Here’s an Ag Day snapshot of county agricultural picture

By Kris Medic

Among Indiana counties, what agricultural crop in Bartholomew County would you think ranks highest for sales? If you guessed that wheat, you would be correct.

Bartholomew County’s wheat crop ranked No. 7 in the state for sales, according to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture. Winter wheat, planted in fall, is greening up right now in the fields. It looks like grass, but don’t confuse it with cover crops, which many farmers also plant in fall to enrich and preserve soil.

Just in time for National Ag Day, which is Tuesday, here is a broader snapshot of Bartholomew County agriculture.

Bartholomew County’s other agriculture rankings are as follows:

  • Vegetable and melon sales, 15th
  • Tobacco, 18th
  • Cut Christmas trees, 24th
  • Soybeans, 38th
  • Sheep and goats, 43rd
  • Corn, 44th

The county’s most visible crops, corn and soybeans, stand solidly in the middle of a field of 92 counties. Meanwhile, the tobacco ranking might seem surprising because it’s not very visible unless you frequent the southeastern reaches of the county and know what it looks like growing in the field.

Vegetables and melons? Long-established farm markets help propel these sales. Additionally, some local growers raise melons for large buyers such as supermarket chains.

Bartholomew County presently follows the national trend of fewer and larger farms, according to the 2012 Census. These numbers show that the county has 623 farms covering 171,601 acres, which is 66 percent of Bartholomew County’s land area. The average farm size is 275 acres, but farmers often have access to others’ land through agricultural leases or other arrangements. A thousand or more acres to farm is not unusual for farmers who make agriculture their primary occupation. But it’s important to note that half of the county’s farmers also have an off-farm income.

Of those 623 farms, only 55 primary operators are women, but this number is on the rise. An additional 17 Bartholomew County farmers identify themselves as Hispanic, Latino or multi-ethnic.

As for economic impact, Bartholomew had $95.6 million sales in agricultural products as well as $1.5 million in income from farm-related sources such custom application and land leases, according to the most recent census. Farmers spent another $87.8 million on equipment and supplies.

The Agricultural Council of America believes that every American should:

  • Understand how food and fiber products are produced.
  • Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.
  • Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
  • Acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry.

If you would like more on Bartholomew County’s agricultural picture, feel free to contact us. I have a digital presentation — complete with photos of local farms and farmers at work — to bring to service organizations or clubs.

Meanwhile, I hope that this description has helped you to know a bit more about agriculture in our county.

Kris Medic is Purdue Extension Bartholomew County’s educator for Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Community Development. She is a board-certified Master Arborist.