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Elmore is one of Idaho’s top farm counties

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

Elmore County is one of Idaho’s most important counties when it comes to agriculture and it’s also experiencing strong population growth like much of the rest of the state.

One of the main focuses of the Elmore County Farm Bureau organization is to make sure those newcomers understand the important role farmers and ranchers play in the county.

“We want to be the voice to educate people who move here on the benefits of agricultural production and how important farming and ranching are, not only to the county but the state as well,” said ECFB President Nick Blanksma, who grows potatoes and alfalfa near Hammett.

Elmore County ranchers and farmers brought in a total of $487 million in farm-gate revenue in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That ranked the county No.7 out of Idaho’s 44 counties in that category.

When it comes to farm-gate revenue, which is the money agricultural producers receive for their commodity, cattle and calves and the dairy sectors are the two biggest contributors in Elmore County.

According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the livestock industry brought in $311 million in farm-gate receipts in Elmore County during the 2017 census year and the crop sector accounted for $119 million in farm revenue.

“The cattle and dairy industries are definitely the two leading agricultural sectors in Elmore County,” Blanksma said.

According to the ag census, there were a total of 170,000 cattle and calves in Elmore County in 2017.

But agriculture in the county consists of a lot more than just livestock, Blanksma said.

“Elmore County has a healthy mix of agriculture commodities,” he said. “There are quite a few different crops grown here.”

According to the ag census, 45,846 acres of forage crops, mainly hay, were produced in the county in 2017, and also 19,751 acres of wheat, 15,296 acres of grain and 13,069 acres of potatoes. A decent amount of onions and other crops are also grown there.

“We have a good climate that supports a variety of crops,” Blanksma said.

Besides educating people about agriculture in the county, the Elmore County Farm Bureau also focuses a lot of time and resources on youth, including offering them scholarships.

“A big focus of Elmore County Farm Bureau is trying to increase scholarship participation among our youth and let them know that we support them because they are the future of not only agriculture, but Farm Bureau as well,” Blanksma said.

According to the ag census, there were 340 farms in Elmore County in 2017 and 358,454 total acres of land in farms, including both cropland and pastureland.

The average-sized farm in the county was 1,054 acres during the 2017 census year, which was more than double the statewide average of 468 acres.

There are plenty of big farms in Elmore County – 48 were more than 1,000 acres in size in 2017 – but there are also a lot of small farms – 122 were from 1 to 9 acres in size.

Ninety-six percent of all farms in the county were family farms in 2017 and 14 percent of Elmore County farms sold product directly to consumers, which was double the statewide average of 7 percent.