Agriculture Is Big Business in NC
Agriculture is big business in North Carolina. North Carolina produces more tobacco, sweet potatoes, and poultry than another other state in the Union. We rank second in the nation for the production of hogs, trout, turkeys, and Christmas trees. About 65% of the state’s farm income is from animal sales and the other 35% is from crop sales. The total annual farm income for the state is just shy of $15 billion, putting North Carolina 6th in the nation for total farm income.
Although $15 billion seems like a lot of money, it is only the tip of the iceberg. The larger segment of the agriculture industry is the value added side. It is difficult to fully comprehend the extent to which farm products are part of our life. As an illustration, think of wheat. Very little wheat is used unprocessed. However, wheat is part of many things we consume and use. For example, wheat is milled into flour. Then the flour is used to make breads, crackers, pastries, cookies, pastas, etc. When these baked products are sold, the cost of the wheat is actually a very small portion of the total price. For example, a one pound loaf of bread contains about 8¢ worth of wheat. The remainder of the price for the bread goes to the miller, baker, and grocery store for their parts.
In the previous example with the loaf of bread, the wheat is a very small cost of the total price for bread. However, without wheat, the miller, baker, and grocery store would have nothing to add value to.
Combining both agriculture (farmer) and agribusiness (value added) together as an industry, it is the state’s largest sector of the economy. The agriculture and agribusiness industry provides 17% (a total of $84 billion) of North Carolina’s $482 billion gross state product economy.
Agriculture varies widely across North Carolina. In Caldwell County, field grown nursery stock is the number one farm commodity. In fact, there is a greater concentration of field grown nursery farms, in Caldwell and adjoining counties, than anywhere else on the entire east coast – from Florida to Maine. Most of the nursery farms in the area are wholesale growers. So the ultimate value of the trees grown in Caldwell County creates a much larger economy once they eventually make it to the final consumer.
Although nurseries are the largest segment of Caldwell County’s farm income, cattle and poultry are the next most valuable farm products.
Traditional row crops like corn, soybeans, wheat, and barley are grown on about 2,000 acres in the county, but our state ranking puts us in the bottom half as compared with other counties in the state.
Agriculture and agribusiness is a growing sector of North Carolina’s economy. Agriculture is also a growing part of Caldwell County’s economy. These are both good trends for farmers, as well as the larger industry that adds value to these essential crops.