While many business sectors have moved operations to population centers, agriculture remains the rural glue and often the most vibrant economic driver across less populated areas of the U.S. The cranberry industry provides a prime example of this economic AND social value.
According to a recent report released by the University of California-Davis, the U.S. cranberry industry was responsible for $3.55 billion in economic activity and well over 11,000 jobs annually during the period from 2009 to 2012 (Alston, Medellin-Azuara and Saitone. 2014. Economic Impact of the North American Cranberry Industry). In Wisconsin alone, cranberry production, processing and handling contributed $936 million in annual impact and was responsible for nearly 4,000 jobs.
Rural economic drivers are important of course, but agriculture’s contribution to rural communities goes well beyond that. In a recent sustainability assessment that we conducted in collaboration with the cranberry industry, we found that 28% of Wisconsin growers serve as local community leaders, such as on school boards, local government committees and conservation commissions. This leadership, along with financial commitments, puts agriculture at the heart of rural America.