JEFFERSON — Agriculture is a major component of the Ashtabula County economy with approximately 1,200 farms in some level of operation.
A 50-year tradition of farm consolidation continues on larger farms that need to meet certain economies of scale to maintain profitability, said Ashtabula County OSU Extension Agent Andrew Holden.
As the larger farms consolidate, there have been a lot of part-time farms making their presence known in Ashtabula County. He said many of the farms are part time operations raising animals or providing food for farmers markets.
He said the amount of middle size farms is dropping but still is higher than counties in other parts of the state.
The United States Department of Agriculture Statistics for 2017 in Ashtabula County states there were 153,000 acres of Ashtabula County in use for agriculture.
Holden said more than 50 percent of county farms are under 50 acres.
The economy also benefits from local cooperative farm organizations, local equipment dealers, oil and gas businesses as well as private mills, Holden said.
The statistics are put together every five years, and the 2022 information should be available soon, Holden said.
The market value of products sold in 2017 was $55,887,000 and represented a 30 percent reduction from the 2012 information.
Farm related income, however, was $4,459,000 and represented a 44 percent increase over five years, but net farm income went down 75 percent due to increased expenses, the report shows.
The county’s most profitable farms, nine operations selling more than $100,000 a year, existed beside 441 farms that had less than $2,500 in annual sales.
The report also indicates there were 628 Ashtabula County farmers 65 or over, 1,230 between 35 and 64 years of age and only 182 farmers 35 years of age or younger.
The top crops for Ashtabula County are led by soybeans with more than 40,000 acres planted, hay with more than 21,000 acres and corn (for grain) with more than 16,000 acres in the ground.