Census of Agriculture

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  1. Since 1996, a census farm has been defined as an agricultural operation producing at least one of the following products intended for sale: crops (field crops, tree fruits or nuts, berries or grapes, vegetables, seed); livestock (cattle, hogs, sheep, horses, exotic animals); poultry (hens, chickens, turkeys, exotic birds); animal products (milk, cream, eggs, wool, furs, meats); or other agricultural products (greenhouse or nursery products, Christmas trees, mushrooms, sod, honey and maple syrup). Farm operations producing only Christmas trees were included for the first time in the 1996 census.
  2. Up to three operators can be reported per farm. As this is a count of distinct operators, operators of two or more separate farms are included only once.
  3. A farm is classified according to the predominant commodity produced. This is done by estimating the potential gross farm receipts from the inventories of crops and livestock reported on the census questionnaire. The commodity or group of commodities which account for 51 percent or more of the total gross farm receipts determines the farm type. Farm type classification only includes farms with gross farm receipts of $2,500 or more.
  4. In 1996, the name and definition of "Tame or Seeded Pasture" was changed from the previous census. In 1991, it was called "Improved Land for Pasture or Grazing". Consequently, some respondents may have reported differently in 1996 than in 1991, thereby affecting the comparability of 1996, 2001 and 2006 censuses with earlier censuses.
  5. The data for land management practices are reported for the year preceding the census year. Operators can apply insecticides and fungicides to the same land. Therefore, the sum of the responses to the two questions in 1996, 2001 and 2006 are not comparable to the response to the single 1991 question which asked for the total area on which insecticides or fungicides were used. The data, however, is still comparable to other years.
  6. This information is new for 2006.
  7. Since 1991, no distinction between oats for grain and oats for fodder has been made.
  8. The earlier census date in 1996 (May 14th), in 2001 (May 15th) and in 2006 (May 16) affect the comparability with previous censuses due to the lower percentage of calving that would have taken place at this time compared to the first week of June, when previous censuses were taken.
  9. Since individual or family holdings were being over-reported in previous censuses, the order and wording of the questions on operating expenses were changed in 1996. While previous censuses asked if the operation was an "individual or family holding", starting with the 1996 Census this question was replaced with one asking if the operation was a "sole proprietorship".
  10. Since 1991, there are two separate questions on the value of land and buildings - one on rented properties and one on owned properties. Consequently, the total reported value of land and buildings in following censuses increased compared with earlier censuses, where some respondents had failed to include rented land.
  11. In 1991, agricultural operators reported the value of farm machinery and equipment located on their operations on Census Day, regardless of ownership. Since the 1996 Census, operators have been asked to report the present market value of all farm machinery and equipment that they owned or leased on Census Day. This change in reporting limits comparability of these data.
  12. This refers to gross farm receipts of the operation in the preceding calendar year.
  13. This refers to the gross farm operating expenses of the operation in the preceding calendar year.
  14. In 2001, the name and definition of "Rent or Leasing Expenses" was changed to "Rental and Leasing of Land and Buildings". This change limits the comparability of data 2001 and 2006 censuses with previous censuses.
  15. In 2001, the name and definition of "Fuel, Oil and Lubricants for Machinery" was changed to "All Fuel Expenses". This change limits the comparability of data from the 2001 and 2006 censuses with previous censuses.
  16. In 2001, "Custom Work and Contract Work" and "Rental and Leasing of Farm Machinery, Equipment, and Vehicles" were classified as separate entities whereas in 1996, they were grouped together. This change limits the comparability of data from the 2001 and 2006 censuses with previous censuses.
  17. Farm operators are defined by Statistics Canada as those persons responsible for the day-to-day management and/or financial decisions made in the operation of a farm or an agricultural operation. Operators can be owners, tenants or hired managers of the agricultural operation. This can include those responsible for management decisions pertinent to particular aspects of the farm, such as planting and harvesting, capital purchases, and marketing. An agricultural operation may have more than one operator, e.g. husband and wife; father and son; two brothers; father, son and wife; etc. Since 1991, the census form has enabled farmers to report up to three operators for each farm, which is why there are more operators than farms. This is a count of distinct operators; hence, operators of two or more separate farms were included only once in the total.
  18. The application of the "random rounding" confidentiality procedure to data appearing in the farm operator tables, has resulted in the following data inconsistencies: Since the totals in a table are randomly rounded independently of their component cell values, some differences may exist between the rounded totals and the sum of their rounded components. Similarly, percentage distributions, which are calculated based on rounded cell values, do not necessarily add up to 100%. Averages, however, are calculated based on unrounded data. Random rounding can significantly distort results for variables with small cell counts. Individual data cells containing small numbers may lose their precision as a result. Finally, minor differences can be expected in corresponding totals and cell values appearing in different tables. For example, the total number of farm operators under 35 years of age in Canada in 2006 has been randomly rounded, which may result in slightly different totals occurring in the tables in which the variable appears.
  19. Due to changes to the question on average time contribution of non-farm work for 2001, caution should be used when comparing the data to 1996. The 1996 data exclude those operators who reported operating another business whereas 2001 and 2006 data include them.

Census of Agriculture for Alberta, 2006

Census farms

The 2006 Census of Agriculture counted 49,431 farms in Alberta, a 7.9 per cent decline from 53,652 in 2001. Farm numbers were down in all provinces, and fell 7.1 per cent nationally to 229,373. Alberta had the second highest number of farms among the provinces behind Ontario (57,211), and accounted for 21.6 per cent of all farms in Canada.

Total area of agricultural land in Alberta was basically unchanged from 2001 at 52.1 million acres (marginally up 0.1 per cent) and represented 31.2 per cent of the Canadian total of 167.0 million acres. Average farm size in Alberta grew 8.8 per cent to 1,055 acres, from 970 acres in 2001. This compares with a 7.7 per cent increase nationally to 728 acres.

Area under crops in Alberta declined 1.1 per cent to 23.8 million acres, but still accounted for 26.8 per cent of Canada’s total cropland in 2006. The province's tame/seeded pasture acreage increased 11.3 per cent to 6.1 million acres, while natural land for pasture decreased 2.2 per cent to 16.1 million acres. With the increase in tame pasture acreage, summerfallow area declined 26.6 per cent to 2.2 million acres.

Beef cattle farms were the most common farm type in Alberta in 2006, making up 41.5 per cent of census farms (42.9 per cent in 2001). Wheat, grain and oilseed farms accounted for another 25.2 per cent (24.6 per cent in 2001). The census classifies farms according to the predominant type of production. This is done by estimating the potential receipts from crop and livestock inventories and determining the product or group of products that make up 51 per cent or more of the estimated receipts.

The province's gross farm receipts from all sources (including market receipts, program payments and custom work) totaled $9.9 billion, practically unchanged from 2001 (down 0.3 per cent), and was a close second to Ontario's $10.3 billion. Government funded programs contributed 11.0 per cent of Alberta’s gross farm receipts, up from 6.7 per cent five years earlier. The number of Alberta farms with gross receipts below $250,000 declined 10.1 per cent to 41,934, while farms with gross receipts of $250,000 or more increased 7.0 per cent to 7,497.

Alberta farmers spent a total of $8.8 billion in farm operating expenses in the year preceding the 2006 Census, 1.3 per cent down from $8.9 billion five years earlier. Producers spent an average of 89 cents in expenses (excluding depreciation) for every dollar of receipts, or about one cent less than five years earlier. Major expenses included livestock and poultry purchases ($2.2 billion), feed ($1.2 billion), and fertilizer and lime ($613.4 million).

Environmentally friendly practices (no-till seeding and conservation tillage) were used on 75.5 per cent of the land prepared for seeding in 2006, continuing an upward trend from 62.9 per cent in 2001, 43 per cent in 1996, and 27 per cent in 1991. These practices were used on 14.1 million acres, up markedly from 11.6 million acres in 2001. Application of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides was virtually unchanged at roughly 19 million acres.

The proportion of Alberta farms reporting use of computers as a management tool was 47.4 per cent in 2006, slightly higher than the 46.4 per cent reported nationally. Computers were commonly used for bookkeeping, payroll or tax preparation (reported by 17,222 farms), Internet access (reported by 17,195 farms), word processing (reported by 16,486 farms), and e-mail (reported by 16,130 farms).

In 2006, 5.3 per cent or 2,629 of Alberta farms were engaged in organic production, slightly lower than the 6.8 per cent reported for Canada. Of the Alberta farms reporting organic products, 8.7 per cent produced certified organic products, 1.0 per cent were in transition to becoming certified, and 91.5 per cent were not certified. Hay and field crops were reported on 60.5 per cent of the province’s organic farms, while livestock were reported on 58.7 per cent of the farms.

The number of Alberta family corporations increased markedly by 9.6 per cent in 2006 to 6,714 farms or 13.6 per cent of all farms in the province, compared with 11.4 per cent in 2001. Non-family corporations constituted 1.4 per cent of farms both in 2006 and 2001, while farms operating as sole proprietorships accounted for 56.3 per cent of all farms in 2006 (56.7 per cent in 2001). The remainder of farms (28.7 per cent in 2006 and 30.5 per cent in 2001) were either partnerships with or without written agreements, or other farm types such as community pastures and institutional farms.

The total market value of Alberta farm capital climbed 29.9 per cent in 2006 to $71.8 billion, from $55.3 billion in 2001, while average capital value per farm jumped 41.0 per cent to nearly $1.5 million, from $1.0 million in 2001. For Canada, total capital value increased 26.1 per cent to $248.3 billion and average capital value rose 35.8 per cent to $1.1 million. The total value of livestock and poultry was down 35.1 per cent to $5.0 billion, while machinery and equipment value increased 11.5 per cent to $9.7 billion and the value of land and buildings jumped 46.9 per cent in 2006 to $57.1 billion (79.5 per cent of total farm capital). A total of 19,482 farms (39.4 per cent of all farms) had capital values of $1 million or more in 2006, compared with 15,505 or 28.9 per cent in 2001.

In 2006, Alberta farms reported paying a total of $537.1 million in wages and salaries, an increase of 9.8 per cent from $489.3 million in 2001. Nationally, $3.9 billion was paid in wages and salaries, up 16.1 per cent from $3.3 billion in 2001.

The total area of farmland rented, leased or crop shared was 22.1 million acres in 2006, up 3.5 per cent from 2001. Of this total, the area leased from governments slipped 1.7 per cent to 10.0 million acres, and area under crop share declined 29.3 per cent to 1.6 million acres. As well, area owned decreased 2.2 per cent to 30.0 million acres.

Farm operators

The number of farm operators in Alberta declined 6.0 per cent in 2006 to 71,660 (from 76,195 in 2001), in line with the corresponding 7.9 per cent decrease in the province's Census farm numbers. Across Canada, lower operator numbers were reported for all provinces, with the exception of Nova Scotia, which reported a marginal increase of 0.4 per cent. Farm operator numbers declined nationally by 5.5 per cent to 327,060.

Of the 71,660 Alberta farm operators in 2006, 28,045 or 39.1 per cent were on single-operator farms and the remaining 60.9 per cent were on farms with two or more operators. By comparison, in 2001, 42.0 per cent of operators were on single-operator farms while 58.0 per cent were on multiple-operator farms. There were 21,470 (30.0 per cent) female and 50,190 (70.0 per cent) male Alberta farm operators in 2006, compared with 21,635 (28.4 per cent) and 54,565 (71.6 per cent), respectively, in 2001. For Canada, 27.8 per cent of farm operators in 2006 were female, up from 26.3 per cent in 2001. Among the provinces, Alberta had the second highest proportion of female to male operators in 2006, behind British Columbia.

The average age of Alberta farm operators in the 2006 Census was 52.2 years, up from 49.9 years in 2001. This was consistent across Canada, with operators averaging 52.0 years in 2006, up from 49.9 years in 2001. With respect to age distribution, 8.8 per cent of Alberta operators were under 35 years of age (11.7 per cent in 2001), 50.1 per cent were in the 35-54 age category (53.1 per cent in 2001), and 41.1 per cent were 55 years of age or older (35.3 per cent in 2001). Nationally, the distribution was similar at 9.1 per cent (11.5 per cent in 2001), 50.2 per cent (53.6 per cent in 2001) and 40.7 per cent (34.9 per cent in 2001).

The 2006 Census revealed that 43.6 per cent of Alberta farm operators worked longer than 40 hours per week on their farms, down from 46.3 per cent in 2001. In addition, 27.9 per cent of operators worked between 20 and 40 hours on their farms, down from 28.8 per cent in 2001. The proportion of operators with less than 20 hours of farm work per week increased to 28.6 per cent, from 24.9 per cent in 2001. For Canada, 46.7 per cent of operators were in the over 40 hours category (47.7 per cent in 2001), 26.2 per cent were in the 20 to 40 hours category (26.9 per cent in 2001), and 27.2 per cent were in the under 20 hours category (25.4 per cent in 2001).

In 2006, over one-half (39,105 or 54.6 per cent) of Alberta farm operators reported paid non-farm work in the calendar year prior to the census (37,475 or 49.2 per cent in 2001). Of these operators with non-farm income, 7,560 or 19.3 per cent worked less than 20 hours per week off the farm (7,380 or 19.7 per cent in 2001), 14,190 or 36.3 per cent worked between 20 and 40 hours (14,750 or 39.4 per cent in 2001), and 17,355 or 44.4 per cent worked more than 40 hours (15,345 or 40.9 per cent in 2001). Nationally, a total of 158,260 (48.4 per cent) farm operators reported non-farm income in the 2006 Census, up from 154,225 (44.5 per cent) in 2001.


PDF File
Table 104 - Census of Agriculture, Farms and Land, Canada and Provinces, 1991-2006
Table 105 - Census of Agriculture, Profile for Alberta, 1986-2006
Table 106 - Census of Agriculture, Alberta Farm Operators, 1996-2006


PDF File
Figure 35 - Number and Average Size of Alberta Farms, 1961-2006
Figure 36 - Total Area of Alberta Farms and Land Use Distribution , 1986-2006
Figure 37 - Tillage Praceices on Alberta Farms, 1991-2006
Figure 38 - Alberta Farms Classified by Type, 2006
Figure 39 - Alberta Farms Classified by Gross Farm Receipts, 1986-2006
Figure 40 - Average Age of Alberta Farm Operators, 1981-2006
Figure 41 - Per Cent Distribution of Alberta Farm Operators by Age Class, 1981-2006

Other Documents in the Series

  Agriculture Statistics Yearbook 2008
Farm Income and Expenses
Economic Indicators
Food and Beverage Industries
Census of Agriculture - Current Document
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Austin Leitch.
This information published to the web on October 27, 2009.
Last Reviewed/Revised on October 31, 2017.