NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Every five years the United States Department of Agriculture conducts a Census of Agriculture. The complete count of farms and ranches and the people who run them happens this year.
Enumerators are now canvassing the countryside for operations that aren't typically thought of as a farm.
Take for instance, an East Texan might have a backyard garden, some laying hens or some bees.
The fruits of their labor may end up at farmers markets or sold to individuals.
If the sales add up to at least $1,000 or more in 2017, Wilbert Hundl Jr., the man who oversees agriculture statistics for all of Texas and Oklahoma, wants to count the operation in on the Census of Agriculture.
"That in our terms is considered a farm and in many cases the individual may not. This is my hobby, I'm retired, I'm just doing this because I like to grow things," said Hundl, the director for the Southern Plains Region for USDA Agricultural Statistics Service.
The Texas AgriForestry Small Farmers and Ranchers of Nacogdoches County won't argue the point. Members recognize the importance of having comprehensive agriculture data.
Ike Mills, the Nacogdoches spokesperson said, "When you talk about funding coming into our area, the census is what determines a lot of that."
In 2012, U.S. farmers were older and the total number of farmers declined. In response, USDA initiated new programs.
Hundl said the agency was, "trying to get more beginning farmers, veteran farmers back in the rural population."
In addition to opening up opportunities in agriculture, the ag census information is used to benefit farmers and non-farmers alike.
"We can put monies into other programs like rural fire suppression, water districts, broadband internet services and ambulance services," explained Hundl.
"We don't just count cows or put grain yields out. It's a holistic approach to all of agriculture."
The Census of Agriculture is currently list building with the help of ag organizations. In August the information will be cross-checked for accuracy.
Census forms will be mailed out in December.