Pennsylvania ranked 18th among the 50 states in agricultural income in 2001, with receipts of $4.46 billion.
During the colonial period, German immigrants farmed the fertile land in southeastern Pennsylvania, making the state a leader in agricultural production. Unlike farmers in other states, who worked the soil until it was depleted and then moved on, these farmers carefully cultivated the same plots year after year, using crop rotation techniques that kept the land productive. As late as 1840, the state led the nation in wheat production, thanks in part to planting techniques developed and largely confined to southeastern Pennsylvania. However, westward expansion and the subsequent fall in agricultural prices hurt farming in the state, and many left the land for industrial jobs in the cities. Today, most farms in the state produce crops and dairy items for Philadelphia and other major eastern markets.
As of 2002 there were about 59,000 farms averaging 131 acres (53 hectares) in size. The leading farm areas were all in southeastern Pennsylvania. Lancaster County is by far the most productive, followed by the counties of Chester, Berks, Franklin, and Lebanon.
Field crops in 2002 included: hay, 3,560,000 tons (valued at $473 million); corn for grain, 59 million bushels (valued at $174.5 million); soybeans, 9.1 million bushels (valued at $51.9 million); wheat, 20 million bushels (valued at $33.5 million); oats, 7 million bushels (valued at $13.3 million); and barley, 4.4 million (valued at $7.1 million).
Pennsylvania is a major producer of mushrooms and greenhouse and nursery crops. Other crops are fresh vegetables, potatoes, strawberries, apples, pears, peaches, grapes, and cherries (sweet and tart). The value of fresh market vegetables exceeded $30.4 million in 2002; the value of vegetables for processing, $10.5 million.