At the time of its early settlement, about two-thirds of the survey area was forested and one-third was native prairie. Today (1994), about 20 percent of the county is forested and 80 percent is used as cropland or pastureland.
In the early years, wheat was the dominant crop grown. At several times throughout Otter Tail County’s farming history, the grasshopper infestations were so terrible that bounties on grasshoppers were enacted. The production of corn and other crops did not begin until about 1905. The Food Security Act of 1985 included the Conservation Reserve Program. This program involved taking selected cropland acres out of commodity crop production for 10 years and planting those areas to trees or other vegetative cover for the purpose of controlling erosion. From October 1985 to the present, Otter Tail County has had approximately 80,000 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program. Former cropland could be brought back into crop production starting in October 1995, as the Conservation Reserve Program contracts started to expire.
Otter Tail County holds an impressive agricultural standing in Minnesota. In 1994, the county ranked first in production of hay, oats, and dry edible beans and ranked second in stock sheep and lambs, milk cows and milk production, cattle and calves, and total livestock in the State of Minnesota. Harvest time in Trondhjem Township - 2002It ranked third in overall cash receipts. In 1994, there were about 2,950 farms in Otter Tail County and the average farm size was about 335 acres. Approximately 550,000 acres in the county is used for the production of crops.
During the 1994 growing season, 148,100 acres was planted to corn for grain; 37,700 acres was used for corn silage; 130,600 acres was used for hay, of which 107,300 acres was alfalfa hay; 45,100 acres was used for oats; 62,500 acres was used for spring wheat; 72,700 acres was used for soybeans; 20,100 acres was used for barley; 14,900 acres was used for dry edible beans; 11,500 acres was used for sunflowers; and 2,600 acres was used for sugar beets. Minor acreages of other crops included potatoes, buckwheat, and rye (USDA and others, 1995).