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Ag census lures anyone interested in data

The ag census tracks farms, those entities that earn at least $1,000 of income from ag products produced or sold.

I’m always excited when the USDA Agriculture Census is released. I like numbers and the census has plenty. I especially like to see smaller tidbits of information like how many blueberry acres there are in Lee County, Ark., or how many peach acres are in Missouri.

The ag census tracks farms, those entities that earn at least $1,000 of income from ag products produced or sold. So, that sweet corn garden, the bounty of which the kids will sell by the road, doesn’t count unless they’re raking in the bucks.

The latest census numbers were released in April and information is relatively easy to find and interesting enough to lure anyone interested to the data.

I like crawfish, USDA classifies them as crustaceans. I found that there are 611 crustacean farms in Louisiana with a value of $59 million to the state’s economy. Arcadia Parish, west of Baton Rouge, grows the most on 114 farms. Louisiana’s total production number amounts to over 75 percent of US production.

Mississippi grows some crustaceans, but only six farms are commercial, according to the census. But, Mississippi shines in catfish production with 205 farms growing $219.7 million worth. Mississippi leads catfish production in the United States with more than half of the national production value.

Blueberries are another of my favorites. Mississippi leads the way in blueberry production in the Mid-South states with 1,924 acres on 496 farms, but the state grows fewer peaches, 173 farms grow 250 acres.

There is a dormant cotton gin in Peach Orchard, Pemiscot County, Mo. I’ve always wondered where exactly the orchard is located. According to the census, there isn’t a commercial orchard there. Missouri grows a lot of peaches, 1,305 acres worth, but none of those are in Peach Orchard.

I remember eating lots of watermelon as a kid when we went to Missouri to visit family — 352 farms grow 2,919 acres of watermelon in Missouri.

In Tennessee, 401 farms grow 542 acres of watermelon. The growers in the state also produce 4 acres of kiwi fruit on 21 farms. There are no commercial crawfish farms in Tennessee, but there are 26 catfish farms.

It also has four farms growing chicory and 10 farms growing ginseng, for what it’s worth.

The census shows that Tennessee has slightly over 40,000 female producers, 9,447 indicate that farming is their primary form of employment.

Arkansas has 29,917 female farmers, 669 acres of peaches, 1 acre of rhubarb and 1 acre of ginger root. It has 15 farms growing cut flowers and florist greens in green houses and 41 farms that grow those items “in the open.”

While Lee County, Ark., doesn’t grow any blueberries commercially, I know of about an acre of blueberries and if you know the owner, he might let you pick them for free, but that’s not on the census.

To see more numbers, go to https://www.nass.usda.gov/AgCensus/.

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