I gotta give a shout out to my home state. Yes, I am a proud cheesehead. I love brats, beer, squeaky Culver’s cheese curds, and the Green Bay Packers, and I am proud to be raised as a 4-H kid in America’s Dairyland.
Dairy — the cheesy deliciousness we love so much. Did you know that Wisconsin produces over 30 billion pounds of milk per year — making it a more than $5 billion business, according to the National Agriculture Statistics Service of the USDA. They’re second in the nation for dairy production behind California. There are nearly 69,000 dairy farms in Wisconsin, and the average farm is over 200 acres.
Despite the fact that dairy is so prominent, you may be surprised to realize that they’re also known for cranberry farming! Wisconsin leads the way in production, with three-fifths of the nation’s cranberry supply. About 95 percent of them are processed into juices, while 5 percent are sold as the berries themselves. The Wisconsin cranberry industry is responsible for over 4,000 jobs, and Americans eat about 340 million cranberries a year. I learned these statistics while touring a farm run by FFA students in Pittsville, Wisconsin, which currently holds the only high school cranberry science program in the nation.
Wisconsin is also third in the nation for potato production, which is the No. 1 vegetable grown in the US. where 60 percent of them go into making french fries, chips, dehydrated potatoes, or other processed potato products. Wisconsin potato production adds nearly $323 million to their economy while covering 65,000 acres.
Wisconsin also covers important crops like wheat, corn, soybeans, oats, hay, and several fruits and veggies. Americans consume more chicken than any other country in the world, and last year Wisconsin had 54 million broilers (aka meat chickens) and was one of the top states for dairy calves and beef cattle, with 3.5 million head consistently.
Another agricultural commodity is eggs. Although they don’t produce nearly as many eggs as some Midwest states, it’s worth noting that Wisconsin’s 1.6 billion eggs laid in 2016 had a production value of more than $78 million. We love our bacon and eggs for breakfast! (Side of whole wheat toast, please, since wheat covered 270,000 acres in 2016.). Here are some other fun facts:
Overall the state is home to nearly 70,000 farms, 304 farmers markets, and has an economic impact of $11.7 billion dollars per year.
When I was a kid I have memories of driving through the countryside with my dad, pointing at things and always curiously asking questions of what I was looking at. And of course, was always an animal loving 4-H kid! The smell of the dairy farms brings back memories, but there is so much more to see! The next time you find yourself in my native state, keep your eyes peeled! You may just may find some amazing diversity out there.
For more information or to find a farmer’s market near you or arrange a tour, check out www.wiagriculture.com. And special thanks to some of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau members, high school ag faculty, and FFA students for the inspiration, reminding me of my Wisconsin “roots” and agricultural nostalgia of my youth.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.