New report looks at Ohio agricultural land lost to development

Tractor in front of city skyline.

When it comes to farmland losses in Ohio, the three metropolitan areas of Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, not surprisingly, lead the way.

A new report by The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) took a deep dive into the decline of Ohio farmland acres between the 20-year period of 2002 and 2022.

The counties of Cuyahoga, Franklin, and Hamilton had among the largest percentages of decline in farm numbers, land in farms, and agricultural land lost to development. Cuyahoga County, part of the Cleveland Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), experienced the largest decrease in number of farms, with the number dropping by 35%. Franklin County (part of the Columbus MSA), had one of the highest percentages of agricultural land loss to development at 93%.

Ani Katchova, professor and farm income enhancement chair, in the CFAES Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics (AEDE) and graduate students Xiaoyi Fang and Rae Ju, compiled and published the report “Ohio Farm Numbers, Land in Farms, and Agricultural Land Lost to Development” in March.

“The 2022 Census of Agriculture data shows the number of farms in Ohio declined by 2.3% and in land in farms declined by 6.4% between 2002 and 2022,” Katchova said. “One number that is concerning to agricultural stakeholders in Ohio is the loss of 931,089 acres in land in farms in Ohio in the last 20 years.” 

According to Katchova, the counties with the highest farm numbers in 2022 were Wayne, Darke, Holmes, Licking, and Putman. “While the statewide decline in farm numbers was 2.3% between 2002 and 2022, some counties experienced significantly larger decreases with the top five being Cuyahoga, Franklin, Lawrence, Lake, and Williams counties,” she said. “Conversely, counties such as Coshocton, Jefferson, Ross, Geauga, and Guernsey experienced increases in the number of farms during the same period.”

Among Ohio’s 88 counties, 37 experienced a positive percentage change in the number of farms, four counties had almost no change, and the remaining 47 counties experienced a negative percentage change. The spatial distribution in 2022 saw a larger number of farms in the central regions of Ohio, in contrast to a lower number of farms found in the northeastern and southeastern parts of the state. Over this 20-year span, a general decrease in the number of farms was noted across many counties, with the southeast regions facing the most significant reductions.

The Ohio State team compiled their report using satellite imagery from the National Land Cover Database (NLCD) of the Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium. The database shows land of different categories and changes in land categories over time.

The definition of agricultural land according to the NLCD includes cultivated crops and pasture/hay, which is narrower than the Census of Agriculture’s more general definition of land in farms (which also includes woodland, wasteland, and land in conservation programs). The NLCD defines several categories for developed land – high, medium, and low intensity developed land and open space developed land.

“Our report provides a helpful snapshot of Ohio’s agricultural land to county and state officials, Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Farm Bureau, and the agricultural industry. Ag stakeholders have been very concerned about the declining farm numbers and farmland being developed,” Katchova said. “Using these statistics, the best estimate for the agricultural land lost to development in Ohio is 180,691 acres over the last 20 years compared to the loss of 931,089 acres of land in farms in Ohio farms during the same time period.” 

While counties located in the MSA’s had among the largest percentages of agricultural land loss to development, the overall percentage of agricultural land lost to development in Ohio has been 51% between 2001 and 2021.

Read Katchova, Fang, and Ju’s full report at

Sherrie R. Whaley
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Ani Katchova