NC in Focus: Sweet Potatoes

North Carolina farm products are likely to have a starring role in next week’s Thanksgiving dinners across the state (and nation). Our state farms lead the nation in both sweet potato and turkey production. Here are a few fun facts about NC sweet potatoes:

1971

The year that North Carolina passed Louisiana in sweet potato production. We’ve held the top spot for the last 42 years!

Sweet Potato Production 1900 to 2013

1.1 billion

The amount of sweet potatoes, in pounds, produced by North Carolina in 2013. This is a drop of 17% from 2011, when the state produced nearly 1.3 billion pounds of sweet potatoes.

 54,000

The number of acres planted with sweet potatoes in North Carolina in 2013. The drop in sweet potato production reflects a decline in acres planted: in 2013, 17% fewer acres were planted than in 2011, when 65,000 acres were planted with sweet potatoes.

46%

The share of the nation’s sweet potatoes produced in North Carolina between 2011 and 2013. Nationwide, 7.8 billion pounds of sweet potatoes were produced between 2011 and 2013. Of these, 3.6 billion were grown in North Carolina.

The top 4 sweet potato producing states—North Carolina, California, Mississippi, and Louisiana—accounted for 92% of national sweet potato production between 2011 and 2013.

$229 million

The estimated value of North Carolina’s sweet potato production in 2013.

4

The number of North Carolina counties that produced more than 100 million pounds of sweet potatoes in 2012. Sampson produced the most (191 million pounds), followed by Nash (186 million), Wilson (176 million), and Johnston (175 million).

Nash County reported the most acres harvested (9,350) in 2012, followed by Johnston (9,300), Sampson (8,950), and Wilson (6,950). Wilson had the highest yield—255,000 pounds of sweet potatoes per acre—followed by Sampson (215,000 pounds per acre).

415

The number of North Carolina farms growing sweet potatoes in 2012, according to the Census of Agriculture. This is an increase of 7% from 2007, when 389 farms reported producing sweet potatoes, but a decline of nearly 80% from 1982 when 1,962 farms reported producing sweet potatoes.

Farms Producing Sweet Potatoes in NC

Learn more about NC sweet potatoes:

With the exception of county-level data retrieved from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, all data used in this post were retrieved from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

About Rebecca Tippett

Rebecca Tippett is Director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Population Center.

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