StatsCan says farm households becoming more diverse, smaller

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Statistics Canada (StatsCan) has published data providing a socioeconomic snapshot of Canada’s evolving farm population.

As of 2021, the farm population represents just 1.6 per cent of the total population in Canada. But how are they categorized?

Data from the census shows that the face of Canada’s farm population is changing — farm households are becoming more diverse and becoming smaller. Additionally, greater percentages of farm households are living in urban areas, while income continues to outpace that of the total population.

In 2021, there was an increase of immigrants in agriculture — making up 6.9 per cent of Canada’s total farm population. By comparison, the proportion of immigrants in Canada’s total population increased from 18.7 per cent to 23.1 per cent in 2021.

Looking at the diversification of income sources within the farm population, in 1970, the average annual self-employed person’s non-farm income was $845 — which according to StatsCan is in 2020 constant dollars, meaning it was adjusted for inflation. By the year 2020, it had increased 71.4 per cent, to just under $1448. This increase in non -farm income is suggestion that the farm is not the sole contributor to farm household income.

This off-farm income may be a part of the reasoning for the increase in the farming (and non-farming) population that is living in urban areas. In 1871, 7.5 per cent of the farm population resided in urban areas. By 2021, that number grew nearly to one quarter — up 24.5 per cent.

This number varies across the country too, of course. According to StatsCan, the highest proportion of farmers living in rural areas is in Newfoundland and Labrador (42.2 per cent), followed by British Columbia (37.8 per cent), and Alberta (28.3 per cent).

It’s no surprise to find the farm population is aging as well — families are having fewer kids and fewer of these kids are coming back to the farm. The farm population has a higher percentage of older people — in 2021, over 4 in 10 men in the farm population were 55 years and over, compared with 31.2 per cent in the total population. Meanwhile, 41 per cent of women in the farm population were 55 years and over, compared with 33.5 per cent of the total population.

You can find the full report here.

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