in 1991 to just under 330 billion in 2011.

As shown below, the value of land and buildings owned represents the largest proportion of total farm capital (61.4% in 2011) followed by the value of land and buildings rented or leased from others (22.1%), the value of all farm machinery and equipment (12.5%), and the value of livestock and poultry (4%).

Indicator 28b
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture

Indicator 29: Median hourly wages of employees in agriculture

Indicator 29
Source: Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting better”

The median hourly wage for employees in Agriculture in Canada has increased from $12.50 per hour 2010 to $16 per hour in 2016.

Indicator 30: Household income class for farm population

Indicator 30
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture/National Household Survey Linkage

Interpretation of Findings: “One point in time data”

As of 2011, just under half of the farm population (45.9%) had an annual household income over $75,000. About one fifth of the population had an annual household income between $50,000 and $74,999. Another fifth had an annual household income between $25,000 and $49,999 and 10.6% had an annual household income under $25,000.

It is important to consider that this income comprises both on-farm and off-farm income. For example, among farm families in the unincorporated sector (i.e., farm families involved in a single unincorporated farm), the average total annual income in 2011 was $110,563 and $83,609 was the average off-farm annual income for these families (representing 75.6% of the average total annual income).

Farm Operator Characteristics Indicators

Indicator 31: Number of farm operators

Indicator 31
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting worse”

The overall number of farm operators decreased from 390,875 farm operators in 1991 to 293,925 farm operators in 2011. This 24.8% decrease—or almost 100,000 farm operators—occurred within the context of the decrease in the overall number of farms between the same time period.

Indicator 32: Age of farm operators

Indicator 32a
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting worse”

The average age of farm operators increased from 47.5 years of age in 1991 to 54 years of age in 2011. In 2011, almost half of all farm operators were 55 years of age or older, 43.5% were 35 to 54 years of age and only 8.2% were under 35 years of age. Twenty years ago, only 32.1% of farm operators were 55 years and above, 48% were 35 to 54 years and about one fifth (19.9%) were under the age of 35.

Indicator 32b
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture

Indicator 33: Sex of farm operators

Indicator 33.png
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture

Interpretation of Findings: “Mixed”

Over the last two decades, the proportion of female farm operators increased slightly. In 2001, 27.4% of farm operators were female compared to 25.7% in 1991. Without information on the age categories of these farm operators, it is difficult to ascertain whether this finding should be interpreted as positive or negative. It may be the case that there are more female farmers due to an increased number of widows based on our aging farm operator population.

For additional reading on this indicator, please see:
Sachs, C., Barbercheck, M., Braiser, K., Kiernan, N. E., & Terman, A. R. (2016). The rise of women farmers and sustainable agriculture. Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press.

Desmarais, A. A., Roppel, C., & Martz, D. (2011). Transforming agriculture: Women farmers define a food sovereignty policy for Canada. In H. Whitman, A. A. Desmarais & N. Wieb (Eds.), Food sovereignty in Canada: creating just and sustainable food systems (pp. 59-60). Halifax, Nova Scotia: Fernwood Press.

Indicator 34: Country of birth of farm operators

Indicator 34
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture/National Household Survey Linkage

Interpretation of Findings: “One point in time data”

Just under 10% of farm operators were born outside of Canada as of 2011.

Indicator 35: Farm operators with paid non-farm work

Indicator 35
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture

Interpretation of Findings: “Mixed”

The proportion of farm operators with paid non-farm work has increased from 37.1% in 1991 to 46.9% in 2011.

Indicator 36: Farm operator labour force activity

Indicator 36
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture/National Household Survey Linkage

Interpretation of Findings: “One point in time data”

In 2011, 53.1% of farm operators had an agricultural occupation and the other 46.9% had a non-agricultural occupation. The average number of hours worked in the week prior to the 2011 census day was collected for both these groups. Those farm operators with a non-agricultural occupation worked an average of 35.3 hours per week where as those farm operators with an agricultural occupation worked an average of just under 50 hours per week (49.5).

Indicator 37: Average number of hours worked per week by farm operators on the farm

Indicator 37
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture

Interpretation of Findings: “One point in time data”

In 2011, 40.1% of farm operators worked more than 40 hours per week on the farm while 13.4% worked 30 to 40 hours on the farm, 15% worked 20 to 29 hours and 31.5% worked less than 20 hours on the farm.

Indicator 38: Distribution of farm population

Indicator 38.png
Source: Statistics Canada, Census of Agriculture/National Household Survey Linkage

Interpretation of Findings: “One point in time data”

Within Canada the vast majority of the farm population resides in rural areas (90%) compared to the majority of the total population (60.3%) which resides in large urban population centres. About 4.2% of the farm population lives in large urban centres, another 4.3% resides in small population centres and 1.4% lives in medium population centres.

Indicator 39: Number of people in SAWP program

Indicator 39
Source: Government of Canada, Annual Labour Market Impact Assessment Statistics 2008-2015

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting worse”

The overall number of individuals participating in the SAWP and related programs increased from 35,184 workers in 2008 to 50,303 workers in 2015. Our interpretation of these findings is that an increase in the number of temporary foreign workers over time is not a good trend for a number of reasons: 1) this means there are fewer Canadians willing or able to take on farming jobs (for several varied reasons); 2) that there are more people leaving their homes and families to come and work in Canada; and 3) that there are more people who are being treated as disposable labour to do jobs Canadians can not do without substantial reward (other than pay). This trend could be interpreted as positive if the increase in temporary foreign workers came with provisions of guarantees for protections and citizenship, which are currently lacking.

For additional reading on this indicator, please see:
McLaughlin, J. (forthcoming August 2017). Strengthening the backbone: local food, foreign labour and social justice. In I. Knezevic, C. Levkoe, E Nelson, P. Mount & A. BlayPalmer (Eds.), Nourishing communities: From fractured food systems to transformative pathways. New York: Springer International Publishing.

Food Worker Characteristics Indicator

Indicator 40: Number of employees in food service, wholesale and manufacturing

Indicator 40
Source: Statistics Canada, Survey of Employment, Payroll and Hours

Interpretation of Findings: “Mixed”

The number of people employed in food and beverage manufacturing, food and beverage wholesale, specialty food stores and food services and drinking places increased between 2011 and 2015. The only category which saw a decrease in the number of employees during this same time was grocery stores (from 412,835 in 2011 to 403,796 in 2015). Our interpretation of these findings is ‘mixed’ since we are unsure about the relative precariousness of the jobs which have been added.

For additional reading on this indicator, please see:

Jayaraman, S. (2013). Behind the kitchen door. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. Sachs, C., Allen, P., Terman, A. R., Hayden, J., & Hatcher, C. (2013).

Front and back of the house: socio-spatial inequalities in food work. Agriculture and Human Values, 31(1), 3–17. Food Chain Workers Alliance. (2012). The hands that feed us: Challenges and opportunities for workers along the food chain. Available at http://foodchainworkers. org/?p=1973.

Farm Safety Indicator

Indicator 41: Agricultural fatalities

Indicator 41
Source: Canadian Agricultural Injury Reporting (CAIR), Agriculture-Related Fatalities in Canada Report

Interpretation of Findings: “Getting better”

Between 1990 and 2012 there were a total of 2,324 agricultural fatalities in Canada which is an average of 101 deaths each year. From 1990 to 2001 the average was 116 fatalities each year compared to an average of 85 deaths a year between the period of 2002 to 2012.

Please note: The Pan-Canadian Sustainable Food Systems Report Card is a working document. If you have comments, questions, or would like to suggest additional data sources or indicators, please fill out the Food Counts Report Card Feedback Form.

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