Michigan: A History of the Great Lakes State

By Bruce A. Rubenstein; Lawrence E. Ziewacz | Go to book overview

Chapter 10

Grain, Grangers, and Conservation

BECAUSE OF MICHIGAN'S PRESENT STATUS AS one of the nation's foremost industrial centers, its long agricultural heritage is often overlooked. As late as 1935, Michigan had more than 18.5 million acres under cultivation and approximately 20 percent of its population listed their occupation as “farmer.” By 1970, however, agriculture accounted for a mere 4 percent of the state's production income, and only 1.5 percent of the state's residents were farmers. Between 1982 and 1997 the decline continued as the amount of farmland in Michigan was reduced from 10,940,000 acres to 9,870,000 acres, and the number of farms dwindled to 53,000. At the turn of the twenty-first century, Michigan was losing 233 acres of farmland daily to urban sprawl, placing it fourth behind Florida, California, and Colorado in number of acres being sold per day to developers. Equally disturbing is that only 8,000 of Michigan's 53,000 farms generate revenue of more than $100,000 annually, and most of these are large agribusiness operations. The era of family owned and operated farms is rapidly coming to an end.

Despite a steady decline in the number of farmers and in the amount of acres tilled, improved methods of soil usage, high yield seed, and modern equipment have resulted in increased agricultural production. Without question, agriculture is still an important aspect of Michigan's economy, as shown by the 1993 apple harvest of 1.1 billion pounds, valued at $100,000,000, and the more than 130,000,000 pounds of cherries produced annually in Grand Traverse County.


Climate and Soil

Michigan residents are fully aware that the state's climate is unpredictable and can change drastically, within the same area, in a matter of hours. Much of this instability is caused by Michigan being a peninsula, as sur

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