A robust industry from the beginning, Minnesota agriculture is showing no sign of slowing down. From top crops to thriving agribusinesses to agricultural education, this important sector is continuing to grow and support the state’s economy.
Home to 73,600 farms spread across just over 26 million acres of land, as well as about 1,000 agricultural and food companies, the state’s agriculture industry provides more than 340,000 jobs for Minnesotans. Altogether, the industry contributes an impressive $90 billion to the state’s economy annually.
Minnesota makes an impact across the country with several top crops. The state ranks No. 3 in the nation in total crops cash receipts, and breaks the top 10 in a number of different commodities, including No. 1 in sugar beets, oats, sweet corn for processing and green peas for processing; No. 2 in wild rice; No. 3 in soybeans, spring wheat and canola; No. 4 in corn, dry beans and flax seed; and No. 5 in sunflowers.
Several of these crops are important not only for the U.S., but the world, too. Soybeans, corn and wheat are Minnesota’s top exports, heading across the globe to top markets in China, Japan and Mexico.
Along with important commodities, Minnesota’s industry is made up of innovative agribusinesses, agritourism destinations, such as craft distilleries, and educational programs including 4-H, Ag in the Classroom, and more that help consumers learn about where their food comes from and the importance of supporting agriculture.
Farmers and others in the industry alike are looking toward the future to implement the latest technologies into Minnesota agriculture. For example, each year, the state holds an entrepreneurship competition, which is the largest in the country, encouraging new ideas. Research into alternative energy sources for the state is also being conducted, and urban agriculture farms are providing fresh food to city dwellers.
With a strong foundation and keen adaptability, Minnesota agriculture is only set for positive growth.
The Grass is Always Greener
Minnesota’s nursery and landscape industry is growing the green – literally. The sector generates more than $1.9 billion annually, with a $3.5 billion direct effect on the state’s economy.
Along with flowers and flower seeds, vegetable seeds and transplants, mushrooms, and other floriculture crops, sod is a large aspect of the overall nursery industry. According to the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture, Minnesota produced 7,245 acres of sod for sale in 2012, with a total value of $14.9 million. Sodding allows consumers to transplant mature lawn that has been cared for by professionals.
There’s also the option of planting grass seed, which is less expensive and develops a stronger root system, though it takes longer to establish and can have limited planting times.
For more on the nursery and landscape industry, visit mnla.biz.
Love of the Land
Farmers are the original conservationists. Fourth-generation farmers Loretta and Martin Jaus from Sibley County are a prime example.
The family began growing organic crops more than 25 years ago, becoming certified in 1990. In 2015, they were recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change” for promoting sustainable, climate- smart agriculture. The farm is home to 60 dairy cows and six different crops that are continuously rotated each year. The Jauses advocate for ag education, and visitors can learn about organic techniques that keep soil healthy and pests away.
The couple has also restored wetlands and invite wildlife onto their land, with close to 100 birdhouses.
Learn more about sustainable farming in Minnesota at sfa-mn.org.
From self-guided combines to specific soil software to programs aimed at precision planting, farmers are no strangers to technology. To make the best of today’s technologies, reliable internet and broadband are extremely important to rural Minnesota.
Today’s agricultural advancements count on access to broadband, and policymakers in the state are working to come up with the best possible solutions to deliver the service to rural areas without disturbing Minnesota’s pristine landscape.
In late 2015, more than two dozen communities split $11 million in state funding to increase broadband access, and plans are in the works to push for federal action specifically for rural communities.