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Michigan Hosts Numerous Sectors of Agriculture

Those of a certain age may remember the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s public service announcement campaign featuring “Farmer Brown.” The banjo-plucking puppet reminded viewers of the wide diversity in the farming community by singing, “On the farm we grow the food that’s everything you need to eat. It’s a fruit, a veg, a bread, a milk, a cheese, a bean, a meat.” Here’s a look at a few of the many agriculture sectors in Michigan.



This large tent includes any and all varieties of crops that are grown for domestic and commercial purposes, from vegetables to fruit crops and cereal crops. Michigan ranks first in the nation for tart cherry production and fourth for sweet cherries. Michigan also tops the U.S. for production of dry black beans, cranberry beans and small red beans. Tennessee-based Bush’s Beans even buys beans from Michigan. The state is also the leading producer of potatoes for potato chip production and is No. 1 in asparagus production and cucumbers for pickling.



Dairy farming is a class of agriculture for long-term production of milk, which is processed on the farm or at a dairy plant for eventual sale. Roughly 97% of Michigan’s dairy farms are family owned, many by multiple generations of the same family. The state has over 1,200 dairy farm families that care for over 424,000 cows. The average dairy herd in Michigan has just over 300 cows. In 2019, Michigan ranked sixth in milk production in the United States, and dairy cows in Michigan produced 11.4 billion pounds of milk.



Livestock is commonly defined as domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce labor and commodities such as meat, fur, leather and wool. The USDA classifies pork, veal, beef and lamb as livestock and all livestock as red meat. Poultry and fish are not included in the category. In 2019, there were a total of 1.15 million head of cattle in Michigan, and beef cattle had 108,000 cows and 25,000 replacement heifers. There are about 12,000 farms with beef and dairy cattle in Michigan. The economic impact of cattle in Michigan totals $541 million.



Fish farming involves raising fish commercially in tanks or enclosures such as fish ponds, usually for food. A facility that releases juvenile fish into the wild for recreational fishing or to supplement a species’ natural numbers is generally referred to as a fish hatchery. Built in 1901, Harrietta State Fish Hatchery is the oldest running facility of its kind in Michigan. It annually produces approximately 1.2 million brown and rainbow trout to be stocked in streams, inland lakes, rivers and the Great Lakes.



A tree farm is a privately owned forest managed for timber production. The term also is used to refer to tree plantations, tree nurseries and Christmas tree farms. Michigan supplies nearly 2 million Christmas trees annually to the national market. Michigan has approximately 42,000 acres in commercial Christmas tree production. The state boasts an annual farm gate value of more than $1.3 million in sales of wreaths, cut boughs, garland and other cut greens. For every Christmas tree harvested, Michigan Christmas tree farmers plant three new trees for future harvests.