Food and drink: Making hay for our priceless farmers 

Or: where did those chick peas and Brussels sprouts come from?

Hawaii calls it Lei Day and marks it by celebrating local culture and passing around flower garlands. The English build Maypoles, the Germans light bonfires and the Greeks, along with a lot of other Europeans, still mark May Day by celebrating workers.

Since no one has bothered much with May Day in Canada and it traditionally has been a combo-celebration of the springing to life of nature after winter's end along with recognizing the contributions made by hard-working people, I hereby retroactively proclaim May 1 Hay Day - the occasion on which we pay tribute to our farmers, keepers of just about everything we eat.

To kick off our first annual Hay Day, I bring you, in the fine tradition of Harper's Index, the following statistics that may open your eyes a little to the rich agricultural fabric of Canada, starting with the farms in our own backyards. Most of the numbers are based on Canadian census, done every five years.

Number of farms in Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) growing potatoes in 2006 and 2001, respectively: 17; 23

Number of farms in Greater Vancouver growing potatoes in 2006 and 2001, respectively: 70; 67

Factor by which the number of hectares given over in 2006 to potato growing in Greater Vancouver exceeds that of the SLRD: Nearly 8 times greater

Number of farms growing potatoes in Prince Edward Island in 2006 and 2001 respectively: 412; 468

Rank of PEI's potatoes in farm cash receipts: 1st

Ratio by which the number of hectares given over to potato growing in Alberta exceeds that of PEI: More than 3:1

Ratio of the number of Alberta farms growing wheat vs. the number growing dry peas and beans: 28:1.

Number of farms growing potatoes in Ontario in 2006 vs. number of farms growing tobacco: 904 vs. 643

Number of farms in Canada growing tobacco in 2006 and 2001, respectively: 649; 1,146

Ratio of decline in land area given over to growing tobacco from 2001 to 2006: Less that half

Percentage of Canada's tobacco farms that are located in Ontario: 99 percent

Percentage by which the total number of farms dropped in Canada 2001-06: 7.1 percent

Percentage by which the number of larger farms, with gross farm receipts of $250,000 or more (at 2005 constant prices), increased in the same time period: +13.8 percent

Percentage by which the number of smaller farms, with gross farm receipts of less than $250,000 in receipts, declined from 2001-06: -10.5 percent

Increase in the average size of a Canadian farm in the same time period: From 676 acres to 728 acres

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