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Keeping the Garden in the Garden State [AUDIO]

The latest census data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows total farm acreage in the Garden State has decreased slightly, but the average farm is larger and more profitable than it used to be.

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

In 2012, there were 9,015 farms on 715,057 acres as compared to 2007, when there were 10,327 farms on 733,450 acres. That’s a loss of 18,393 acres in five years, but the news isn’t all bad.

“The average size of the farm actually increased,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher. “There’s been consolidations: the average size is now 79 acres, where before it was 71 acres five years ago.”

He said in addition, revenue value has increased from $987 million to just about $1.1 billion.

“That bodes well, it says that farming is surviving and prospering in the Garden State,” Fisher said.

The data also showed the average farmer in New Jersey is older than in previous years.

“This is a trend that’s in every state across the land,” Fisher said. “New Jersey went from 57 years old to 59 years old.”

But data also shows that younger people are interested in entering the profession.

“We’re seeing a lot of interest now in new and young farmer programs,” Fisher said. “We’re cultivating that, so there’s always going to be an opportunity for somebody to farm in New Jersey.”

He added the important thing right now is “we want to get some dry weather, but obviously we have to worry about more snow and a wet spring. If it ever stops snowing and the farmers can get in their fields in a timely fashion, then that bodes well for the coming season. Right now it’s all about the weather.”

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