Minnesota’s agriculture industry can be summed up in one word: diverse.
The more than 74,000 farms spanning 26 million acres averaging about 350 acres each, produce some of the state’s top commodities, including corn, soybeans, hogs, dairy products, and cattle and calves.
While those commodities contribute the most in terms of cash receipts, the North Star State pops up in the nation’s top 10 lists for many others. In 2014 the state was No. 1 in the production of turkeys and sugarbeets, No. 3 in hogs and pigs, No. 4 in soybeans, spring wheat, corn for grain and dry edible beans.
But Minnesota’s diversity goes beyond the commodities produced. While it’s true the state provides everything from traditional row crops to honeybees and specialty vegetables, Minnesota also has a wide range of agricultural production, agribusinesses and farm operations.
Minnesota grows products for food and feed, and is a major agricultural exporter. In fact, the state ranks third nationally in agricultural exports. A record high export value of $8.4 billion was achieved in 2012 – a 18 percent increase from 2011. The largest export is soybeans, followed by corn and pork.
Agriculture is a big player in innovation and technology, too. Minnesota was the first state in the nation to mandate the use of corn-based ethanol in its fuel supply, and has recently introduced cloud-based farm management tools across the state.
Several major agribusinesses call the Land of 10,000 Lakes home, including General Mills headquartered in Minneapolis, Land O’Lakes in St. Paul, as well as smaller farmer cooperatives – each type bringing an equally important economic impact.
Minnesota agriculture includes everything from small organic hobby farms to midsize family farms to large corporate farms, all working together to meet the food demands of our world’s growing population.
An American Star Farmer
Alan Barka, an American Star Farmer in the National FFA organization, started his dairy operation with no cows, only a dream. His interest in dairy began at a very young age when he would help his neighbors milk cows. Years later, this 21-year-old member of the Litchfield FFA chapter was awarded the most prestigious honor a student can receive in the organization.
To become one of the four individuals to achieve this annual award, the FFA member must first meet the requirements of the degree, which shows an applicant’s growth in the project and the skills gained throughout their FFA career. Then, they must be selected as the candidate from their state. The candidates from each state are then scored and four finalists are chosen.
Today, Barka and his wife, Beth, own 43 dairy cattle and 25 heifers and calves. He also works for his family’s milk hauling business; managing and selling the milk he produces. To this day, he credits the Minnesota dairy farmers who mentored him with his success in the industry.
An Assortment of Apples
Next time you bite into a juicy Honeycrisp or SweeTango apple, thank Minnesota.
Now grown widely around the world, the sweet, luscious Honeycrisp apple was developed right here in the North Star State at the University of Minnesota. Named the state fruit in 2006, this tasty variety helped revive the apple industry by bringing revenue to family-run orchards.
Along with Honeycrisp, the U of M is also responsible for the crunchy, sweet-tart SweeTango apple variety. A combination of Honeycrisp and Zestar! varieties, Minnesota growers have to be licensed to grow SweeTango apples.
The industry as a whole continues to thrive. In 2014, Minnesota apples brought $13.1 million into the state.
Learn more about the industry and U of M varieties at apples.umn.edu.
Potatoes are one of the most versatile vegetables. Every tasty spud starts from a seed potato. Seed potatoes are different from the type in the grocery store. They’re grown specifically for their buds, which are then replanted and used to start new potato plants.
Minnesota is a major player in seed potato production, ranking fifth in the nation. The industry adds about $500 million to the state’s economy each year. Minnesota grows almost half of the seed potatoes used in the country. In fact, the nation’s largest potato farming operation – R.D. Offutt – is located in the state.
North Dakota and Michigan are also big potato players. Together, the region produces almost a third of all potatoes grown in the United States.
Over the past decade, the rise in popularity of getting to know your food has become the new norm. Those who have identified themselves as “foodies” take it a step further.
Foodies in Minnesota and across the nation have an increasing interest in exactly where their food comes from. More than just the origins of their food, they value the flavors that come from buying local. Foodies don’t mind spending time and money for cured sausage from a particular butcher shop or waiting to purchase local herbs from their farmers market each week, because they believe that fresh and local is the best you can get.
While foodies reap the delicious taste and uniqueness of locally grown Minnesota products, the state is rewarded as well. Foodies help drive the economy, keeping small farms and local businesses thriving.