Agriculture is not a very popular career choice in Queens County but efforts are being made to change that.
Brian MacCulloch, Agricultural Resource Coordinator for the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture, made a presentation on the state of the industry in Queens to council on Feb. 25.
MacCulloch brought statistics from 2006 and 2011 regarding farms in Queens County. Statistics are only done on farms every five years in Nova Scotia.
Although Queens saw a growth in farms from 35 to 37 from 2006 to 2011, overall revenue from farms has gone down. Farms went from $1.8 million in gross sales to $1.1 million.
“Hay is the biggest crop land wise in the county,” says MacCulloch.
Hay acreage went down from 1207 acres to 775 acres, which is a 432 acre drop. Christmas tree farm acreage and livestock numbers also decreased during the five year period.
Queens saw a drop in medium and small farms, which is not just a trend province wide but worldwide. However, large farms did see a slight increase.
MacCulloch says agriculture is a $600 million industry in Nova Scotia and just $1.1 million of that revenue comes from Queens County.
“What’s significant here is that a number of farms that used to be in the $50,000 – $500,000 range (in gross income) have apparently dropped down to the $10,000 to $50,000 range,” says MacCulloch.
According to the statistics, there are no farm operators in Queens County under 35 years of age. There could be one or two says MacCulloch but as statistics round up and down, it is shown as zero. In 2006 there were five farmers under 35.
“It’s not an encouraging trend,” says MacCulloch.
MacCulloch says his intentions were not to come to Queens to tell the region what to do but to provide support and help them create a plan with the community from the “inside out.”
“A lot of municipalities deal with agriculture in their municipal planning strategy,” says MacCulloch.
He says plans are community specific based on what assets are in the area and what the community needs.
“The department offers a number of programs, we have business development specialists, we have industry transition officers… we offer a lot of resources and personnel to help,” says MacCulloch.
Mayor Christopher Clarke says the Region of Queens is looking at agricultural opportunities and industry and that the first step was to get more information.
“The (presentation) was succinct, it was factual, it gave you a feel for where you were going and it was good,” says Clarke.
Clarke says there is a possibility of creating an agricultural plan for the region but there are no solid plans yet. The Region has been working with the Lunenburg Queens Federation of Agriculture however.
Victoria Conrad former Queens MLA and a director with the Lunenburg Queens Federation of Agriculture says she’s happy to hear the Department of Agriculture was invited to the council meeting.
“I think that’s a step forward for the Region of Queens in recognizing that there is potential here to grow farming in Queens,” says Conrad.
The federation helps educate on agriculture, promotes farmers and buying local, and helps new farmers get started.
Conrad says the federation has been working in partnership with the Region of Queens to promote farming. The Region, the federation, and the Queens County Fair Ground partnered and help a community supper featuring all locally grown food.