Agriculture on Prince Edward Island
Agdex #: 0/0
Revised: June 2012
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Prince Edward Island is a great place to farm. The Island has a total land area of 1.4 million acres with approximately 594,000 acres cleared for agricultural use. Agriculture is very important to the rural way of life on PEI with 4.5 percent of the population living on farms; 1.5 percent higher than the national average. The 2011 census listed 1,500 farms primarily engaged in growing crops and raising livestock on PEI. 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. In 2011, Island producers harvested potatoes totaling 23.9 million hundredweight (cwt) of product. The value of the crop is subject to global market fluctuations. Over the last five years values have ranged from $201 to $274 million. PEI 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. Approximately 89,000 acres of potatoes were planted in 2012.
Grains and Oilseeds are primarily grown in rotation with potato crops. It is estimated that there were 100,000 acres of wheat, oats, barley and mixed grain and 48,000 acres of oilseeds planted on the Island in 2012. Barley accounted for 66,000 acres. Milling wheat is grown for the production of flour. A portion of the soybean acreage in 2011 was exported to Japan to be processed into tofu and miso. Alternative crops are being grown and pressed for oil. PEI grown feed grade cereals and soybeans are fed to livestock on the Island or elsewhere in Atlantic Canada. The total value of the 2011 grain and oilseed crop was estimated to be $22.9 million.
Fruit production is very diverse on Prince Edward Island. Lowbush blueberries make up the largest acreage of commercial fruit crops at 12,300 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. PEI has an active honey bee industry which supplies at least 5,000 colonies towards pollination services to the Island’s fruit crops annually. High quality honey is also produced by the PEI beekeepers.
Beef production is a part of 40 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 and carrots 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 300 cows. Annual milk production exceeds 100 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 is in a period of transition in Prince Edward Island. There are approximately 25 farms on PEI producing greater 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. PEI benefits from its isolation from other swine producing regions, this enables superior disease control and improved herd health.
Organic farming continues 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.
For more information about the Agriculture Industry in Prince Edward Island, please contact the
Agriculture Information Desk:
Crops and Livestock Research Centre
tel: (902) 368-4145 or toll free 1-866-PEI-FARM (734-3276)
or website: www.peifarm.ca