By Shala Watson
Public Relations Intern

Dallas is known for its big city lights and high rise buildings. But a recent study shows farms and farmland in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex increased by nearly 10 percent from 2007 to 2012.

“Agriculture is alive and well in the DFW metroplex, looking at the eight counties that surround the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth. The metroplex isn’t just Dallas and Tarrant County. Now it includes Denton, Collin, Tarrant, Dallas, Rockwall, Kaufman, Johnson and Ellis counties,” Dr. Blake Bennett, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension economist in Dallas said in an interview with Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) Radio Network.

These eight counties comprise 910,000 acres of agricultural land—830,000 in crops and 80,000 acres in pasture. More than 20 diverse crops are grown in the metroplex.

The number of small farms in this eight-county region is the largest agricultural segment of growth in the metroplex.

“Our biggest increase came from the 10-50 acre operations. It does go beyond that, though. I am happy to say we saw increases in all size categories across the board,” Bennett said. “So it just points to that even though you think of concrete whenever you think of Dallas-Fort Worth, we do have a number of farms that are coming on board.” These patterns show that production agriculture is alive and healthy in the DFW metroplex.

The climate, rainfall and proximity to population contribute to the area’s agricultural success.

“The blackland soil here, as everyone knows, is higher in nutrients and it definitely can hold on to the water, can hold on to the nutrients, so they don’t leach out of the soil like you find in some of the sandier conditions,” Bennett said. “So that does help promote some of the traditional crops, as well as some of the non-traditional that we see.”

Wheat, corn, grain sorghum, hay, and ensilage are the main crops for the region. But nursery and greenhouse also plays a major role, generating about $296.9 million. Bennett said it makes up about 19 percent of the state’s total.

Proximity of large farms to metropolitan areas allows metropolitans to enjoy wine-making tours, pumpkin patches, hay rides, corn mazes and other types of agritourism.

The study estimates the annual average impact of DFW metroplex’s crop production from 2010 to 2013 on the regional economy was $1.03 billion.

Cattle in the DFW area also makes a large economic impact with 3 percent of the state’s total at $145 million just from cow-calf and stocker operations alone. There are about 203,000 cattle in the region and 50,000 beef cows.

Agribusiness firms within the eight-county area also add much to the overall economic input from agriculture.

“Now going beyond the farm gate whenever we get into agribusiness, about 210,000 people are employed in agribusiness in the DFW metroplex. They have an annual payroll of about $10.28 billion,” Bennett said.

He noted wholesale trade is the biggest player, employing nearly 88,000 total workers with an annual payroll of $6.17 billion.

“They’re the biggest player that we have out there and we’re looking at about an $11 to $12 billion industry each year in the DFW metroplex,” Bennett said.

Farmers and ranchers are also spending dollars in the metroplex, benefiting the local economy.

“They buy chemicals. They go out and see movies with their families and go to restaurants. So you see the dollars turn over and over again in the economy. So it’s just a ripple effect,” Bennett said.

Bennett said the information in this study can be used for the benefit of agriculture.

“Agriculture is still a vibrant part of our community. I think it also shows the community wants to maintain agriculture, because there’s just something special about that way of life, how slow it is and the simplicity of it. They like knowing it is there,” Bennett said.