In 2001, Michigan's agricultural income was estimated at nearly $3.5 billion, placing Michigan 24th among the 50 states. About 57% came from crops and the rest from livestock and livestock products; dairy products, nursery products, cattle, corn, and soybeans were the principal commodities. The state in 2002 ranked 2nd in output of tart cherries, 3rd in apples, and 4th in prunes and plums.
The growing of corn and other crops indigenous to North America was introduced in Michigan by the Indians around 100 BC, and early French settlers tried to develop European-style agriculture during the colonial era. But little progress was made until well into the 19th century, when farmers from New York and New England poured into the interior of southern Michigan. By mid-century, 34,000 farms had been established, and the number increased to a peak of about 207,000 in 1910. The major cash crop at first was wheat, until soil exhaustion, insect infestations, bad winters, and competition from huge wheat farms to the west forced a de-emphasis on wheat and a move toward agricultural diversity. Both the number of farms and the amount of farm acreage had declined by 2002 to 52,000 farms and 10,400,000 acres (4,200,000 hectares).
The southern half of the lower peninsula is the principal agricultural region, and the area along Lake Michigan is a leader in fruit growing. Potatoes are profitable in northern Michigan, while eastern Michigan (the "Thumb" area near Lake Huron) is a leading bean producer. The Saginaw Valley leads the state in sugar beets. The south-central and southeastern counties are major centers of soybean production. Leading field crops in 2002 included 232,300,000 bushels of corn for grain, valued at $534,290,000; 73,710,000 bushels of soybeans, worth $386,978,000; and 30,780,000 bushels of wheat, worth $78,155,000. Output of commercial apples totaled 500,000,000 lb (227,000,000 kg).