Herds of dairy cows grazing Wisconsin’s green pasturelands are the foundation of a dairy industry that produces a large part of the nation’s butter and cheese. The output of such farms has earned Wisconsin the nickname America’s Dairyland; and over the years, dairying and crop farming have been vital parts of Wisconsin’s economy. The state’s rich forests have also generated a lumber and paper industry, while extensive water resources have been important for fishing and transportation. The water, forest, and farms combine to give the state a natural beauty, which in turn has made the state a popular destination for tourists. Meanwhile, manufacturing grew rapidly in the 20th century, becoming a dominant segment of the state’s economy. Wheat farming was the first form of commercial agriculture in Wisconsin. Production reached its peak in 1860, when Wisconsin ranked second among the wheat-growing states.
Wheat production declined steadily thereafter because of soil depletion and the opening of wheat lands to the west. Beginning in the 1870s the state’s farmers began to raise livestock and produce feed crops. Dairying became a major agricultural activity, aided by the experimental work of the University of Wisconsin College of Agriculture and the promotional activities of state leaders. By 1920 dairying had become the principal source of income in the state.
Today, Wisconsin ranks among the leading agricultural states in terms of income from farming. Only California surpasses Wisconsin in income from milk and other dairy products. Dairy farms are prevalent in the southern two-thirds of Wisconsin.
The eastern and southeastern counties provide milk for Chicago, Milwaukee, and other large urban markets in the region. The central and western areas of Wisconsin process most of their milk production into cheese and butter. Beef, hogs, chickens, and eggs are also important livestock products in the state. Two of Wisconsin’s major crops, feed corn and hay, are grown chiefly for livestock feed. Other leading crops are soybeans, greenhouse and nursery products, potatoes, cranberries, wheat, sweet corn, snap beans, apples, green peas, and oats.
Corn is the typical crop in the southern half of the state, while hay, oats, and forage are more characteristic of north central and western Wisconsin. Potatoes, vegetables, and cranberries are raised mostly on the sandy plain of central Wisconsin. The Door Peninsula, extending into Lake Michigan, is Wisconsin’s leading fruit-growing area and is especially noted for its cherries. "Wisconsin" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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