Elkhart Region Local Farm and Food Economy

by Ken Meter, [[Crossroads Resource Center (Minneapolis)
prepared for Elkhart County Foodshed Initiative
funded by Goshen Hospital Health Care Foundation
August, 2014
The Elkhart region includes: Elkhart, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Marshall, Noble, & St. Joseph Counties in Indiana, 
and Cass & St. Joseph Counties in Michigan
Elkhart County (Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2012)
199,619 residents receive $7 billion of income annually. The largest source of personal income is wages for manufacturing workers, with $3.1 billion. The second most important income source is transfer payments (from government programs such as pensions), at $1.3 billion. Income from interest, rent or dividends totaled $1.1 billion. Health care workers earned $562 million, ranking fourth. Government jobs rank fifth, with $460 million. Wholesale trade workers earned $402 million, while retail workers earned $309 million. Note that income from public sources (government jobs plus transfer payments) makes up 25% of all personal income in the county.
Income earned from transfer payments includes $511 million of retirement and disability insurance benefits; $519 million of medical benefits; $174 million of income maintenance benefits; $47 million of unemployment insurance compensation; and $23 million of veterans’ benefits. Government income includes $21.5 million of income earned by federal workers and $417 million earned by state and local government workers. Military personnel earn $21.2 million of personal income.
Elkhart County Farms (Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2012) 
Elkhart County farmers sell $195 million of food commodities per year (1989-2012 average), spending $177 million to raise them, for an average gain of $18 million each year. This is an average net cash income of $10,847 per farm. Note that these sales figures compiled by the BEA may differ from cash receipts recorded by the USDA Agriculture Census (above).
Overall, farm producers earned a surplus of $400 million by selling crops and livestock over the years 1989 to 2012. Yet net cash income hovered at very low levels for most of that 24-year period, rising only when grain prices increased for a few recent years. Moreover, 53% of the county’s farms reported that they lost money in 2012 (Ag Census). Elkhart County farmers and ranchers earned $12 million more by selling commodities in 2012 than they earned in 1969 (in 2012 dollars), but this gain was due to what seems to be a short-term rise in grain prices. Farmers and ranchers earn another $7 million per year of farm-related income — primarily custom work, and rental income (24-year average for 1989-2012). Federal farm support payments averaged $5 million per year for the County for the same years.