Census figures reveal worrisome trends

Figures released Dec. 2, 2002 by Statistics Canada from the 2001 Census of Agriculture show producers are relying more on their off-farm pay cheques.
Net income on unincorporated farms contributed only 18 cents of each dollar earned in total family income in 2000—down from 19 cents in 1995. In 1980, it was 31 cents of every dollar.
But farmers now spend 86 cents for every dollar they make from agricultural products on operating expenses, up from 83 cents in 1995—a cost-price squeeze that has resulted in fewer but larger farms.
Those numbers don’t reflect the recent years of drought that hammered much of the Prairies nor the financial effects of the mad cow disease scare.
Juggling jobs is becoming as much a part of modern farm life as spring seeding or combining at harvest time. And the trend is worrisome because people get so tired, they have to reduce the amount of time they spend volunteering for community activities—a hallmark of small-town life.
The new Statistics Canada numbers also showed immigrants represent a smaller share of Canada’s farm population even though they make up a larger part of the general population.
The 2001 Census of Agriculture counted 346,200 farm operators, of whom 9.4 percent were immigrants—down from 10.2 percent in 1996.
The Dec. 2 figures are the third and final numbers from the 2001 Census of Agriculture. Earlier releases showed Canada is losing its young farmers. Only 11.5 percent of Canada’s farmers are now under 35 years of age—about half the figure of a decade ago.
More than a third are over 55, only a slight increase from 1991.
The total number of farmers now stands at 346,200. That is a 10 percent decline from 1996, which mirrors an earlier release of 2001 census data that showed Canada has fewer but bigger farms.
As a group, farmers also are getting older. Their median age in 2001 was 49—compared with 44 for those in Canada’s self-employed labour force and 38 for the entire labour force.
New data on religion among the farm population also was released. Eight out of 10 people on the farm were either Roman Catholic or Protestant compared with seven out of 10 in the general population.
In 2001, Roman Catholics still were the largest single religious group on the farm with 220,905 people, or 30.4 percent of the population. Protestants, including United Church, Anglicans, and Lutherans, made up about 51 percent.
At the same time, the number of people who reported non-Christian religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, and Buddhism remained about the same.

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