Nearly two-thirds of farm family income in Canada from "off-farm": StatsCan report

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For every dollar in income taken home by Canadian farm families in 2019, over 64 cents was earned “off the farm,” according to a new report from Statistics Canada.

StatsCan published its farm family income data for 2019 — pre-pandemic economy, of course — on January 28.

Based on tax records, the agency says the average total income of a Canadian family operating a single farm was $163,098 in 2019, down 1.3% from 2018.

Average off-farm income increased 1.1% to $105,032 from 2018 to 2019 — thanks to a 5.7% increase in pension income, as well as increases in investment and other income — while average farm net operating income declined 5.4% to $58,067.

That means off-farm income accounted for 64.4% of total farm family income in 2019, up from 62.9% in 2018, says StatsCan — a reminder that Canadian farm financial viability is often tied closely to income and cash flow from other sources.

But it’s also not that straightforward, as StatsCan acknowledges salaries paid by a farm could potentially be categorized as employment income, which would fall under off-farm income.

2019 farm family income by province (source: Statistics Canada)

When looking at farm type, StatsCan says the average total income of farm families operating dairy farms grew 8.4% in 2019, followed by hog farming families at 8.3%. Conversely, families specializing in the following sectors saw declines in total income in 2019: greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production (-8.2%); oilseed and grain farming (-4.3%); poultry and egg production (-3.6%); and other animal production (-2.3%).

2019 farm family income by farm type (source: Statistics Canada)

Families operating potato (66.8%), dairy cattle (60.9%), and poultry and egg (50.7%) farms derived the highest percentage of their income from their farm, while families specializing in other crops (19.9%), fruit and tree nuts (17.4%), beef cattle (16.0%), and other animals (8.5%) drew less than one-quarter of their total income from farming, says StatsCan.

As for the definition of a “farm family,” StatsCan says it covers families involved in a unincorporated farm with total operating revenues of $10 thousand or more, and incorporated farms with total operating revenues of at least $25 thousand.

You can read more and dig into the numbers, including breakdowns based on revenue, from StatsCan here.

Editor’s note: this article has been updated to clarify StatsCan’s definitions and methodology.

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