Agriculture has historically been one of the County's primary industries. The 2007 Census of Agriculture shows that there are 656 farms in Dutchess County, a two percent decrease since the 2002 Census. The 2002 Census of Agriculture stated that 667 farms existed within Dutchess County. The census did not include the 100 horse farms that contributed to the agricultural economy and employment. Dutchess County now ranks first among the 62 state counties in both the number and sales value of horses and ponies, which has contributed to the dramatic 41 percent increase in the overall market value of agricultural production in Dutchess County from $31,712,000 in 2002 to $44,866,000 in 2007.
Dutchess County agriculture represents more than a major source of County revenues. The rural landscape contributes immeasurably to the bucolic character of an area that successfully nurtures its unique combination of scenic beauty and dynamic industrial and commercial development.
The agricultural industry has a long and important history in Dutchess County. The industry has changed throughout its tenure here and will continue to diversify.
In May of 2006, Gov. George Pataki announced a $20 million program as part of his energy independence initiative to reduce the state's dependence on imported energy. The initiative will help the farm economy by promoting new business opportunities in alternative fuel production. As a result of this program, Dutchess County Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell University received a $22,385 grant to begin 15-acre growing trials of switchgrass, a native grass, that can be processed into the alternative fuel, ethanol. Two farms in Dutchess County and a public demonstration site at Extension’s office on Route 44 in Millbrook, NY, began this experiment during the 2006 growing season.
More information about agriculture in Dutchess County and biomass (plant based fuel) and alternative energy can be found on the website of Dutchess County Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Farming will continue to play an important role in the County's economic future for many reasons. Some of the key reasons are:
Additional statistics are available in the following USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, 1997 Census of Agriculture (.xls) on the website of the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service.