Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
Mercer County posts unusual farm statistics
By Nancy Allen
Most people in Mercer County with even the slightest bit of agriculture knowledge probably know there are farmers here who raise cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys and crops like corn, soybeans and wheat.
But what about producers who raise mink for fur, Christmas trees to sell or honey and okra.
According to USDA's recently released 2007 Census of Agriculture, there were eight fruit farms (apples mostly) on a total of 20 acres in the county and one cut Christmas tree farm (no acres were listed due to confidentiality reasons).
There were six organic farms on 537 acres in the county, with three producing organic crops and three having organic pastureland.
There were two bedding/garden plant operations in the county, two greenhouse vegetable and fresh cut herbs operations, one greenhouse tomato operation and three nursery stock operations.
There also were 14 farms on 103 acres raising vegetables (two raised veggies for processing and 12 raised them for fresh markets). Other types of vegetables and the number of operations in the county include snap beans, two; cantaloupe, three; cucumbers and pickles, two; bell peppers, three; peppers other than bell, one; pumpkins, six; sweet corn, eight; tomatoes in the open, three; watermelons, one; and okra, two.
For those who don't know, okra is a flowering plant in the same family as cotton, cocoa and hibiscus, valued for its edible green fruits.
There were 10 bee operations with 182 bee colonies in the county. Seven of the farms collected 7,842 pounds of honey, the census data says.
There were two fish farms, one crustacean (shrimp) farm, one mink/fur farm, as well as 105 farms with 550 horses and ponies and 28 goat farms with 867 goats.
Mercer County, long known as being pretty homogeneous, recorded some interesting demographics on farm operators. The census showed in 2007 there were six farms with Spanish, Hispanic or Latino origin operators, one farm whose operator was of Asian origin and one that was of Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander origin.
The county also had 384 farms totaling 65,520 acres with female operators. Of those farms, 68 of them had women as principal operators controlling 9,351 acres.
To access the 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture and the voluminous amount of information it contains, go to http://www.agcensus.usda.gov or www.nass.usda.gov.