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Mahoning County Agricultural Development

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Agricultural Development Exercise
Mahoning County

By

GEOG 102 - Cultural Geography

14 Jul 2014

Mahoning County

Mahoning County is located in the northeast corner of Ohio on the Pennsylvania-Ohio border. Ohio is a diverse and thriving agricultural presence in the world today and is poised to stay that way for years to come. Mahoning County specifically is an urban agricultural zone encompassing the city of Youngstown, OH as well as other robust urban communities.
In Mahoning County there are 578 farms, averaging 130 acres per farm. This is slightly lower than the state average of 185 acres per farm, but has increased from the 2007 census average of 111 acres per farm. The average age of the principle operator of a farm in Mahoning County is 58 years old of which 279 of the 578 of these operators listed farming as their primary occupation. This leaves 299 listing farming as their secondary occupation. (USDA, 2014). Most farmers are not “specialized” and produce more than one agriculture product.
The total market value of all agricultural products sold is approximately $65 million which is up 45% from 2007. Average product sold per farm is $113,234, also up 45% from 2007. The leading agricultural products of Mahoning County listed by commodity group value of sales are grains, oilseeds, dry beans, and dry peas at approximately $23 million and milk from cows at $22.7 million. The top crop items of the county are: soybeans for beans at 15,556 acres, corn for grain at 14,422 acres, forage-land used for all hay and haylage, grass silage, and green chop at 12,789. (USDA, 2014) (NASS, 2013)
The statistics above, and the pages of additional data I did not include in this paper give a picture of Mahoning County’s agricultural environment. What I soon learned was that these statistics alone did not give me a very accurate picture of that environment. According to Mr. Barret, an agricultural educator/expert at the county Extension office, “Dairy is by far the leading agricultural commodity of this area.” (E. Barret, personal communication, July 14, 2014) What those numbers do not specifically say is that most of the soy and corn goes right back into feeding the cows that produce the milk. Also, the majority of farmers while not specialized in an actual product they produce, are specialized in a few products supporting the dairy industry.
Eric also stated that urban farms/farmers and the vegetables, fruits…etc. that they produce are becoming a bigger and bigger presence. “There are 9 farmer’s markets in the area, and I would say about 50% of that produce comes from urban farmers producing our “other” agriculture products.” (E. Barret, personal communication, July 14, 2014) The Von Thunen model holds true as these urban farms are small but the land is used intensively. These areas have high labor, energy, and fertilizer costs and the emphasis is on products for the local market, which are usually highly perishable, making their quick movement to the market vital. The agricultural landscape also supports the Von Thunen model as you see larger, more extensively used farms for crops and livestock the further you go from bigger cities. You can’t drive for 15 minutes in any direction without seeing some kind of farming or agricultural operation.
The importance of agriculture in the county may appear rather minor when you look at the specific contribution to the gross county revenue. However, other yardsticks may present a different picture. According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture website, one in every seven Ohioans are employed in an aspect of agriculture. (Ohio Department of Agriculture. (n.d.) A significant portion of the land in Mahoning County is devoted to agriculture. All milk and dairy products go back into the county/state. Urban farmers are supplying greater amounts of county residents’ farm fresh foods. When you look at it with these factors in mind, agriculture seems to be a very significant activity in Mahoning County.
However, agriculture in Mahoning County is not without its concerns. The increasing age of farmers (now 58, was 54 in 2002), the loss of farmland, and the environmental issues associated with the GM products and “super farms” are issues that Ohio and Mahoning County farmers face. It cost a lot to get into farming these days. When you combine that with the long hours and low returns on investments, you won’t see a lot of young people choosing farming as their livelihood. These disincentives may spell trouble for Mahoning County, Ohio, and the United States in terms of food production for the future. (Keiffer, 2008)

Keiffer, A. (2008). The geography of Ohio (Rev. and updated ed.). Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press.
NASS - Ohio Reports and Statistics. (2013, January 1). NASS - Ohio Reports and Statistics. Retrieved July 14, 2014, from http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Ohio/index.asp
Ohio Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). Ohio Department of Agriculture. Retrieved July 14, 2014, from http://www.agri.ohio.gov/
USDA (2014, May 29). 2012 Census of Agriculture, on July 12, 2014, from http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2012/…...

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