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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

USDA Ag Census - Geeking Out Over Agriculture

Big ranches. Small farms. Community supported agriculture programs. All of these are outlets where food is planted and raised for American citizens and, in many cases, the world.

But unless you live near a rural community, it can be really difficult to find a farm or ranch to visit in order to learn more about the food you eat, the farms that produce it and more importantly, the farmers and ranchers raising and producing it.

To make the vast endeavor of learning about your food a bit more manageable, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recently published the results of the 2012 Ag Census. Yes, I am aware it is 2014 but the USDA collects, combines and categorizes millions and millions of data points so it takes a while to make it easy to share.

A new facet to the Ag Census data are the easy-to-read infographics. Generally, if an individual wanted to look up how many operations in the U.S. specialized in beef cattle (619,000 according to the census), that person would have to scroll through pages of reports, Excel files and other documents looking for the exact right piece of information. However, this year the USDA has created some really nifty infographics that highlight some important and key components of American agriculture.

Infographics tell the story of the 2012 Ag Census
Click to enlarge
Source: USDA Ag Census 
You can see in the infographic above many answers to questions regarding current agriculture issues. For example, more than 57,000 farms or ranches employ the use of alternative energy sources (wind, water, etc). How cool is that?! Farmers and ranchers using alternative energy to produce food for the world in an environmentally sustainable way!
Another fact that isn't necessarily cool but provides some insight into the costs behind farming: Farmers spent almost $20 BILLION on seed in 2012, which is a 66% increase from 2007.
There is also a tool called Quick Stats, which allows you to build a specific query. For example, if you wanted to look up the average age of the principal operator on California farms that have only one owner/operator, you could do that with a few clicks [the answer to that query is 60.7 years old, btw].

I hope you'll take the time to geek out over these cool tools that USDA has developed - I have been playing with the Quick Stats function a lot and the infographics page says that new inforgraphics will be added in the future, so I am checking that page often!

What are some questions you have about ag that you are going to research using the USDA data?

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

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