Statistics Canada Releases 2016 Census of Agriculture

Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 5:48pm

Increase in young women farmers offers glimmer of hope in otherwise troubling snapshot of Canadian Agriculture

The 2016 Census of Agriculture, released on May 10 2017 by Statistics Canada, further illustrates several concerning trends in our food system.  

The number of farms in Canada continues to decline, down nearly 6% from 2011, while the average age of farmers continues to rise. The ongoing need for increased policy action on farm renewal and farm transfers is clear, as only one in 12 farm operators has a formal succession plan for how to transfer their farm operation to the next generation. Unfortunately, one succession strategy that continues to gain steam is consolidation, with the average farm increasing in size to 820 acres in 2016. In another sign of troubling times, almost half of all farm operators report that they engage in off-farm work, with 30% of operators working at least 30 hours a week off-farm.  

(2016 Census of Agriculture, Statistics Canada)

Thankfully, it isn’t all bad news. For the first time since 1991, the number of new farmers under 35 increased slightly: from 24,120 in 2011 to 24,850 in 2016. The number of women farmers is also on the rise, up from 27.4% in 2011 to 28.7% in 2016. These numbers support what many within the food movement have known for years: that the face of new farmers is changing, and that this diversity of entrants is keen to contribute to Canada’s food system, despite the current challenges.

For more information, see Statistics Canada’s Census Overview; additional data will be posted in the weeks to come. 

2016 Census of Agriculture

Released: 2017-05-10

Once again, these statistics point to the need for a greater focus on new farmers and farm renewal within the next Agricultural Policy Framework and highlight the need for a national food policy that supports a healthy, just and sustainable food system for all Canadians.  Check out our Policy Brief on Prioritizing Farm Renewal in the Next Agricultural Policy Framework and our Discussion Paper on National Food Policy for more information.

Want to join the conversation? Sign-up for our newsletter and contact Jessica at to become a member of Food Secure Canada. 

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