Esmeralda County Nevada, like most rural Nevada counties, has experienced a historical “Boom and Bust” economy. Once Nevada’s largest city, Goldfield boomed following the discovery of gold, increasing to more than 20,000 residents by 1907. Esmeralda County now has a total population of 1,513, the fewest of Nevada’s seventeen. This is attributed to the lack of economic business sectors within the county to support a larger population. Mining and agriculture exist today as the principal sectors. This fact sheet is designed to provide an overview of important statistics relating to Esmeralda County and its agricultural sector.
The county covers 3,589 square miles or 2,296,960 acres of land which approximately 98 percent is administered by the federal government. These federally administered lands contribute significantly to the agricultural sector, providing seasonal grazing for resident livestock herds.
Privately owned farmland in Esmeralda County covers about 1.2 percent of the land area. The 1997 Census of Agriculture, the most recent census, reported 20 farms and ranches in the county on 27,454 acres for an average size of 1,373 acres (Table 1).
Esmeralda County is the thirteenth largest county in Nevada and is located in Southwestern Nevada bordering California. The primary communities existing today are Goldfield, Silver Peak, Fishlake Valley, and Goldpoint. Its general landscape is isolated by high desert valleys between rugged mountain terrains. There are plant, soil and climatic characteristics common to both the Great Basin and Mojave Desert depending on the location in the county. The primary area for agricultural production is Fishlake Valley located in the southwestern portion of the county.
Figure 1 and Table 2 provide an overview of Esmeralda County’s agricultural sector for the 2000-2001 production period. Alfalfa hay, the states largest commodity in terms of cash receipts, is Esmeralda’s leading agricultural commodity. It accounted for $3,276,000 or 58% of the county’s agricultural sales. Alfalfa hay is produced on 7,000 acres in the county with an average of 5.1 tons/acre, 0.5 tons above the state’s per acre average. The 36,000 tons annually produced are marketed as high quality dairy and export grade hay.
Cattle and calves were the county’s second largest contributor with $2,290,777 or 40% of the county’s agricultural sales agricultural sales. Current statistics show the January 1 cattle and calf inventory for Esmeralda County at 7,000. This number has remained constant since 1996.
Table 1. Demographics, Area and Agricultural Data
Ranking last was other hay with a value of $115,200, 2% of total sales. This sector of hay includes native hay and improved grasses. Production covers approximately 500 acres at a rate of 2.4 tons per acre and a production of 1200 tons. Note that this is the average over all other hays.
Figure 1. Agricultural Commodity Sales Esmeralda County, 2000-2001
Table 2. 2000-2001 Sales by Commodity
Information to compile this fact sheet was attained from the 2000-2001 Nevada Agricultural Statistics Service’s Annual Report and the 1997 Census of Agriculture. Data is collected in the spring and published in the fall after the production period. Thus the one year lag timeframe. These agencies appreciate the support of Esmeralda County producers that provide survey information. Questions regarding statistics used in this fact sheet should be directed to the author.
Glickman, D., M. Gonzalez, D. M. Bay. 1997 Census of Agriculture. National Agricultural Statistics Service. United States Department of Agriculture
Harris, T. R., C. K. Seung. Analysis of Federal Government Expenditures in Fifteen Nevada Counties. UCED 95/96-13.
Owens, M. J., D. R. Gephart, L. R. Lohrenz, C. L. Lucero. 2001. Nevada Agricultural Statistics 2000-2001. Nevada Agricultural Statistics Service. United States Department of Agriculture.