The Local Food Report: agricultural land

I am a big fan of facts. Recently, the Association to Preserve Cape Cod released a whole slew of them in their report on agricultural land use. Here are the highlights:

Acres in cultivation—
  • in 1925, there were almost 36,000 acres of farmland in Barnstable County
  • by 1969, that number had dropped to 5,324, a loss of nearly 85%
  • today, the APCC estimates there are only 4,269 acres, including aquaculture
Farm size—
  • Our farms are small! the smallest is .19 acres
  • 29% of our farms are smaller than 5 acres
  • 66% are smaller than 10 acres
  • there are only 10 farms bigger than 75 acres
  • surprisingly, there is one parcel of farmland that is 228 acres
  • the state has identified 12 types of "prime" loam on the Cape
  • interestingly, we aren't farming much of it
  • only 13% of our farms are on prime agricultural land!
Farmer demographics—
  • 60% of our farmers are over 55
  • most have no one to take over the farm when they move on
Prominent historical agricultural products, by town—
  • Barnstable—cranberries
  • Brewster—fiber, wood
  • Chatham—shellfish
  • Dennis—cranberries
  • Eastham—asparagus, turnips, carrots, and cranberries
  • Falmouth—strawberries, oysters, cranberries, and cattle
  • Harwich—cranberries
  • Mashpee—cranberries
  • Orleans—ducks and cranberries
  • Provincetown—fishing
  • Sandwich—grain, dairy, and woodlands
  • Truro—grain, fiber, and cattle
  • Wellfleet—fisheries
  • Yarmouth—cranberries and shellfish
It's worth reading through the whole report—you can find it right here. There's a lot of interesting history in there—for instance, did you know that Falmouth used to be the biggest producer of strawberries east of the Mississippi and north of Maryland?!

It's also worth taking the time to check out the maps. You can see where the prime agricultural land is in your area, and how much of it is being farmed. (Not much, in most cases). 

The APCC is doing a lot of work to preserve these prime areas as farmland in perpetuity. You can learn more about protection programs over here. Maybe your land qualifies!


Anonymous said...

Dear Elspeth,

What a wonderful report today! I hope it will help spur some action on the Cape. If you are not familiar with the excellent work being done here in Maine by the Maine Farmland Trust, check it out: www.mainefarmlandtrust.org. Is there a similar effort on the Cape? If not, perhaps Maine Farmland Trust could help some Cape residents get started on a similar path. The organization's efforts are making a big difference in Maine, especially with helping young farmers. Good luck, and thank you for all the good work you do. ~ A Maine Reader

Alexandra said...

Thanks for all this fascinating information. Worrisome that 60% of our Cape farmers are over 50.

Nannette said...

Great Report!!
Aren't we lucky to have the Local Food Report and the APCC!
picky comment for the record: to your sentence "Falmouth grew the most strawberries of any town East of the Mississippi"
please add "and north of Maryland." The Falmouth Historical Society has a representative receipt for strawberry plants shipped to Falmouth Farmers from Maryland.

--Nannette Oldenbourg,
researcher/writer/guide "Living off the Land" a program of the Falmouth Historical Society
(and now teaching visiting kids at Coonamessett Farm)

Elspeth said...

Hi everyone!

Thanks for the feedback. To my Maine reader, I am familiar with the Maine Farmland Trust—they do great stuff. I think the APCC is the closest thing here on the Cape.

And Alexandra, it is a bit worrisome. However, one caveat that Ed mentioned when we discussed this was that some people responded after the survey saying they didn't think this was true, that they didn't think it reached all the young farmers. So it's tough to say exactly how accurate that number is.

And Nannette, thank you for the correction and the very interesting information! I'd love to talk with you more sometime about your research and teaching. If you have a chance, send me an email at elspeth.hay@gmail.com.

All the best,

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