Census of Agriculture

Detailed information for 2001




Every 5 years

Record number:


The Census of Agriculture is conducted to develop a statistical portrait of Canada's farms and its agricultural operators.

Data release - May 15, 2002


Statistics Canada conducts the Census of Agriculture to develop a statistical portrait of Canada's farms and its agricultural operators. The data provide users with a comprehensive picture of the major commodities of the agriculture industry while also supplying information on new or less common crops, livestock, finances and use of technology.

The data collected by the Census of Agriculture are used to calculate estimates and determine the sample frame for the agricultural surveys. The information is also used by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and provincial governments to develop, administer and evaluate agricultural policies, and by universities and agri-businesses for research and planning.

The census takes place every five years as decreed by The Statistics Act. It provides a historical perspective on Canadian agriculture and on trends in the industry over the years.

Clients: Federal government, provincial and territorial governments, municipal governments; libraries; educational institutions; researchers and academics; private industry; business associations and labour organizations; private citizens; public interest groups.

Reference period: The reference period for the Census of Agriculture data varies with the variable under consideration. The most common reference periods include the previous calendar year and census day (second Tuesday of May).


  • Agriculture and food (formerly Agriculture)

Data sources and methodology

Target population

All agriculture operations in Canada.

Instrument design

Although the questionnaire is updated every census to reflect data users' changing requirements as identified through the Canada-wide workshops, certain basic or core questions appear on every census. These questions - such as those on farm operator name, land area, livestock numbers and crop areas - are considered essential by Statistics Canada and other major users of Census of Agriculture data. Repeating basic questions allows the census to measure change over time, while adding new questions and dropping others allows data to be collected that reflect new technologies and structural changes in the agriculture industry. For example, a supplementary question asking what types of computer applications farmers use in addition to whether they use a computer was new for 2001. Also new was a section on certified organic production. Other sections, such as those on farm machinery and equipment, livestock, land management, and operating expenses, were modified or refined to reflect farm operators' use and understanding of farming terms and practices.

New or changed questions were developed in head office and tested a number of times with farm operators across Canada through one-on-one interviews on their farms and in focus groups. Farm operators selected for testing reflected regional diversity - in types of agriculture, production techniques, languages and terminology, and in policies or issues that could affect the sensitivity of questions. This testing proved that some questions would not perform well on the census, and that the wording of other questions would require fine-tuning. Respondent burden, content testing results, user priorities and budgets were all taken into consideration in determining the final content of the 2001 Census of Agriculture questionnaire. It was approved by Cabinet in the spring of 2000.


This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.

The Census of Agriculture is designed to obtain complete and accurate data from all farms in Canada. Data are collected for all units of the target population, therefore no sampling is done.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: May 15, 2001 to September 30, 2001

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents.

The Census of Agriculture was collected with the Census of Population and Housing (record number 3901). The enumerators were asked to enquire at each household where they made contact, if anyone in the household was a farm operator. Enumerators were also asked to identify all agricultural operations in their enumeration area and the corresponding operators. Each operator was asked to complete the agriculture questionnaire. The completed questionnaires were checked by the enumerator and forwarded to Statistics Canada Head Office in Ottawa. The information on the questionnaires was converted to machine-readable form and checked for consistency. The final data were analysed for accuracy and summarized for public release. The reference period for the Census of Agriculture data varies with the variable under consideration. The most common reference periods include the previous calendar year (e.g. value of agricultural products sold) and census day (e.g. number of livestock on the operation).

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s).

Error detection

This step involves numerous edits to identify and resolve problems related to capture errors, missing data and geographic identification of farm operator's residences and headquarters. It is for the most part an automated process and focuses on individual questionnaires.

The Progress of Seeding Follow-up Survey was used again in 2001 to verify or update crop data. Seeding of crops across Canada typically occurs between the first of May and early June. The change in Census Day from the first Tuesday in June to the second Tuesday in May could significantly affect the field crop area reported by agricultural operators in that crops seeded after Census Day could differ considerably from what had been planned and reported on the census questionnaire.

In 2001, some 45,000 farm operators across the country were contacted. The Progress of Seeding Follow-up Survey was a major factor in obtaining the high-quality crop area data required for historical comparability, and for benchmarking crop estimates between censuses and analysing small area data.


Some records in a Census will be incomplete or inconsistent and will require imputation. Where an enumerator's follow-up with respondents was unsuccessful in obtaining missing information or resolving data inconsistencies, an automated imputation procedure was used. Where possible, incomplete or inconsistent records receive substitute values derived from other information on the record. In cases of total non-response and for data that cannot be derived from the incomplete record, a process of selecting suitable data from "nearest neighbour" records is used. The system searches for another operation with similar characteristics and within the same geographic area as the questionnaire with the problem. Once a suitable match was made the system duplicated the donor's responses in the recipient questionnaire.

Quality evaluation

The Census of Agriculture was designed to obtain complete and accurate data from all farms in Canada. It is inevitable, however, in a statistical undertaking of the size and complexity of the Census, that errors will occur. Because of the many potential sources of error, an important part of the Census planning is to identify the potential sources so that the appropriate quality controls can be built into the Census operations. Each returned questionnaire was checked for completeness and wherever expected information was missing or inconsistent, follow-up contacts were made to obtain correct data. Where missing values could not be obtained or discrepancies reconciled, values were imputed.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology does not apply to this survey.

Data accuracy

The 2001 Census of Agriculture data are of very good quality with the major commodities generally being of the highest quality. A 98% response rate (where response rate is defined as the proportion of sample units that responded in time for inclusion in the final data) and an estimated 5.6% farm undercoverage rate (where undercoverage is defined as those operations estimated to have been missed during enumeration) contributed to the overall success of the 2001 Census of Agriculture. Note that over half of the estimated undercoverage was of farms with sales below $10,000 in 2000. As a result, the undercoverage rate for major commodities is generally below 2%.


Date modified: