Michigan, Ohio show big contrasts

Agriculture has always been an interest of mine and am always learning something new about it. So after my first-ever visit to Michigan — except for stopovers in the Detroit airport — I decided to learn more about agriculture in that state. I found a lot of differences and some similarities as compared to Ohio agriculture.

Using statistics from January 2018 on the USDA website, it is fascinating to see what agricultural products that each state produces. Something to keep in mind as I start talking about these statistics is Michigan has a population of almost 10 million people and 61,898,310 acres. Ohio’s population is about 11.7 million people over 28,688,000 acres.

There are some big differences between the states when it comes to animals. Ohio has a lot of pigs — 99.3 million. Michigan has 1.19 million.

The 2.95 million sheep and lamb totals in Ohio also towers over the 80,000 that are in Michigan.

Ohio has more than double beef cattle with 296,000, but Michigan has a lot more dairy cattle — 428,000. Well, at least they did at the first of the year. There have been massive changes to the dairy industry this year, but I’ll save that for another article.

I always knew that Ohio agriculture was diverse but so is Michigan. Both states grow a lot of food crops like sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins and peaches. Altogether, Michigan produces more than 300 commodities on a commercial basis.

But there are some crops that Michigan really excels at. They produce 5.625 billion pounds of cucumbers each year. There are about 33,000 acres of apples orchards and the state ranks No. 3 in the United States for production.

The 143,000 acres of sugar beets planted each year has earned them the fourth-highest producing state in the U.S. And it has the biggest share of the pie when it comes to tart cherry production. It produces nearly 74 percent of the tart cherries and combined with the amount of sweet cherries Michigan produces, the 2017 total was 19,700 tons.

There are some similarities as well. The average size farm in both states is 190 to 195 acres. Agriculture is a big contributor to the economy, each contributing about $105 billion annually to their state. Soybeans, corn, wheat and hay are major agricultural crops in both states.

The nursery and greenhouse industry is something else these two states have in common, Michigan is ranked No. 6 and Ohio is No. 8 in production in the U.S.

As I studied these statistics, I found myself asking why doesn’t Ohio grow more vegetable crops?

Some of it is family tradition. Farms are inherited by the next generation and “that’s what we have always done.”

Then I remembered something I read. It’s the water! There are 11,037 inland lakes in the state of Michigan. So many that no point is more than six miles from an inland lake. Plus, the furthest from a Great Lake you can get is 85 miles.

Growing vegetables requires adequate rainfall and when there is no rain you have to be able to irrigation. This is something Ohio farmers cannot do on a large scale.

It’s not a competition, but Ohio utilizes 50 percent of its land for agriculture while Michigan utilizes 16 percent of its land. Ohio has more people than Michigan and is less than half the size, and yet each state’s economy is equally stimulated by the agricultural industry.

I’m glad the farmers up north do what they do and I’m glad Ohio farmers do what they do. So as long as you leave football out of it, Michigan isn’t that bad. Go, Bucks!

Submitted by Mary Smallsreed, a member of Trumbull County Farm Bureau who grew up on a family dairy farm in northeast Ohio.


OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.