Number of New Hampshire farms remains steady but fewer acres are used for agriculture

  • Cows at Brookford Farm in Canterbury have their morning hay Wednesday morning.

  • A tractor from Brookford Farm in Canterbury travels down the road leading to the farm.

  • Carrots, beets and potatoes are sorted in bins at the booth of Brookford Farm of Canterbury at the Winter Farmers Market at Cole Gardens in Concord on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014. JULIE BYRD-JENKINS

Monitor staff
Published: 2/23/2021 2:59:49 PM

New Hampshire has a lot of farms – an estimated 4,100 of them – but most are small and don’t come close to being able to support a family.

That’s the conclusion of the latest National Agriculture Statistics Service estimate for New England, which is unsurprising because the service has reached the same conclusion for at least two decades.

The service defines a farm as a place that sells at least $1,000 worth of agricultural products, from vegetables to sheep’s milk to beef to hay, during the course of a year. New Hampshire had an estimated more than 4,000 such places in 2020, according to just-released estimates, and 2,750 of them or 67% of had annual sales of less than $10,000.

Those figures are almost unchanged from 2017, the last time the U.S. Department of Agriculture did a full-blown farm census: Then there were 2,908 farms with sales under $10,000 out of a total of 4,123 farms.

Go back to the 1997 agricultural census and 2,949 farms out of 3,928 sold less than $10,000 – which even in 1997 dollars wasn’t enough to support a family.

Many of these farms are supported by sales at their own farm stand or community farmers’ markets rather than stores.

New Hampshire has very few large farms. Only 100 farms had 2020 sales  of $250,000 to $1 million, and so few sold more than one $1 million worth of agricultural products that the NASS didn’t release data about them for fear that individual farms could be identified.

The state’s farms are shrinking size, as well. New Hampshire had 425,000 acres in farm production in 2017, with hayfields being the largest single component. That is almost 50,000 acres smaller than a decade before even though the number of farms was virtually unchanged.

New Hampshire covers almost 6 million acres, meaning that about 7% of it is farmed.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)



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