OTTAWA — Results from the “Agriculture–Population Linkage” show that the face of Canada’s farm population is changing. Farm households are becoming more diverse and becoming smaller. Additionally, greater percentages of farm households are living in urban areas, while their income continues to outpace that of the total population.
These conclusions used information from the “Agriculture–Population Linkage” (this linkage combines data from the Census of Agriculture with the Census of Population) to provide a socioeconomic profile of Canada’s farm population. Canada’s farm population comprises farm operators (people responsible for the management decisions in operating a farm) and the individuals in their households. In 2021, the farm population (590,710 people) represented 1.6% of the total population in Canada.
The immigrant farm population plays a role in shaping Canadian agriculture
Immigrants contribute to the ethnocultural diversity of the farm population. This is important because a diversified farm population provides a broad range of skills, experiences, perspectives and cultural influences that can boost the potential for increased productivity within the agricultural sector.
In 2021, immigrants made up 6.9% of Canada’s total farm population, up slightly from 6.8% in 2001. By comparison, the proportion of immigrants in Canada’s total population increased from 18.7% in 2001 to 23.1% in 2021.
Under 4% of people in the farm population are part of a racialized group
In 2021, individuals from racialized groups accounted for 3.7% of the total farm population in Canada. Meanwhile, individuals from racialized groups made up more than one-quarter (26.6%) of Canada’s total population.
Among the 21,910 people in the farm population who self-identified as being from a racialized group, over half (53.0%) were South Asian, followed by Chinese (15.8%). Black (5.9%) and Latin American (5.9%) were tied as the third-largest racialized group.
The percentage of the Indigenous farm population is increasing
In 2021, 2.8% (16,705 people) of the farm population self-identified as Indigenous. This was slightly higher than the percentage reported in 2001 (2.3%). Meanwhile, 4.8% of Canada’s total population self-identified as Indigenous in 2021.
Métis (11,225) remained the largest group among the Indigenous farm population in 2021, accounting for over two-thirds (67.2%) of the total. The second-highest group was First Nations people (4,825), who made up 28.9% of the Indigenous farm population in 2021.
The farm population has a higher percentage of men and older people than the total population
In 2021, over half (52.5%) of the farm population were men, whereas just under half (49.4%) of the total population were men.
The farm population also has a higher percentage of older people. In 2021, over 4 in 10 men (40.3%) in the farm population were 55 years and over, compared with 31.2% in the total population. Meanwhile, 41.0% of women in the farm population were 55 years and over, compared with 33.5% for the total population.
Conversely, the farm population had smaller proportions of men and women under 35 years when compared with the total population. In 2021, 38.2% of men in the farm population were under 35 years, compared with 42.8% for the total population. Meanwhile, 34.4% of women in the farm population were under 35 years, compared with 40.1% for the total population.
The farm population is more likely to report a religious affiliation than the total population
In 2021, nearly three-quarters (72.5%) of the farm population reported a religious affiliation, whereas 65.4% of the total population reported a religious affiliation.
Among the farm population that reported religious affiliations, the most frequently reported religion in 2021 was Catholic (39.3%), followed by Christian, n.o.s. (not otherwise specified) (14.6%) and the United Church (13.8%). This differs from the total population, where Catholic (45.8%), Christian, n.o.s. (11.6%) and Muslim (7.5%) were the three most frequently reported religions among those who reported religious affiliations.
Farm population and farm household trends reflect decreasing farm numbers
Farms have become increasingly sophisticated operations that harmonize automation and modernization advancements. This has corresponded with declines in the number of farms and the farm population in Canada. In 1971, 1 in 14 Canadians was a member of the farm population. By 2021, that number decreased to 1 in 61 Canadians. Overall, from 1971 to 2021, the farm population declined by 62.2% to 590,710 people.
The decrease in the size of households in Canada is a widespread societal trend, and farm households are no exception. In 1971, the average size of a farm household was 4.3 people. By 2021, it decreased to 2.8 people. By comparison, the average household size of the total population in 1971 was 3.5 people. By 2021, it fell to 2.4 people.