There are other sources of information regarding agriculture trends in the Rogue Valley. The most comprehensive source is the Census of Agriculture,conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS). Most recent data are from 2007. The entire report contains several hundred pages of detailed statistics. This article highlights a few findings from this exhaustive survey.
The NASS considers a "farm" any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year. In 2007, there were 38,553 farms in Oregon. Jackson County had 1,976 farms, while Josephine County had 675 in that year. In other words, the Rogue Valley is home to about 7 percent of the state's farms, a similar percentage as the region's population compared to the state. Jackson and Josephine's average farm size of 124 and 56 acres, respectively, is considerably less than the statewide average of 425 acres. Graph 1 shows the distribution of farms by acre size class in 2007. Jackson County had 56,530 acres of cropland, of which 33,103 acres were harvested. Josephine County's cropland acreage total was 17,389, 7,762 of which were harvested in 2007.
Not everyone who is the principal operator of a farm considers farming to be their primary occupation. There were 1,076 such individuals in Jackson County in 2007, 54.4 percent of the county's 1,976 farm operators. In Josephine County, 330 out of 675 (48.9%) principal farm operators were also in this category.
Farm operators who consider farming their principle occupations are included in the Oregon Employment Department estimates of agriculture employment. Although some agriculture employment is excluded from our usual surveys and administrative records, we still produce monthly estimates of total agriculture employment as an input for our local area unemployment statistics data. Graph 2 shows estimates of agriculture employment in the Rogue Valley for 2009. The spike in Jackson County's agriculture employment in August and September is in large part due to the labor intensive pear harvest.
In 2009, Jackson County's total gross agriculture sales reached $72,618,000, down 6.2 percent from a 2008 revised figure of $77,433,000. Looking at rankings of various commodities, Jackson County had the second highest pear sales in the state last year, behind Hood River. Josephine placed fifth in pear sales. Jackson County also had the fifth highest sales of wine grapes. Graph 3 displays the proportion of agriculture sales in Jackson County by commodity in 2009. Data on the small fruits, and eggs and poultry categories either do not exist or are confidential.
According to OAIN, Jackson County had 29,007 harvested acres in 2009. Of that total, about two-thirds were in hays and forage, and about one-fourth was tree fruits and nuts. Most of the remainder was grains and vegetable crops.
Josephine County's agriculture sales in 2009 totaled $18,863,000. Sales in 2008 were higher as well, at $21,833,000, a decline of 13.6 percent. Statewide, total sales fell by 14.8 percent between 2008 and 2009. Graph 4 shows the distribution of agriculture commodity sales in 2009. The small fruits, and grass and legume seeds categories are not published because the data either do not exist or are confidential.
Harvested acreage totaled 12,115 in 2009. About 86 percent of that total was hay and forage acreage. Vegetable crops and tree fruits and nuts combined for about 12 percent of the remaining harvest acreage in Josephine County.
While agriculture does not always get its due in the pages of local labor trends, it continues to be an important piece of the economic fabric that holds the Rogue Valley economy together. Josephine County is somewhat constrained due to having less topography suited for crops and farms, but still had nearly $19 million in agriculture sales in 2009. Jackson County has historically been the home of many acres of pear orchards, associated packing plants and the home of Bear Creek Corporation, a large employer and key player in the region's economy. Over time, while the acreage in pears has declined, the wine grape industry has increased its footprint and importance in the region. For more information, visit the Oregon Department of Agriculture's agricultural statistics webpage at  oregon.gov/ODA/statistics.shtml.