In proclaiming March as Michigan Food and Agriculture Month, Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared the state’s industries in that realm as a “national powerhouse” and she’s right. Michigan has the ideal climate, some of the best people and great resources to produce a wide variety of high quality food—more than a whopping 300 commodities to be exact.

That agriculture powerhouse benefits both our bellies and the state’s economy. Food and ag businesses contribute more than $104.7 billion annually to the state’s economy and constitutes a significant portion—just over 17 percent—of the state’s workforce.

Thanks to our rural roots, food and agriculture means a lot to our local economies too. Both Lapeer and St. Clair counties are home to just over 1,000 farms with the average size clocking in at about 160 acres. Ninety-seven percent are family-owned operations. From the muck fields of Imlay City to Almont’s orchards and the cropland stretching from Dryden to Capac, the Tri-City area boasts it’s own microcosm of diversity.

According to the latest Census of Agriculture figures, Lapeer County is ranked second in the state for the market value of horses, ponies, mules, burros and donkeys. St. Clair County is a major player in the state’s cultivated Christmas tree and short rotation woody crops markets. They’re ranked ninth in the state for sales of those products.

Thanks to outreach efforts by growers, the public is increasingly seeing the impact agriculture has on their lives and the local economy. Area Farm Bureau groups are visiting schools, providing equipment for great hands-on activities—like egg hatching and hosting Project Rural Education Day events.

Soon, the new growing season will be underway and farmers are hoping for a good one. Weather and economics have made for several challenging years. In 2019, values for the major commodities—corn, soybeans and wheat—were down 13 percent from 2018 across the state. Low prices and a wet spring meant fewer crops got planted.

This month we’re grateful for the men and women who toil to grow the food that fills our plates. We’re rooting for better days ahead for agriculture so the industry can thrive and bolster our local economy even more.