Ag in county a growth industry

Albany County saw a three percent jump in farm numbers, but a significant 12 percent decline in the overall acreage of the county's farms.

Decreasing acreage across the state hints at a phenomenon that Saratoga County farmers continue to contend with: the escalating price and shrinking supply of land.

The census only covers through 2007, though, and numbers for recent and coming months might not be as promising. The economic recession has hit farmers just as hard as anyone else, said Smith.

"Right now is one of the tougher economic periods for farmers to exist," he said.

That can also cause a distinct ripple effect in an economy. If farmers scale back, it means less feed or seed will be sold, fewer drivers will be needed to transport the product and less product on store shelves.

Dairy farmers, who produce 60 percent of the county's agricultural sales, are already feeling the pinch.

"Right now, we're looking at a very poor marketplace for dairy. Dairy farmers are feeling a lot of pressure right now because milk prices are very, very low," said Gregg.

Those trends can force dairy farmers to grow to get bigger or risk perishing.

"In this area, dairy farms have had to get bigger for several reasons," said Smith. Firstly, dairy farms are expensive to operate, making smaller farms a losing proposition. Most are also family operated, and as families grow, so must the number of cows.

"The number of animals that kept grandpa in this lifestyle, it takes that many more to let his son join the farm," said Smith.

Increasingly, those sons might be choosing to locate in Midwest states that have more available land and offer farmers incentives, he continued. Many of those states saw an average increase in farms of over five percent.

"It's not the easiest place, it's not the most lucrative place, so some of the younger generations are saying, 'I don't want to work as hard as grandpa,'" said Smith.""

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