Agriculture in Chatham County

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Hillside Dairy

Photo by Duane Hall

Statistics cited below come from the United States Agriculture Census, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and North Carolina State University.

Agricultural and agribusiness (food, fibers and forestry) industries account for 38% of Chatham County's total income. Employment in agriculture and agribusiness is 33% of the county’s total employment.

In 2006, we ranked tenth in overall income from livestock, dairy and poultry and fifteenth in total farm income.

Based on 2002 Census information, Chatham ranks eleventh in the state in the number of farms, with 27% of the county’s total acreage in farmland.

One reason that Chatham County still has a fairly strong agricultural economy is due to a growing number of small sustainable farms focused on specialty needs (organic farming, herbs, cut flowers, unique produce, and diverse nurseries) as well as a continuing strength in cattle and broiler chicken production. The county ranks number one in the state in beef cattle and is third in overall cattle, while we rank fifth in broiler production. The county grows quite a bit of feed crops, such as hay, which promote the livestock industry.

The horticulture industry in the county is diverse and includes some very specialized niche nurseries, such as those producing aquatic/wetlands plants, Asian herbs, shady perennials, crinums, daylilies, orchids, exotic ferns, as well as trees and shrubs.

  Mellow Marsh Farm
Mellow Marsh Farms off Woody Store Road specializes in wetlands and water garden plants.

Photo by Duane Hall

As of 2002, the average farm size in Chatham County was 105 acres, but most are in the range of 10 to 49 acres. In 2005, we had a total of 1,128 farms with a total of 118,752 acres used for farming, figures that have not changed much since 1997. This is unique for most counties, where both the number of farms and acreage have seen major declines.

The county has three Farmers’ Markets—in Pittsboro, Siler City and Fearrington Village. They are open from early spring through late fall of each year. Chatham County is also home to Carolina Stockyards Inc., a major cattle marketing hub in the Piedmont.

For more information on agriculture in the county:

 

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