Urban Ag Alive and Growing in Texas

While most people typically think bright lights and big city when they think of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, agriculture remains a primary driver of the area’s economy, said Dr. Blake Bennett, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist in Dallas.

“The area’s temperate weather and available irrigation water are well suited to numerous agricultural enterprises, including various livestock operations and more than 25 commercial crops,” Bennett said.

More than 20 different crops are produced commercially in the metroplex, including a variety of fruits and vegetables and major field crops.

“The climate and soil conditions are particularly well suited to the development of high-value specialty crops,” he said. “Primary crops include nursery crops, wheat, corn, grain sorghum, hay, and ensilage.”

These and other interesting facts about agribusiness and agricultural production throughout an eight-county area in North Texas can be found in the recent publication “Agribusiness: The Impact of Agriculture in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex,” which is on the agency’s Agricultural Economics website,

Bennett said the metroplex is so well suited to agriculture that per the state’s agricultural census from 2007 to 2012, the number of farms and acres of agriculturaa-use land in the eight-county area in and around the metroplex increased by nearly 10 percent.

“This growth is in contrast to the rest of Texas where during the same time frame the number of farms increased by just over one-half of one percent and farmland actually saw a small decrease,” he said. “Also counter to state trends, farms of every size in the metroplex saw increases — the greatest being among smaller-acreage farms.”

During the same time period the rest of the state showed only an increase in the number of farms in size ranging from 10 to 179 acres, with all other size categories showing decreases.

“The owners of most of these small-acreage farms have primary jobs that are off the farm, but still produce enough to make a significant economic impact on the area,” Bennett said. “And the reasons for people purchasing small farms are as diverse as the metroplex itself.”

He said some small-acreage farmers want to grow organic produce while others just want to experience a more rural lifestyle or use their farm for agritourism or agritainment, such as providing festivals, hayrides, corn mazes or a pumpkin patch experience.

Bennett added those who own smaller farms, especially farms of 20 or fewer acres, are also more likely to grow alternative or “niche” crops than larger commercial farmers, and many small-scale farmers tend to focus on cattle and hay production as the most effective use of their limited acreage.

“While impressive, the figure still does not reflect the entire value of the agricultural industry in the region, as data limitations prevent the inclusion of public sector employees involved in agriculture,” he said. “Production agriculture in this region is as diverse as the communities and landscape within it.”

He noted while housing, businesses, roadways and other aspects of urban structure and infrastructure have grown significantly in the region, production agriculture has seen significant growth as well.

“While we don’t have figures for after 2012, it is apparent that agricultural production in this area continues to be on the upswing, and the trend toward smaller farms continues,” Bennett said.

AgriLife Extension district summaries can be found here.

Source: Texas AgriLife

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