More West Michigan Farmland Lost

July 26, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Over a recent five-year stretch, Kent County lost more farmland than Allegan and Ottawa counties combined.

But over that same time frame, Allegan and Ottawa counties combined saw more than twice as many farms vanish as in Kent County.

According to the 2002 Census of Agriculture, Kent lost 24,570 farmland acres from 1997 to 2002. In contrast, Allegan and Ottawa had a combined 22,958 fewer acres of farmland in 2002 than both had in 1997. And Kent had fewer than half the total acres to start with.

In 1997, there were 197,951 acres devoted to farming and growing in Kent County. By 2002, that number dropped to 173,381 for a loss of 12.4 percent.

Taken together, Allegan and Ottawa counties had 431,712 acres in 1997. Five years later, both counties accounted for 408,754 acres — a combined loss of 5.3 percent.

Kent County, however, lost 131 farms during those five years, while Allegan and Ottawa lost a total of 277. Allegan County lost 71 farms and Ottawa County lost 206. (See related chart.) Almost all of those farms have been sold to residential and commercial developers.

The estimated market value of farmland and farm buildings in Allegan and Ottawa rose at a higher clip than it did in Kent County over the five-year period. Allegan had an increase of 50 percent, Ottawa rose by 35 percent, and Kent by 27 percent.

The estimated value of the average farm rose at a greater number in Allegan and Ottawa than it did in Kent, too. The average value of an Allegan farm grew by nearly 58 percent. That figure grew by 56 percent in Ottawa and by 42 percent in Kent.

The average size of a farm in Allegan and Ottawa grew a bit, while in Kent, the average farm got a tad smaller from 1997 to 2002.

In all three counties the average market value of an acre of farmland rose. In Allegan, it grew by 58 percent; in Ottawa, by 38 percent; and in Kent, it rose by 44 percent.

Total farm sales rose in two of the three counties: by 19 percent in Allegan and by 16 percent in Kent. But in Ottawa County, total farm sales fell by 11 percent. Much of that loss can be attributed to fewer large farms in the county resulting in lower total sales.

From 1997 to 2002, the number of Ottawa County farms with annual sales revenue of $500,000 and higher fell by nine to 98, and total sales from those farms dropped by nearly 9 percent to $245 million.

In all three counties, the average sales per farm rose. In Allegan and Kent counties that number grew by almost 25 percent in 2002 from 1997. But in Ottawa County, the average sales per farm nudged up by only 3 percent.

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