COLUMBUS — Many Americans celebrated National Agriculture Week this past week with a focus on education and understanding where our food comes from.
Ohio is a major player in the nation's agricultural landscape.
"Ohio's No. 1 industry is agriculture. Nearly one in seven jobs in the state come from agriculture and food production. And that's because half of our landmass is considered prime farmland, so we raise a lot of agricultural commodities here – everything from corn, soybeans, and wheat to cattle, pigs, and chickens, but we have a rich food processing industry as well. So the products that we rank in the top 10 range from fun things like cottage cheese, sherbet, ice cream, cheese, apples, two things that you would expect like corn and soybeans and cattle and hogs," agriculture expert Andy Vance said.
According to USDA data, there are more than 75,000 farms throughout the state.
"Ninety percent of those, more than 90% are run by families and individuals, so [they're] a really rich part of our state's economic engine,” Vance said.
Our state's agriculture output extends well beyond the farm to include aspects of the industry including processing.
"A great example of that are some of the dairy products," Vance said. "One of the categories, where we rank in the top 10, is in cottage cheese. We're the fifth-largest producer of cottage cheese in the country. That doesn't grow out in a field, right? That has to be further processed from the milk, so you have a lot of dairy processing companies.
There are many food companies that call Ohio home as well.
"One that consumers will recognize as a brand that's been around for a long time is Smucker's. So you go near Wooster, Ohio and the J.M. Smucker Company is headquartered there. You've got a bunch of companies up in northwestern Ohio. Think of the Dei Fratelli company, processing tomatoes," he said.