As I started this project, one of my goals was to explore urban farming as a way of making a viable living in the city. While viable means different things to different people, I would say it means generating enough income to significantly contribute to one’s regular expenses, if not cover most of them. Not an unachievable goal for many people, especially those who lead a more basic lifestyle.
But in conversation with my advising professor today, he reminded me of a good point. That even in rural farms in BC, most are only able to survive due to off-farm income! A damn good point if you ask me.
From Stats Canada – Statistics on Income of Farm Families 2007 (http://dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/collections/collection_2010/statcan/21-207-X/21-207-x2010000-eng.pdf):
This information is for Family Farms in Canada. Farm families refer to those involved in a single unincorporated farm with total operating revenues of $10,000 andover.
• The overall growth in farm families’ average total income in 2007 reflects increases in both average income fromoff-farm sources and average net farm operating income. As in 2006, off-farm income made up 80% of their total income.
• Average off-farm income rose 7.5% from 2006 to $75,223 in 2007, reflecting growth in all of its major components.
It is important to note that not all farm family income earned from a farming operation is net farm operating income. Income reported as wages and salaries and as investment income may have come from the farm.
An interesting table about family farm income (click to enlarge):
Another interesting table:
So what these off-farm income data do for me is lower my expectations a bit about what needs to be achieved through this initiative. But what it also does, after my experience this season, is open up the idea that urban farming could presently pay better than rural farming! One key aspect of that is there is no major land costs in urban farming (yet). Further, the infrastructure required is less intensive and extensive. And with less machinery infrastructure, that means less fuel costs. And obviously with the best markets already being right in the city, urbanf armers save massive amounts of money on transportation costs.
The average family farm net income from farming operations is $18, 480 (range from -$5700 to $114,000). Interestingly, from 2006 to 2007 income declined on all farm sizes except for large and very large family farms. Such farms were also the only ones whose farm income was more than off-farm income.
In BC, off -farm income represents 91.7% of total farm family income – a value that has been increasing each year since 2003! So perhaps urban farming stands a chance after all. Revenues may be lower, but so are expenses.