Knowing Your Roots

Archive for December, 2012

More Than Just Cheese Heads

Wisconsin – America’s Dairyland.  Whether it is the cheese heads our fans wear to cheer on the Green Bay Packers, our notoriety for award-winning cheeses, or the 1.2 million dairy cows that dot our landscape, Wisconsin is most often referred to as a dairy state.  It’s even on our license plates! However, what many don’t realize is the diversity of agricultural products grown or produced within our state’s borders.  And, it is this diversity that makes agriculture Wisconsin’s leading industry.

Cranberries

America’s Dairyland leads the nation in cranberry production

Yes, Wisconsin leads the nation in the production of cheese and dry whey (a by-product of cheese production). But, did you know that Wisconsin ranks first in six other products as well?  America’s Dairyland leads the nation in cranberries, cabbage for sauerkraut, snap beans, dairy goats, mink pelts and corn for silage – that’s what we feed those dairy cows.

 What is even more impressive is the diversity of food produced here and the number of agricultural products where Wisconsin ranks in the top five for national production.  We all know that carrots help you see in the dark, but did you know that Wisconsin is the nation’s second largest producer of them?  That is not the only vegetable Wisconsin produces.  Our state ranks third in the production of green beans and sweet corn for processing (aka canning), as well as American’s favorite vegetable – potatoes!
Potatoes heading to market

Wisconsin is the largest producer of potatoes east of the Mississippi

Let’s take potatoes as an example.  Most Wisconsinites don’t realize that we are the largest producer of potatoes east of the Mississippi, and rank only behind Idaho and Washington State for overall production.  Not only does Wisconsin produce a variety of different crops, but also we produce multiple types and varieties of each crop.  When it comes to potatoes, we grow Yellow Flesh, Round Red, Round White, Blue, Purple, and Russet.
Besides vegetables, don’t forget about the delicious maple syrup, cherries, honey, and strawberries that come from Wisconsin.  So, the next time you go to the grocery store, look in your cart and think about all the foods that come from Wisconsin.  And, when you go to brush your teeth tonight, the mint in your toothpaste might have originally called Wisconsin its home.

Wisconsin Farms: An Important Employer

Did you know that Wisconsin farms provide jobs for almost 354,000 people? Did you know that those farms also produce more than $59 billion for the Badger State?

While it may seem as if you’re not seeing as many farms as you once used to while driving across Wisconsin’s beautiful landscapes, keep in mind that nowadays, some farms have more acreage than they once used to. Years ago, farms were considered large if they had hundreds of acres. But today, many farms have thousands of acres, and some even tens of thousands.

Wisconsin Agriculture

(Courtesy: Pierce Co. Herald)

So what does that growth mean for today’s agricultural industry? First of all, it means a greater responsibility for the farmers that work that acreage to meet consumer demands. Second of all, it means more available jobs and the need for new hires to fill them. For instance, some positions that farms are adding are workers to help run the harvesting and planting equipment. They’re also hiring scientists to do product research right on the farm, which helps ensure product quality. And let’s not forget all the people needed for their expertise inside the office! With more acreage comes the need for more employees to answer the phones, manage financial accounts and oversee other employees as managers.

And if we take it one step further, some of these farms may even choose to add a washing or packaging facility with their increased acreage. If and when that happens, there are additional employee opportunities.

And the bottom line is that all this is great for the local and national economy!

So the next time you see a Wisconsin farm, consider all the changes that farm may have experienced the past few decades, and how those farmers are working as hard as ever to put food on your table!

What Makes Wisconsin Great

Even before joining the Union, agriculture was the life-blood of the territory that became the great state of Wisconsin.

We were “America’s breadbasket”, growing one-sixth of the country’s wheat in the early 1800’s, and grew larger by becoming the dairy state we know today; Wisconsin and its farmers have been putting food on our tables and supporting our communities for nearly two hundred years.

Oneida Co. Farm

Wisconsin Vegetable Grower in his farm’s greenhouse

But recently farmers in Wisconsin, and across the nation, have started to come under fire. Many have been quick to criticize farmers on everything from the use of water to irrigate their crops, to the fertilizers they use, to what a “Wisconsin Farm” is “supposed” to look like.

pototo rows

Many have been quick to criticize farmers on everything from the use of water to irrigate their crops, to the fertilizers they use, to what a “Wisconsin Farm” is “supposed” to look like.

In reality, these issues aren’t as black & white as some people tend to believe. The factors involved in groundwater and its use are complex. The need for fertilizers is proven fact to help with crop development and family farms, despite their size, remain family farms. Often those criticizing farmers don’t completely understand the complexity of the issues at hand, the innovative ways in which farmers deal with these issues every day, or the greater effect irrigation agriculture has on the state itself.

Potato Plant

We hold the future in our hands

This blog will not only look at how farming in Wisconsin affects the state’s water and environment, but also how farming impacts consumers and the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin residents employed in agriculture. We welcome your feedback and discussion!

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