Agriculture is a significant sector in Wisconsin's economy, producing nearly $104 billion in revenue annually. The significance of the state's agricultural production is exemplified by the depiction of a Holstein cow, an ear of corn, and a wheel of cheese on Wisconsin's state quarter design. In 2017 there were 64,800 farms in the state, operating across 14.3 million acres of land.
The climate and topography of Wisconsin is favorable to both arable crops and livestock grazing. Wisconsin's soil has been ground up over thousand of years during the Wisconsin glaciation, creating soil that is good for crops. The state has a short growing season, but lacks much of the natural disasters that threaten crops. Wisconsin's winters allow cool weather crops to be grown, including potatoes and cranberries. Corn and soybeans, warm weather crops, can still grow well during the summers. The rain in the north and west ranges from 30 inches (760 mm) to 34 inches (860 mm), and drops to 28 inches (710 mm) in the area around Lake Superior.
Wisconsin leads the nation in the production of corn for silage, cranberries, ginseng, and snap beans for processing. The state grows more than half the national crop of cranberries. and 97% of the nation's ginseng. Wisconsin is also a leading producer of oats, potatoes, carrots, tart cherries, maple syrup, and sweet corn for processing.
Main article: Wisconsin dairy industry
Wisconsin produces about a quarter of America's cheese, leading the nation in cheese production. It is second in milk production, after California, and third in per-capita milk production, behind California and Vermont. Wisconsin is second in butter production, producing about one-quarter of the nation's butter.
Wisconsin produces 60% of America's cranberries. In 2016, the state grew 6.13 million barrels of cranberries from over 20,000 acres of cranberry fields.
The indigenous people of Wisconsin farmed a variety of vegetables and maize. The Oneota were the first people to farm intensively, around the Mississippi River. In year 1000, the Oneota, much like other Native Americans, were farming the Three Sisters—maize, beans, and squash. Aztalan State Park is the location of one of the farming towns built at this time. In the 1600s, prior to the arrival of Europeans, the population reached approximately 100,000.
Wisconsin was a frontier to many people in the Northeastern states—offering lots of fresh land for cheap. In the mid-19th century, Wisconsin's population increased from 11,683 in 1836, to 210,546 in 1848, a many of which were farmers. Prior to this influx of settlers, farms in Wisconsin mainly produced wheat. At this time, Wisconsin was producing about on sixth of the wheat grown in the country. However, this production could not last, and due to the worsening of soil, chinch bugs, Wisconsin wheat farmers abandoned the crop and turned over to raising dairy cattle and growing feed crops.
In the northern region of the state, farmers grew cranberries. Cranberries were well suited to Wisconsin—not needing hot temperatures, growing in marshlands, and resistant to the extreme cold. Cranberry fields needed little care, and were easy to grow.
The settlers brought their knowledge of the dairy industry with them, realizing the potential of Wisconsin as good farmland. Much of these settlers were from New York, which was the highest producer of dairy products at the time. Additionally, cheesemaking was brought to Wisconsin by the numerous European immigrants at this time.
In the second half of the 19th century, commercial fruit production began in Door County, Wisconsin.