Down on the Farm

The farmer in the delL, Hi-ho, the derry-o – Children’s nursery rhyme

As Alberta becomes more urban and hipster like, we sometimes forget about where we are getting our daily bread, bacon, eggs and beef.  Here is a quick roundup on what going on down on the 40,000 farms in Alberta.

Primary Production

  • Alberta grain farmers had a “not bad” crop year in 2017. Last fall was very wet seeding and the spring seeding was slow in some regions. Southern Alberta experienced a drought. But a long autumn helped get the crops in the bin.
  • Wheat production on 7 million acres was a bit higher than the last few years. But provincially, average bushels per acre yields were lower by 10% (53 bushels per acre) compared to last year. A bushel of wheat is worth about $8.70 (OK there are 35 litres in a bushel for you non-farmer types)
  • Canola production was up significantly (11%).  Provincially, yields were down a bit to 44 bushels per acre. Canola sells for about $11 a bushel
  • Barley production was down as a result of fewer seeded acres and lower yields.
  • Barley for malting (beer) is worth roughly $6.25 a bushel and barley for livestock feed is worth something under $6.00.
  • Since the 1980’s, production of peas and lentils – called pulse crops in farmer talk, (edible seeds to the rest of us) has grown steadily. Saskatchewan has 80% of the production. Alberta has about 16% of the production, mostly in the south.
  • Alberta produces about 40% of Canada’s cattle. This summer there was about 5.5 million head out there on the range. Most cattle are raised for beef; only 120,000 are dairy cattle.
  • Alberta has roughly 60% of the national herd of feeder cattle (steers and heifers raised for food).

Food and Beverage Processing

 During the recession, food processing was the largest manufacturing sub-sector of the Alberta economy  

  • Alberta food processors had sales of over $9.2 billion in sales in 2016
  • Alberta represented 18% ($10.0 billion) of Canada’s total food exports in 2016.  Alberta is the third largest exporter of agri-food products behind Saskatchewan and Ontario
  • The sector grew by 7% during the recession while machinery and equipment and petrochemicals declined
  • The sector employs 22,400 workers almost 20% of all workers in the manufacturing sector
  • Over 60% of the food processing in Alberta relates to meat, grain and oilseed processing.