Agriculture Industry – PEI’s Number 1 Industry
Agriculture is very important to the rural way of life on Prince Edward Island with 4.5 percent of the population living on farms compared with 3 percent in the rest of Canada. Prince Edward Island has a total land area of 1.4 million acres, with 620,000 acres cleared for farm use. Most farm operations are involved in the production of one or more of Prince Edward Island’s major agricultural commodities: potatoes, dairy, hogs, beef, vegetables and small fruit crops.
There are approximately 55 certified organic producers in the province who produce crops and/or raise livestock organically. Certified organic produce can be purchased direct from a farmer, at a farmer’s market or at local retailers. Farmers can only label their products “certified organic” if they are produced according to a national standard, pass an annual inspection, and maintain an audit trail of their crop and livestock inputs.
Vegetables are an important cash crop to many producers and are a source of fresh and processed product for consumers in Atlantic Canada. There is a core group of diversified growers producing a significant percentage of the fresh market vegetable acreage. On Prince Edward Island rutabagas, carrots, cauliflower and cabbage are stored and sold throughout the year to local, national and international markets.
It is the Island’s rich sandy soil, clean air and water that make it the ideal environment for growing high-quality potatoes. Prince Edward Island potatoes are grown for three specific markets: seed, table stock, and processing. Seed potatoes are sold to commercial potato growers and home gardeners to produce next year's crop; table stock for retail and food service sectors; and processing potatoes are manufactured into French fries, potato chips, and other processed potato products.
Grains and oilseeds are, by acreage, the largest group of crops grown on P.E.I. In 2006, Statistics Canada estimated that there were 152,000 acres of wheat, oats, barley and mixed grain and 12,000 acres of soybeans seeded on the Island. Grains are primarily grown in rotation with potato crops and used as feed for livestock on the Island with surplus production being exported for sale off-Island. Only a small amount of the soybean grown is food grade and is used for the manufacture of various food products.
Beef production on Prince Edward Island accounts for 35 percent of all farms. The beef industry comprises 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.
Most hog farms have moved to confined housing with highly mechanized, temperature-controlled barns, but due to low market prices, the hog industry in PEI is in a period of transition.
Prince Edward Island produces over 97,000L of milk annually. There are approximately 215 producers on PEI and the average herd size on PEI is 58 milking cows. Dairy production on PEI operates under a Supply Management System where a specified amount of milk can be produced and quota is bought and sold by farmers through a Milk Marketing Board. Amalgamated Dairies Limited (ADL) is the Island’s largest dairy, producing award-winning cheese, fresh milk, evaporated milk and other dairy products