By Mike Barnett
Everything’s bigger and better in Texas. Even agriculture.
Most Texans know our ranchers herd more cattle and farmers grow more cotton than those in any other state. But you are probably not aware of many other fascinating aspects of agriculture in the Lone Star State.
Here’s my Top 10, gleaned from the 2012 Agriculture Census .
10) Fun on the farm.
Texas farms and ranches account for 19 percent of agri-tourism and recreation dollars in the U.S. That means $133 million flows into rural areas as Texans enjoy wineries, hunting, ranches and other experiences.
9) Value-added is a growing business.
Jams, wines and cheeses, oh my! More than 11,500 Texas farms and ranches add value to the commodities they grow. A great place to look is your local farmers market or online at sites like the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Go Texan website.
8) Everyone needs a good mule.
And Texas is the place to find one! Texas has 21 percent of the U.S. mule, donkey and burro inventory.
7) And horses, too!
More than 64,000 Texas farms and ranches have a total of nearly 400,000 horses and ponies, far more than the “horse states” of Oklahoma, California and Kentucky. None of those states have more than 40 percent of the Texas total!
6) You go girl!
Texas women operated 38,452 farms and ranches. That’s higher than the total number of farms and ranches in 28 other states. Farms operated by Texas women account for over 12 million acres.
5) Once you start you can’t stop.
The average age of a Texas farmer and rancher is 60. Over 45,000 are 75 or over. Some 22,000 Texas farmers and ranchers are 34 years and younger.
4) Texas agriculture embraces diversity.
Conventional, organic, local. Grainfed, grassfed. Grains, vegetables, fruits. Cattle, sheep, goats. You want it. Texas farmers and ranchers grow it.
3) We’re Number 1!
Most people know Texans raise more cattle and grow more cotton than farmers and ranchers in any other state. But did you know that we’re the top producing state in sheep and goats? Farm-raised deer. And llamas!
2) Texas ranchers are full of bull!
And cows. And calves. During 2012, Texas ranchers cared for 11 million head of cattle worth $13 billion. Texas cattle are more valuable than the total of all agricultural sales in 43 other states.
And the Number One thing you should know about farming and ranching in the Lone Star State:
1) Agriculture is deep in the heart of Texas.
With nearly a quarter of a million operations covering more than 130 million acres, Texas has more farms and ranches than any other state. Texas has about 72,000 more farms and 4 million more acres of farm and ranch land than Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma combined!
Hope you enjoyed our Top 10 list. And I hope you have a better understanding and appreciation for the people, diversity and scope of this great business that affects each and every Texan.