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Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom

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Agricultural Facts

Agricultural Economics


Agricultural Economics
  • Oklahoma has 85,000 farms and ranches. The average size of a farm in Oklahoma is 400 acres, but there are many 5,000-acre farms and ranches and some that are much smaller. About 73 percent of the state's 45 million acres of land is used for farming and ranching.
  • Besides climate and soil type, the kind of agriculture found in Oklahoma depends on the availability of markets, storage and transportation. Two interstate highways cross our state, providing a means of transporting some of our agricultural products. The Port of Catoosa near Tulsa connects Oklahoma with the Mississippi River, which carries agricultural products across the nation and to the Gulf of Mexico. From there they can be shipped all around the world.
  • On average, 24 cents of every dollar you spend at the grocery store goes to the farmer who produced it. The other 76 cents covers marketing, processing, wholesaling, distributing and retailing expenses.
  • People living in the US pay a smaller percentage of their incomes for food than anyone else in the world.
  • It takes the average American 40 days out of the year to pay for all the food he/she eats in a year.
  • The price of food is affected by a variety of reasons, including the distance it traveled, the weather, the amount available on the market, how much people are willing to pay, and governmental relations (trade agreements).
  • Some products are sold according to weight, some according to volume and some by the piece.
  • The food we buy in the grocery store travels an average 1,300 miles from the farm to our tables.
  • Most farmers and ranchers sell their products to collection points, such as grain or produce terminals or stockyards. The terminal or stockyard sells to processing companies, which process and package the products we buy at the grocery store. From the final processor, finished food products are moved by truck or rail to warehouses, which usually are located near a city. Most modern warehouses have storage areas for frozen and refrigerated food and are equipped to control temperature and humidity.
  • Warehouses can assemble full truckloads of products originating from many different suppliers for shipment to one large retailer or to many smaller outlets in a given region. This process reduces transportation costs when compared to shipping a small quantity of one item directly from the producer to the retailer. If the retail outlet is large enough to accept complete truckloads directly from the manufacturer, direct shipments from the factory are sometimes made.
  • Processors of perishable foods (dairies, ice cream manufactureres, wholesale bread bakeries, meat packers) usually maintain their own fleets of trucks for carrying fresh products directly to their retail customers.
  • Fresh produce is distributed through terminal markets, wholesalers or food cooperatives. A terminal market is a central market, generally located in a major city, where several brokers, wholesalers, distributors and/or jobbers are grouped together. Produce from several production regions is assembled and shipped to grocery stores, restaurants and chain store warehouses. The market may be owned by the state, city or provate companies. Terminal markets for Oklahoma are in Dallas, Kansas City, Denver and Houston.
  • A wholesaler is an individual or business firm which buys large quantities of produce from a grower or another dealer for resale and distribution. The wholesaler may sell to a retail store, an institutional buyer or to another wholesaler. Wholesalers differ from brokers because they take delivery and assume ownership of the produce.
  • A broker is an individual or firm which acts as an agent for the buyer or seller in negotiating a contract. The broker does not assume title of the produce but facilitates agreements between buyers and sellers. In Oklahoma, watermelon growers sometimes rely upon brokers to find buyers for their melons.
  • Cooperative and private packing facilities are organized by growers or other individuals to construct marketing facilities to achieve marketing efficiency through greater total volume. Cooperatives are often organized where there is a concentration of small to mid-sized growers of one or several related crops in one area.
  • Clarence Saunders opened the first self-service grocery store in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1916. Goods were sold in packages and were organized into departments.
  • Sylvan Goldman and his brother were some of the first grocers to open self-service grocery stores in Oklahoma. Goldman is known as the inventor of the shopping cart.
  • A supermarket is a large, self-service food store, usually selling more than $2 million worth of products a year from at least 20,000 square feet of floore area. Today there are more than 150,000 supermarkets in the US, offering over 26,000 different foods. Most supermarkets carry between 9,000 and 12,000 items.
  • The automated twist tie machine was invented in 1961 by Earl Burford of Maysville, Oklahoma, and was first used at the Rainbow Bakery in Oklahoma City.
  • Milling was an important industry in the early years of statehood. In 1910 the flour milling industry was by far the most productive. There were 295 plants and 842 workers. Total sales were $19 million of the state's $53 million industrial output.
  • Commercial river navigation on the Arkansas River in Oklahoma got its start in 1824. The Florence was the first steamboat to navigate the river to Fort Gibson. Steamships carried people and agricultural commodities from 22 landings along the Arkansas in Indian Territory into the commerce of the Mississippi River Valley and on to New Orleans.
  • The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System provides an important transportation link for agriculture. The system is 445 miles long with 18 locks and dams. It creates a staircase on the Arkansas from the Mississippi River to the Port of Catoosa near Tulsa. From 1971 to 1990 an average of 7.6 million tons of commerce was carried on the system. Cargo includes chemical fertilizers, wheat, soybeans and other agricultural products.
  • International trade is defined as the exchange of goods and service across international boundaries or territories. This trade represents a significant share of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for most countries.
  • The US exports agricultural products to countries that can't grow crops and livestock as efficiently as American farmers or can't grow them at all, due to lack of space, viable soil or climate restrictions. The US also imports products from countries that produce different, less expensive or better quality goods.
  • In domestic trade, goods may move freely from one part of the nation to another. In international trade governments often place artificial barriers against the gree movement of goods from one country to another. Several organizations, policies, and/or agreements maintain and control fair trading between the US and other countries.