We looked for states with existing farm communities to indicate viability, good infrastructure, and a suitable climate. We also compared the states based on overhead and ROI potential.
How did the states fare? See the top five and bottom five performers below, followed by some highlights and lowlights from our report.
2021’s Best States to Start a Farm or Ranch
2021’s Worst States to Start a Farm or Ranch
Highlights and Lowlights:
Montana: Ahead of the Herd: The Big Sky State earns the top spot in our ranking of 2021’s Best States to Start a Farm or Ranch. With agriculture its biggest industry, Montana’s victory comes as little surprise.
The state placed in the top 10 in five out of seven categories and No. 15 in ROI Potential. Montana trails only Wyoming in farm size, averaging a whopping 2,156 acres, and the average cost of an acre in the Treasure State is lowest in the U.S.
If you want the best of both worlds, Montana hits the sweet spot.
Great Plains: Great for Agriculture: Nine of our top 10 states are in the Great Plains, including several in the Corn Belt. Those regional names alone give away these states’ suitable farming qualities.
Coming in at No. 2 is Kansas, while Texas clocks in at No. 4, Oklahoma at No. 5, and Iowa in seventh place. Both Dakotas made it, too, at Nos. 3 and 6. Colorado (No. 9) and Wyoming (No. 10) round out the Plains states at the top.
But how specifically did this broad, sweeping landscape dominate the top of our ranking? Most of these states, such as Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, boast cheap land, large established farming communities for support, and highly developed infrastructure.
Move to the Great Plains, and you’ll be chasing cattle in no time.
The Last Frontier: Last in Farming: Alaska not only ranked at the very bottom of our ranking of top agricultural states, but it also finished last in two out of seven categories, Viability and Climate; third to last in Personnel; and in the worst 10 of Infrastructure and ROI Potential.
These results are hardly a shock. Although Alaska is the biggest state by land area, less than a quarter of a percent of the state’s 365 million acres is available for farming. Much of this can be attributed to the state’s generally unsuitable farming climate, brief growing season, and infertile soils.
In other words, you won’t grow many crops here — but you can grow some of the world’s biggest. Because of Alaska’s long daylight hours during summer, some vegetables grow to monstrous sizes: a 19-pound carrot, 76-pound rutabaga, and 172-pound cabbage.