Lake States Region

Peoples Company

The Lake States region primarily includes Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The region shares some features with the Pacific Northwest in that there are numerous microclimates influenced by bodies of water and incredible diversity in the agricultural industries supported. Michigan has the most varied production in the region, with areas of row crop production as well as large regions driven by apples, stone fruit, berry/cherry production, and a growing wine grape region. Wisconsin has an agricultural history driven by dairy production and crops used to support livestock, but the concentration and emergence of large-scale dairies in the West and Southeast have led to consolidation of the dairy industry in the Lake States as well. The lower tier of counties in Minnesota are nearly indistinguishable from neighboring areas in Northern Iowa with high-quality soils primarily used for corn and soybean production.

Michigan produces more than 300 different types of food and agricultural products across more than 9 million acres of farmland in 44,000 farming operations. Michigan is known for its apples (third in the U.S. in production at over 1 billion pounds per year) and Montmorency tart cherries (first) and sweet cherries (fourth). The state is the sixth largest producer of milk, ranks second in the nation for the production of all dry beans, and is the leading U.S. producer of potatoes for potato chip processing according to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The blueberry industry has faced challenges from other parts of the country and from varietal obsolescence over the past few years, but conversion to other crops is relatively easy and alternatives exist within the ongoing equilibrium-seeking ag markets. Institutional investors were very active in Michigan historically, but few large-scale acquisitions or dispositions occurred in the past year. In many ways, Michigan has the greatest opportunity to continue to define its agriculture with the greatest optionality of the states in the Lake region.

Minnesota also has around 67,000 farms operating on over 25 million acres with the leading crops being corn and soybeans – primarily in the lower portions of the state. Sugar beets, wheat, and pulses (beans, lentils, and peas) are grown in the Northwest in the Red River Valley. Minnesota also has a mixture of dairy, beef cattle, and poultry production as well.

Wisconsin (known as America’s Dairyland) is home to nearly 1.3 million cows and over 6,300 dairy farms producing over $5.8 billion of dairy products per year ranking it second in the U.S. behind California. Wisconsin cheesemakers produce 25% of the nation’s cheese – over 3.4 billion pounds annually. The entire ag sector in Wisconsin adds $105 billion annually to its economy with dairy contributing over $45 billion, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Wisconsin ranks first in the nation for snap beans for processing, cranberries, ginseng, dry whey for humans, milk goats, and corn for silage, and the state is one of the top producers of processing vegetables.

Returns to farmland in the Lake States have been very strong recently with the most recent 3-year gross average of 14.2% per year, or an estimated 13.6% after property taxes and maintenance expenses.

Appreciation has been especially strong by historic standards, with income remaining steady but at slightly lower levels than in historic periods. As a result, investments in the Lake States appear very attractive over the long term, but like much of the remainder of the U.S., sales volumes have substantially decreased, and sellers appear more cautious about market timing. As noted, values have also held very well, but some concern is beginning to emerge about longer-term market prices for major outputs.

The Lake States farmland performance has benefitted from steady production of basic commodities and fruits and vegetables, and a natural symbiosis with the livestock industries in the region. While row crop yields and prices are both lower than in the corn belt, the financial performance has been similar with recent years slightly outpacing the Corn Belt. The balance in the market between steady prices and low volumes of land traded is likely to continue for some time as the region continues to produce low-risk crops while having options for conversion that are more valuable and flexible than most other regions.


Regional Offices

Peoples Company - Marlette

Lake States

6446 Morris Street
PO Box 125
Marlette, MI 48453


Regional Listings


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Richland County, WI

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Regional Team