DARKE COUNTY – Number one or number two? It is usually a cause for bragging rights between Darke and Mercer Counties for the #1 county in agriculture. Unfortunately, Mercer gets to claim the bragging rights with the release of the 2012 USDA Agriculture Census. Darke County fell a little short of Mercer’s $596.3 million in total agricultural sales with $559.5 million. The two counties are responsible for over $1 billion of the $10 billion agriculture generated in Ohio; leaving the other 86 counties to account for $9 billion. Wayne County (Wooster) finished a distant third with $381 million generated.
Sam Custer, OSU extension agent, pointed out a majority of Ohio’s livestock is found between Greenville and Celina.
Custer said, “In comparing the 2012 data with the previous census of 2007 we saw some significant change. The number of farms decreased by 4% to 1,693. Land in farms decreased by 3% to 339,981 acres and the average size of farms increased by 2% to 201 acres.” Even with fewer farms, Darke County witnessed a 17% increase in total value, which equates to $80 million in the economy. Not only did the county rank high in the state, but it also ranked 85th out of 3,007 counties nationwide.
Nearly 700 farms in the county are considered full-time farms. There are 996 farms with part-time farmers, which means farming isn’t the primary occupation. However, 398 farms have provided jobs in the community to 1,546 workers. Nineteen of those farms account for 620 jobs. Payroll exceeded $20 million.
The county’s agricultural community continues to excel in several areas, including corn (#1) and soybeans (#2) production, sale of grains (#2), poultry and eggs (#2), hogs and pigs (#2), cattle and calves (#5), and milk from cows (#7). The county also ranked high in livestock inventory – layers (#1), pullets for layer replacement (#1), turkeys (#2), hogs and pigs (#2) and cattle and calves (#4).
Even though there are three large egg producers in the county, Ross Medford, Cal Maine and Weaver Brothers, residents may still be surprised to learn the county is ranked first nationally for pullets for layer replacement and second for layers.
Custer pointed out a small laying operation with approximately two million birds can produce 1.8 million eggs a day. He noted the price per dozen eggs a few weeks ago was $1.67, which means even a small operation can generate as much as $2 million day.
How does all of this affect the economy? Custer was quick to point out the mindset of a farmer. They don’t spend it on elaborate vacations. They reinvest in their equipment and farm. Most of that money stays in the county – providing jobs and paying sales tax.
For more information about OSU Extension, Darke County, visit the Darke County OSU Extension web site at www.darke.osu.edu, the OSU Extension Darke County Facebook page or contact Sam Custer, 548-5215.
Weaver Brothers is just one of several businesses and farms that have helped Darke County be one of the top producers of eggs and poultry in the country.