Island Farm Facts
Prince Edward Island is a great place to farm. The Island has a total land area of 1.4 million acres with approximately 620,000 acres cleared for agricultural use. Agriculture is very important to the rural way of life on P.E.I. with 4.5 percent of the population living on farms; which is three times higher than the national average of 1.5 percent. The 2006 census listed 1,700 farms primarily engaged in growing crops and raising livestock on P.E.I. These farms range in size from a few acres to 3,000 acres.
Potatoes represent Prince Edward Island's single largest agricultural commodity in terms of farm cash receipts. P.E.I. potatoes are processed into frozen potato products and chips. They are also supplied to the fresh table market in eastern Canada, the United States, and overseas. Prince Edward Island seed potatoes are shipped across Canada and around the world to other potato producing regions.
Grains and Oilseeds are primarily grown in rotation with potato crops. It is estimated that there were 77,000 acres of wheat, grain corn, oats, barley and mixed grain and 52,000 acres of oilseeds planted on the Island in 2011. Barley accounted for 43,000 acres. Milling wheat is grown for the production of flour. A portion of the soybean acreage in 2010 was exported to Japan to be processed into tofu and miso. Alternative crops are being grown and pressed for oil. P.E.I. grown feed grade cereals and soybeans are fed to livestock on the Island or elsewhere in Atlantic Canada.
Fruit production is very diverse on Prince Edward Island. Lowbush blueberries make up the largest acreage of commercial fruit crops at 11,600 acres. Commercial cranberry bogs and strawberry fields are located across the province. Strawberry nursery stock is produced for export to southern USA. Twenty thousand apple trees fill Island orchards. Specialty fruits including raspberry, gooseberry, rose hips, and highbush blueberry are produced in small acreages. Rising interest in black currant, grape and the haskap berry have resulted in new developments of these crops.
Beef production is a part of 35 percent of Prince Edward Island farms. The beef industry is comprised of two main sectors; cow-calf operations where calves are raised to the feeder stage and beef feedlots that purchase the feeders to finish for market. The average cow-calf herd is 40 cows. Calves are sold to feedlots throughout the Maritimes, Ontario and Quebec. Feedlot operations are intrinsically linked to the potato sector by incorporating cull potatoes and crops used in the potato rotation as part of a beef feed ration. There are several small abattoirs that process beef for the local market and one federally inspected facility, Atlantic Beef Products Inc., which processes beef for the Maritime market and for export to the United States.
Vegetables are an important cash crop for many Island farmers. They are available as fresh and processed farm products for consumers in Atlantic Canada. A core group of diversified growers produce a significant percentage of the fresh market vegetable acreage. Cauliflower, carrots and brussel sprouts are shipped to off-island processors. Rutabaga, carrots, onions and cabbage are stored and sold throughout the year to local, national and international markets.
Dairy production has become highly specialized and mechanized. Quality standards are very high. Rigid inspection programs cover every phase of production, from the health of the cow through to the finished product. There are approximately 200 dairy farms on Prince Edward Island with milk cow herds ranging in number from 20 to more than 250 cows. Annual milk production exceeds 101 million liters. Fourteen percent of this production is used to supply the fresh market and the balance is manufactured into butter, cheese, ice cream and other dairy products. Breeding stock is sold to dairy farms across Canada and internationally.
Hog production has been in a period of transition in Prince Edward Island. There are approximately 25 farms on P.E.I. producing more than 80,000 hogs annually. These farms are highly mechanized and meet firm biosecurity standards. Several large operations produce disease free breeding stock to supply local operations and for export within Canada and worldwide. P.E.I. benefits from its isolation from other swine producing regions, this enables superior disease control and improved herd health.
Organic farming is continuing to expand across Prince Edward Island. There are approximately 55 certified producers in the province who produce crops and/or raise livestock. Increasing demand for food grade quality cereals and soybeans is stimulating the expansion of field crops. Consumer support for purchasing local food has encouraged producers to explore market opportunities at farmer's markets or through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) ventures. Farmers may label their products as "Certified Organic" when they are produced according to a national standard, pass an annual inspection and detailed records of production practices are maintained.