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Farmland Use in Michigan


June 30, 2023 - William Knudson


This brief analysis considers land use in the State of Michigan. The primary focus is on farmland and the different crops that are supported on that land. The amount of farmland has been slowly declining over time. Currently, about 9.7 million acres in this state are devoted to farming. This is approximately 26.6 percent of the state’s land mass. 

Most of the farmland is used for row crop production. Corn and soybeans are the dominant crops, followed by forage crops and wheat. However, Michigan is also a major vegetable, fruit, horticulture, and berry producer.

The state and federal governments are major landowners. Most of the land owned by the state and federal government is forested.


Most of the land in the state is forested. Approximately 20 million acres are forestland (Cook), which is approximately 55.0 percent of the state’s total land mass. Slightly less than 6.7 million acres of land is used for other uses including roads, urban areas, and towns. 

Michigan is unique in that it has the highest level of federal land ownership east of the Mississippi. The federal government owns 3.6 million acres. This is about 10 percent of the land in the state.  Almost 80 percent of the federally owned land is the possessed by the U.S. Forest Service, and another 17.4 percent is owned by the National Park Service ( The National Forests are Hiawatha, Ottawa, and Marquette National Forests in the Upper Peninsula, and the Huron and Manistee National Forests located in the Northern Lower Peninsula. There are five National Parks, of which the most famous are Isle Royal, Pictured Rocks, and Sleeping Bear Dunes.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is also a major landowner. The DNR owns 4.6 million acres of land which is about 12.7 percent of the state’s total landmass. Most of the land is state forests, parks, recreation areas, water access sites, and wildlife areas such as hunting land (DNR). Together the state and Federal Government own more than 20 percent of the land in the state. Some, if not most of the land owned by the state and federal government is not well suited to farming.


According to the Michigan Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, approximately 9.7 million acres of land in the state is used for farming. Table 1 shows the utilization of farmland in 2017, this data comes from the 2017 Census of Agriculture. The total amount of land in Table 1 is considerably less than 9.7 million acres.  This is likely due to several factors. Not all farmers submit their census forms, agricultural buildings are not included, and land used for pasture may not be captured.

Table 1: Farmland Use in Michigan
Field Crops Acres Harvested
Barley 5,750
Corn for Grain 2,168,204
Corn for Silage 331,133
Dry Edible Beans 225,334
Dry Edible Peas 267
Oats 34,492
Popcorn 1,464
Millet 47
Rye 18,238
Sorghum for Grain 1,888
Sorghum for Silage 2,072
Soybeans 2,487,343
Sugarbeets 145,790
Sunflower Seeds 1,735
Wheat 487,011
Field and Grass Seed 593
Forage Crops 1,009,570
Total Field Crops 6,920,931
Fruit & Nuts Acres Harvested
Apples 38,563
Apricots 70
Sweet Cherries 7,807
Tart Cherries 33,381
Grapes 13,127
Nectarines 40
Peaches 2,863
Pears 699
Persimmons 6
Plums 456
Prunes 69
Chestnuts 675
Hazelnuts 60
Pecans 3
English Walnuts 116
Other Nuts 275
Total Fruit and Nuts 98,210
Vegetables Acres Harvested
Asparagus 12,285
Lima Beans 9
Snap Beans 12,706
Beets 872
Broccoli 872
Brussel Sprouts 69
Chinese Cabbage 135
Head Cabbage 4,045
Mustard Cabbage 3
Cantaloupes and Muskmelons 520
Carrots 3,473
Cauliflower 228
Celery 2,078
Collards 155
Cucumbers and Pickles 34,409
Daikon 32
Eggplant 194
Escarole and Endive 6
Garlic 101
Herbs 159
Horseradish 3
Kale 342
Lettuce 1,027
Mustard Greens 103
Okra 25
Onions 2,495
Green Onions 60
Parsley 102
Green Peas 3,072
Cowpeas 11
Bell Peppers 1,876
Other Peppers 902
Potatoes 50,511
Pumpkins 5,123
Radishes 1,183
Rhubarb 126
Spinach 43
Squash 9,178
Sweet Corn 8,466
Tomatoes 5,102
Turnip Greens 88
Turnips 778
Watercress 14
Watermelons 1,340
Other Vegetables 1,016
Total Vegetables 165,337
Berries Acres Harvested
Aronia Berries 29
Blackberries 152
Blueberries 22,959
Cranberries 322
Currants 31
Elderberries 7
Loganberries 1
Raspberries 532
Strawberries 870
Other Berries 103
Total Berries  25,006
Floriculture, Nursery and Greenhouse Crops Acres Harvested
Bedding/Garden Plants 1,650
Cut Flowers and Florist Greens 1,280
Foliage Plants 48
Potted Flowering Plants 288
Other Floriculture and Bedding Plants 58
Nursery Stock Crops 1,102
Aquatic Plants 5
Bulbs, corms, rhizomes, and tubers 374
Cuttings, seedlings, liners and plugs 222
Flower Seeds 177
Vegetable Seeds 20
Vegetable Transplants 144
Sod 6,244
Greenhouse Tomatoes 19
Other Greenhouse Vegetables 30
Greenhouse Fruits and Berries 7
Mushrooms 3
Total Floriculture, Nursery and Greenhouse 11,671
Woodland Crops Acres Harvested
Christmas Trees 36,986
Source: USDA, 2017 Census of Agriculture

Despite these shortcomings, table 1 does reveal several points. The vast majority of the land is used for row crop production. Corn and soybeans are the dominant crops. Some years corn is the number one crop, and some years soybeans is the number one crop. In terms of acreage forage crops ranked third at slightly more than 1 million acres. Wheat is the fourth largest crop in terms of acreage.

While other crops use far less acreage on a per acre basis they generate higher revenues. A good example of this is the land used for floriculture, greenhouses, and nurseries. While only 11,671 acres were devoted to these products in 2017, the wholesale value of these products was close to $663 million in 2021 according to the Michigan Agricultural Field Office.

Vegetable production accounted for 165,337 acres in 2017. Of this amount, more than 50,000 acres were devoted to potato production and more than 34,000 acres were devoted to cucumber production, both for the fresh market and for pickles. Foreign competition and labor shortages may reduce the number of acres devoted to vegetable production in the future. Some vegetable producers face intense competition from foreign producers, and the lack of labor is an issue for farmers that rely on seasonal labor.

Fruit and nut production utilized 98,210 acres in 2017. Most acres are devoted to apple and cherry production. Total land in cherry orchards was in excess of 40,000 acres and apple production used more than 38,000 acres. Grape production accounted for an additional 13,000 acres. As is the case with vegetable production some fruit production is threatened by foreign competition. Increased population pressures in West Michigan and the Northwest Lower Peninsula may also reduce fruit acreage in the future.

Total acreage devoted to berry production was 25,006 acres in 2017. Blueberries were the dominant crop accounting for more than 22,000 acres. Michigan is one the largest producers of blueberries in the U.S. An additional 36,986 acres were used to produce Christmas trees in the state.


Michigan farmland is used to produce a wide range of agricultural commodities. More than 25 percent of the land in Michigan is farmland. Most of the land in Michigan is forestland. The federal and state government are major landowners; most of the government owned land is forested. The vast majority of farmland is used to produce field crops, primarily corn, soybeans, forages, and wheat. 

Michigan is also a major producer of vegetables especially cucumbers and potatoes, fruits particularly cherries and apples, and blueberries. Michigan is also an important producer of ornamental horticulture crops and Christmas trees.

The amount of land devoted to farmland appears to be declining slightly over time. This is likely due to two primary reasons, the first is land some crops are facing labor shortages and competition from foreign countries that restrict profitability. This is an issue for some fruits and vegetables. The second is population pressure in certain parts of the state. This is especially true for West Michigan in areas such as Allegan and Ottawa counties, and the northwest Lower Peninsula. Despite these concerns, most of the farmland in the state is not under threat.


Cook, B. (2019).  “Facing the Facts,”  Michigan State University Extension.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), (n.d.).  Land Exchanges and Sales Guide:  A Guide to Property Transactions with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. (n.d.).



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