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Cheese and So Much More: Ag Census Data Show Multi-Faceted Wisconsin Farm Economy

Wisconsin (PDF, 941 KB) is known as America’s Dairyland; however, the 2017 Census of Agriculture data show us that Wisconsin has a diverse agricultural industry. It’s no surprise Wisconsin ranks number one in cheese production, but did you know it also ranks number one in corn for silage, cranberry, and snap bean production?

Cranberries at the Heart of Conservation

The Glacial Lake Cranberries farm, located in Cranmoor, Wisconsin, has been in Mary Brown’s family since 1923. Her 6,000 acres consists of 330 acres of cranberries, 2,600 acres of forest, and 3,000 acres of reservoirs that support the cranberry acres. Her 96 fruit beds produce 10 million pounds of fruit yearly. She runs the operation with her son, Stephen, four employees that live on the property year-round, seasonal staff, and help from family.

Wisconsin not only the "Dairy State" but also the "Cranberry State"

Most have probably heard Wisconsin’s famous moniker “The America’s Dairyland.” This nickname is definitely befitting considering our long history with milk production. But, while our milk, cheeses, and other dairy products are available year-round, the fall season brings attention to a completely different commodity. I’m talking about cranberries.

Alongside pumpkins, apples, and pears, cranberries are a staple of American cuisine during the fall months. But did you know that most cranberries in the United States come from Wisconsin? Our growers produce 60 percent of the cranberries in the United States?  Last year alone, more than 5 million barrels of cranberries came from Wisconsin. One barrel weighs 100 pounds, which means our growers produced more than 250,000 tons of this amazing fruit.

Wisconsin Welcomes the World

Wisconsin is known worldwide for its cheese, but what about its cranberries, ginseng, urban agriculture or innovative biofuels research? Last week, I had the opportunity to help expand the global reputation of Wisconsin beyond dairy. I shared the diversity of American agriculture with representatives from over 20 countries through a tour of the state.

Agricultural attachés from around the world are usually stationed at their countries’ embassies in Washington, DC – close to the politics but far away from most American agriculture. To give these representatives a real look at our industry, USDA-FAS arranges annual tours to various parts of the United States. It’s a great opportunity for the attachés to learn about the variety that exists in American agriculture, to see some of our innovative approaches, and to meet the farmers who provide products exported to their countries.

Wisconsin Lives Up to its Dairyland Name

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Welcome to America’s Dairyland! It is simply impossible to talk about Wisconsin agriculture without immediately bringing up our dairy sector. After all, as the 2012 Census of Agriculture results showed, 16.5 percent of all farms in our state have milk cows.

Wisconsin has significantly more dairy farms at 11,543 than any other state. We are also one of only two states with more than one million milk cows. And, of course, who can forget about Wisconsin cheese? As NASS’ Dairy Products reports point out every year, Wisconsin farmers produce more cheese than any other state, producing more than 25 percent of all cheese in the United States. That’s nearly 3 billion pounds of cheese a year!

Massachusetts Agriculture Defies National Trends

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Massachusetts agriculture defies national trends in more ways than one. For example, while across the country the number of farms decreased four percent since the 2007 Census, Massachusetts was one of only 10 states that saw an increase in both the number of farms and land in farms in the same time period. In addition, while women make up 31 percent of all operators across the country, they make up 41 percent of all operators in the Bay State. Similarly, while the number of female principal operators decreased nationally since the last census, that number increased from 2,226 to 2,507 in our state. In fact, female principal operators compose 32 percent of all of our state’s principal operators, the highest percentage among the New England states and the third highest nationwide.

We also have a growing number of beginning farmers in Massachusetts. Although the proportion of all beginning farmers in our state is down slightly since 2007, it is still higher than in other parts of the country. In Massachusetts, 29 percent of all operators and 25 percent of principal operators began farming in the last decade, while nationwide, 26 percent of all operators and 22 percent of principal operators fall in that category.

Conservation Innovation Grant Helps Cranberry Farmers Conserve Water, Shield Fruit from Cold

It’s tough to imagine the Thanksgiving celebration without turkey, dressing, and most importantly, the cranberry sauce. To keep this holiday staple safe from the cold and ready for harvest, farmers apply water to cranberries on frosty nights.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association worked with growers to install automated sprinkler systems that conserve water and trim costs.

With the automated system, cranberry growers can control sprinklers from a computer and turn on and off sprinklers with a simple button. Traditionally, the different systems had to be turned on and off manually, wasting time, money and water.