Agriculture on PEI
Prince Edward Island. The Island has a total land area of 1.4 million acres with approximately 594,000 acres cleared for agricultural use. Agriculture is very important to the rural way of life on PEI with 3.7 percent of the population living on farms. The 2011 census listed 1,500 farms primarily engaged in growing crops and raising livestock on PEI. These farms range in size from a few acres to 3,000 acres.
Potatoes represent Prince Edward Island’s single largest agricultural commodity in terms of farm cash receipts. In 2014, Island producers harvested potatoes totaling 26 million hundredweight (cwt) of product. The value of the crop is subject to global market fluctuations. Over the last five years farm cash receipts values have ranged from $203 to $257 million. PEI potatoes are processed into frozen potato products and chips. They are also supplied to the fresh table market in eastern Canada, the United States, and overseas. Prince Edward Island seed potatoes are shipped across Canada and around the world to other potato producing regions. Approximately 89,500 acres of potatoes were planted in 2015.
Grains and Oilseeds are primarily grown in rotation with potato crops. It is estimated that there were 89,000 acres of wheat, oats, barley and mixed grain and 58,000 acres of oilseeds planted on the Island in 2015. Barley accounted for 60,000 acres. Milling wheat is grown for the production of flour. Approximately 14% of the soybean acreage in 2013 was exported to Japan to be processed into tofu and miso. Alternative crops are being grown and pressed for oil. PEI grown feed grade cereals and soybeans are fed to livestock on the Island or elsewhere in Atlantic Canada. The farm cash receipts value of the 2014 grain and oilseed crop was estimated to be $37 million.
Fruit production is very diverse on Prince Edward Island. Lowbush blueberries make up the largest acreage of commercial fruit crops at 13,000 acres. Commercial cranberry bogs and strawberry fields are located across the province. Strawberry nursery stock is produced for export to southern USA. Twenty thousand apple trees fill Island orchards, and the industry is expanding rapidly. Specialty fruits including raspberry, gooseberry, rose hips, black currants and highbush blueberry are produced on small acreages. Rising interest in grape and the haskap berry have resulted in new developments of these crops. PEI has an active honey bee industry which supplies approximately 6,000 colonies towards pollination services to the Island’s fruit crops annually. High quality honey is also produced by the PEI beekeepers.
Beef production is a part of 40 percent of Prince Edward Island farms. The beef industry is comprised of two main sectors; cow-calf operations where calves are raised to the feeder stage and beef feedlots that purchase the feeders to finish for market. The average cow-calf herd is 40 cows. Calves are sold to feedlots throughout the Maritimes, Ontario and Quebec. Feedlot operations are intrinsically linked to the potato sector by incorporating cull potatoes and crops used in the potato rotation as part of a beef feed ration. There are several small abattoirs that process beef for the local market and one federally inspected facility, Atlantic Beef Products Inc., which processes beef for the Canadian domestic market and for export to the United States.
Vegetables are an important cash crop for many Island farmers. They are available as fresh and processed farm products for consumers in Atlantic Canada. A core group of diversified growers produce a significant percentage of the fresh market vegetable acreage. Cauliflower and carrots are shipped to off-island processors. Rutabaga, carrots, onions and cabbage are stored and sold throughout the year to local, national and international markets.
Dairy production has become highly specialized and mechanized. Quality standards are very high. Rigid inspection programs cover every phase of production, from the health of the cow through to the finished product. There are approximately 180 dairy farms on Prince Edward Island with milk cow herds ranging in number from 20 to more than 300 cows. Annual milk production exceeds 100 million liters. Fifteen percent of this production is used to supply the fresh market and the balance is manufactured into butter, cheese, ice cream and other dairy products. Breeding stock is sold to dairy farms across Canada and internationally.
Hog production on Prince Edward Island has stabilized with 19 commercial farms marketing approximately 66,000 hogs (including breeding stock, weaners and isoweans). These farms are highly mechanized and meet firm biosecurity standards. Several large operations produce disease free breeding stock to supply local operations and for export within Canada and worldwide. PEI benefits from its isolation from other swine producing regions, this enables superior disease control and improved herd health.
Egg production on PEI accounts for approximately $6.74 million of farm cash receipts. Currently seven registered quota holders are producing eggs. Producers with more than 299 hens are required to be registered by the Egg Farmers of PEI. There are two provincial egg grading stations servicing the provincial table market and selling surplus eggs to the national agency. Egg production in 2013 was approximately 3.427 million dozen, of which 1.675 million dozen consumed locally and 1.752 million dozen exported to breaking plants in Ontario and Quebec.
Broiler production on PEI follows the national On-Farm Food Safety Assurance Program and the Chicken Farmers of Canada Animal Care Program. These programs set out the regulations and guidelines for the care and safe handling of birds raised on farms. There are eight broiler farmers on PEI producing 5 million kilograms of meat, all of which is processed off Island.
Fur farming on PEI is made up of twelve mink farms and three fox farms as reported in 2013 agriculture statistics. In 2013 the reported value of mink pelts produced was $3.405 million and 133,100 mink were pelted.
Organic continues to expand across Prince Edward Island. There are approximately 60 certified producers in the province who produce crops and/or raise livestock. Increasing demand for food grade quality cereals and soybeans is stimulating the expansion of field crops. Consumer support for purchasing local food has encouraged producers to explore market opportunities at farmer’s markets or through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) ventures. Farmers may label their products as “Certified Organic” when they are produced according to a national standard, pass an annual inspection and detailed records of production practices are maintained.
For more information about the agriculture industry in Prince Edward Island, please contact
Agriculture Information Desk:
5th Floor Jones Building, 11 Kent Street
tel: (902) 368-4145 or toll free 1-866-PEI-FARM (734-3276)