Increase In Pennsylvania Dairy farms
How did Pennsylvania increase its number of Dairy Farms by 170 in 2014? Curious because WI lost 570!!!
Thank you for your question. I am curious to know that source of this information. The 2012 Census of Agriculture indicated that the number of dairy farms in Pennsylvania is declining. These data are collected every 5 years, so the past 2 years are not reflected. While I am looking forward to a new report later this month, a report in The Progressive Dairyman magazine (Vol. 28 No. 5) dated March 12, 2014 indicated an increase of 60 dairy farms in PA. I work in the Northwestern corner of the state, so I can't address statewide trends, but my observation in this area is that there are some small Amish dairies popping up. There also seems to be a demand for raw milk and direct markets which may be spurring some new dairies, but this is only my observation.
That's a great question! While the National Ag Statistics Service (NASS), the group that counts this information, doesn't record reasons why people start or leave dairy, there are a number of factors that could contribute.
Even though PA and WI are both very strong dairy and agriculture states, they still work with different sets of resources and societal motivations when deciding whether or not to start or leave a dairy farm.
In PA, we have many smaller, traditional farms that are handed down to children and often times these children will start another farm adding to the total number of farms, but not necessarily increase the number of cows or land on the farm. Sometimes the opposite is true, where farm families will combine into one farm unit though the farm supports many members of the same family.
While I don't have a definitive answer for you, it's safe to say each farm and family considers many reasons when they may want to start or leave farming including lifestyle, access to resources such as land and capital, a place to sell their milk, etc.
As Ginger mentioned, PA is seeing risking demand for niche marketed milk which can be a draw for smaller dairies in many parts of the state, highlighting the general reasons I outlined.
Thank you for your interest, and please do not hesitate to reach out if you have additional questions.