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Ag in county a growth industry

The number of farms in Saratoga County increased by 8 percent over the past five years, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's census released Wednesday, Feb. 4.

That's a considerably faster expansion than the nationwide average of 4 percent growth. The county had 641 farms in 2007, up from 592 in 2002, the last year the census was conducted. At the same time, the average farm size has decreased 7 percent, from 127 acres to 118 acres. That data points to several agricultural trends, including a move toward locally produced food.

We do have a resurgence of smaller people brought on by the fact that there's nothing better than growing your own food, said Richard Smith, dairy and farm management educator for the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County. "In tough economic times, when you're spending precious dollars, it seems better to spend it amongst your own people who need it as well."

It's not only the local food movement, but also the county's unique horse population (the largest in the state) that contributed to the growth.

"Saratoga County was one of the few counties that actually saw an increase in the number of farms that's most attributable to the growth of the equine industry," said Peter Gregg, spokesman for the New York Farm Bureau.

On the whole, New York saw its number of farms decline by 2 percent, and also saw the size of the average farm decrease.

Neighboring counties saw numbers that more closely reflected the statewide census results. In Washington County, the number of farms fell by 5 percent; in Rensselaer, 8 percent; and in Hamilton County, there was a marked 17 percent decline.

Warren County grew significantly, on the other hand, with a 19 percent jump in the number of farms and large increases in farm acreage, as well.

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