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Agriculture works hard for Jackson County every day.

Family-owned farms, food processors and agriculture-related businesses generate thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of economic activity while contributing to local income and tax revenues.

In west-central Wisconsin, Jackson County’s farms represent a wide diversity of agricultural businesses, large and small, including livestock, poultry, grains, forages, berry crops, Christmas trees and sphagnum moss.

In fact, Jackson County leads Wisconsin in Christmas tree and woody ornamental crops, and is in the top 10 in fruit, hogs and pigs, and broilers. The county has about 860 mostly small to mid-size farms. Dairy herds average about 90 cows. Production of vegetables and fruits, particularly blueberries, apples, and strawberries, has grown, as farmers capitalize on demand for local products.

Agriculture provides 18 percent of Jackson County’s jobs. Jackson County agriculture provides 2,295 jobs, or 17.8 percent, of the county’s workforce of 12,924. Production jobs include farm owners and managers and farm employees. Agricultural service jobs include veterinarians, crop and livestock consultants, feed, fuel and other crop input suppliers, farm machinery dealers, barn builders and agricultural lenders, to name a few. Processing jobs include those employed in food processing and other value-added industries that support food processors. Every job in agriculture generates an additional 0.59 jobs in the county.

Jackson County agriculture accounts for $137.1 million, or 16.9 percent, of the county’s total income. This includes wages, salaries, benefits and profits of farmers and workers in agriculture-related businesses. Every dollar of agricultural income generates an additional $0.76 of county income.

Jackson County agriculture generates $375.7 million in economic activity — about 22 percent of the county’s total economic activity. Every dollar of sales from agricultural products generates an additional $0.41 of economic activity in other parts of the county’s economy. Here’s how agriculture stimulates economic activity: The direct effect of agriculture equals $266.6 million and includes the sale of farm products and value-added products. Purchases of agricultural and food processing inputs, services and equipment add another $74.8 million in economic activity. For example, this includes business-to-business purchases of fuel, seed, fertilizer, feed and farm machinery, as well as veterinary services, crop and livestock consultants and equipment leasing. This business-to-business activity then generates another $34.4 million in economic activity when people who work in agriculture-related businesses spend their earnings in the local economy.

Economic activity associated with Jackson County farms and agriculture-related businesses generates $5.7 million in local and state taxes. This figure does not include all property taxes paid to support local schools. If it did, the number would increase dramatically.

Dairy farming is the major agricultural industry in Jackson County. On-farm production and milk sales account for $71.7 million. Processing milk into dairy products generates another $117.5 million. One plant in 2012 processed dairy products in Jackson County. On-farm milk production accounts for 391 jobs, and dairy processing accounts for 303 jobs. At the county level, each dairy cow generates $4,484 in on-farm sales to producers. At the state level, each dairy cow generates over $34,000 in total sales.

Jackson County leads the state in the production of cut Christmas trees. Jackson County ranks third in the state for cranberry production. With some 3,100 acres planted to the fruit, the industry accounts for about $27.4 million. Altogether, Jackson County sales of Christmas trees, fruits and vegetables, greenhouse, nursery and floriculture products total $31.6 million. Landscape and grounds maintenance businesses create additional full-time jobs and many seasonal jobs. Local food sales account for $295,000 to economy More and more Jackson County farmers sell directly to consumers from roadside stands, farmers’ markets, auctions and pick-your-own operations, with 45 farms generating $295,000 in local food sales.

Jackson County farmers own and manage 239,936 acres, or 38 percent, of the county’s land. This includes cropland, rangeland, pasture, tree farms and farm forests. As stewards of the land, farmers use conservation practices, such as crop rotation, nutrient management and integrated pest management, to protect environmental resources and provide habitat for wildlife.

Trisha Wagner is agriculture agent for the Jackson County UW Extension office. You can reach her at (715) 284-4257 or trisha.wagner@ces.uwex.edu.

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