Since its territorial days, in the mid-19th century, Minnesota's identity has been rooted in agriculture. With acres of prairies and woodlands to turn into farms, the state proved attractive to waves of settlers from eastern states and other nations.
"At first family farms grew crops and raised animals for their own use. As transportation and farming methods improved, farmers began growing crops to sell. In the 1870's and 1880's, wheat was the main crop. Gradually farmers diversified, switching to other more profitable crops. Today Minnesota is a leader in the production of sugar beets, turkeys, soybeans, pork, ethanol, sweet corn, peas, and corn.So central is agriculture to the state's economy that it has given rise to many related industries. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Minnesota was the flour milling capital of the world, due largely to local advancements in milling technology. Since then the state has remained in the forefront of the food processing and food science industries. Home to such corporate giants as General Mills, Pillsbury, Cargill, and Hormel, Minnesota is not just an agricultural state but an agribusiness center.
Agriculture has paid a role in shaping the state's cultural and political life as well. No Minnesota summer would be complete without a visit to a county fair or the Minnesota
State Fair, one of the largest in the country. Two leading farm organizations, the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry (the Grange) and the cooperative movement (Coop), were formed here. Agriculture even spawned Minnesota's unique brand of Democratic party, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.
In recent decades Minnesota's agricultural landscape has changed. Now dotting the countryside are large, consolidated farms where crops and animals can be raised more cost effectively. What once was the backbone of the state's farm economy - the small family farm - is gradually becoming less common.