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Top Five Types of Massachusetts Farms

Massachusetts Agricultural Census 2012

When identifying the most prominent types of farms in Massachusetts, there are many different ranking systems that can be adopted. In Massachusetts, farms are seen as an important part of rural character because farming can maintain open space in what has become a densely populated state. To identify the uses of our open land, we begin by presenting rankings of the top five types of farms in Massachusetts in each of the census years 2012, 2007, and 2002. Rankings are presented in three ways, ranking farms by: (1) the number of farms by farm type, (2) the number of acres by farm type, and (3) the market value of products by farm type.

Referring to Table 1.1, which ranks the top five types of farms by the number of farms, the top five farms in Massachusetts as of 2012 were those involved in: horse and other equine production; hay farming; greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture; vegetable and melon farming; and fruit and tree nut farming. As shown in Tables 1.2 and 1.3, the trends observed in 2007 and 2002 included the same types of farms as those in 2012.  However, while the trends in both 2007 and 2002 are similar to one another, they differ from those in 2012.  In 2007 and 2002, the top four farms were those involved in hay farming; horse and other equine production; fruit and nut tree farming; and greenhouse, nursery and floriculture.  In 2007, the fifth-ranked farm type by number of farms was beef cattle ranching and farming, while in 2002 the fifth-ranked farm type was vegetable and melon farming.

Table 1.1: Top Five Massachusetts Farm Types by Number of Farms (2012)
Type of Farm Number of Farms Percent of All Mass. Farms
Horse and Other Equine 1183 15.25%
Hay Farming 1097 14.15%
Greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture 968 12.48%
Vegetables and melons 923 11.90%
Fruit, tree nuts and berries 779 10.05%
Table 1.2: Top Five Massachusetts Farm Types by Number of Farms (2007)
Type of Farm Number of Farms Percent of All Mass. Farms
Hay Farming 1278 16.60%
Horse and Other Equine production 1117 14.50%
Fruit, tree nuts and berries 893 11.60%
Greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture 865 11.20%
Beef cattle ranching and farming 804 10.50%
Table 1.3: Top Five Massachusetts Farm Types by Number of Farms (2002)
Type of Farm Number of Farms Percent of All Mass. Farms
Hay Farming 962 15.80%
Horse and Other Equine 961 15.80%
Fruit, tree nuts and berries 811 13.30%
Greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture 958 15.80%
Vegetables and melons 469 7.70%

Different types of farms require different amounts of land (Land in Farms - Acres), so ranking farms by their land use yields different results. Examining Table 1.4, hay farming was the number one type of farm by land use in 2012, followed by fruit, tree nut and berry farming, dairy cattle and milk production, vegetable and melon farming, and other crop farming. (What does "other" mean?) These rankings mirror the first three types of farms by land use in 2007 presented in Table 1.5; the fourth- and fifth-ranked types of farms by land use in 2007 were beef cattle ranching and farming and vegetable and melon farming.  One striking difference between the rankings by land use in 2002, 2007 and 2012 (shown in Tables 1.4, 1.5 and 1.6) is the drop in the rank of dairy cattle and milk production. Between 2002 and 2012, this type of farming lost over 41,000 acres due to continued difficulties throughout the dairy industry.

Table 1.4: Top Five Massachusetts Farm Types by Number of Acres (2012)
Type of Farm Number of Acres of Mass. Farmland Percent of All Mass. Farmland
Hay Farming 116,980 22.35%
Fruit, tree nuts and berries 80,568 15.40%
Dairy Cattle and Milk Production 50,367 9.62%
Vegetables and melons 42,148 8.05%
Other Crop Farming 42,024 8.03%
Table 1.5: Top Five Massachusetts Farm Types by Number of Acres (2007)
Type of Farm Number of Acres of Mass. Farmland Percent of All Mass. Farmland
Hay Farming 142,168 27.45%
Fruit, tree nuts and berries 68,566 13.24%
Dairy Cattle and Milk Production 65,645 12.68%
Beef cattle ranching and farming 50,890 9.83%
Vegetabes and melons 44,974 8.68%
Table 1.6: Top Five Massachusetts Farm Types by Number of Acres (2002)
Type of Farm Number of Acres of Mass. Farmland Percent of All Mass. Farmland
Hay Farming 121,099 23.40%
Dairy Cattle and Milk Production 92,040 17.70%
Fruit, tree nuts and berries 72,240 13.90%
Other Crop Farming 40,368 7.80%
Beef cattle ranching and farming 37,722 7.30%

When we examine the market value of products sold by different types of farms, differences in the top five types of farms also arise (Market Value by Farm Type). As shown in Tables 1.7, 1.8, and 1.9, greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture ranks number one based on market value of products sold in the market for all three census years, accounting for over 29 percent of Massachusetts’s market value of agricultural products offered in 2012. Notable increases in the market value of products offered by fruit, tree nuts and berry farms were observed between 2002 and 2012, increasing from around 14 percent to almost 25 percent of Massachusetts’s market value of agricultural products offered. The dominant crop in the fruit, tree nut and berries category has been cranberries. The increases seen in the market value for this category have been due to stronger cranberry prices in both 2007 and 2012. Finally, in 2012 Animal Aquaculture enters the top five Massachusetts farms by market value of products.

Table 1.7: Top Five Massachusetts Farm Types by Market Value of Products (2012)
Type of Farm Market Value of Product ($1,000) Percent of Total Mass. Market Value
Greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture 146,352 29.74%
Fruit, tree nuts and berries 122,560 24.90%
Vegetables and melons 80,838 16.43%
Dairy cattle and milk production 55,455 11.27%
Animal aquaculture 23,223 4.72%
Table 1.8: Top Five Massachusetts Farm Types by Market Value of Products (2007)
Type of Farm Number of Acres of Mass. Farmland Percent of All Mass. Farmland
Greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture 170,133 34.73%
Fruit, tree nuts and berries 98,669 20.14%
Vegetables and melons 58,897 12.02%
Dairy cattle and milk production 54,153 11.06%
Other Crop Farming 36,491 7.00%
Table 1.9: Top Five Massachusetts Farm Types by Market Value of Products (2002)
Type of Farm Number of Acres of Mass. Farmland Percent of All Mass. Farmland
Greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture 155,051 40.34%
Dairy cattle and milk production 55,333 14.40%
Fruit, tree nuts and berries 55,277 14.38%
Vegetables and melons 36,433 9.48%
Other animal production 24,112 6.27%