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Agriculture. Historical patterns of cultivation in Wisconsin Connection between agriculture and transportation Connection between milk districts and population centers. Background. Cultivation of crops for at least the past 2,000 years.

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Historical patterns of cultivation in Wisconsin

Connection between agriculture and transportation

Connection between milk districts and population centers

  • Cultivation of crops for at least the past 2,000 years.
    • Tribal peoples: grew corn, squash, and beans and harvested maple sugar and wild rice.
    • European settlers (1840s) – many were full-time farmers
      • Transformed prairies and forests into agricultural farmland
      • Raised grain crops to feed people and livestock
      • 1860s wheat became southern WI primary cash crop
      • In the 1880s, wheat growing began to move to the more expansive prairies of the Great Plains.
  • As wheat declined, dairy agriculture rose dramatically.
    • Depended on farmer’s ability to store grain for cow feed over the long winter
      • Silo – 1890s
    • Dairy cows ate feed crops (corn, oats, and hay) stored in silos to make silage (green grains fermented in an enclosed space).
  • Wisconsin became the leading state in milk, butter, and cheese production (unchallenged until recently)
dairy continued
Dairy continued
  • Butter became a major homemade product in western WI, but initially its quality was so low that it was often used as “western grease” to lubricate wagon wheels.
  • Cheese was more difficult to manufacture in the home, and milk often spoiled on long trips over poor roads to the cheese factory.
    • 1910s, roads began to improve, making it easier to transport milk within WI.
    • Refrigerated railroad cars made it easier to transport dairy products outside the state.
  • 1930s (WI recognized as the national dairy center)
    • Fluid milk production was concentrated closer to the cities that consumed the bottled milk
      • More financially lucrative than cheese, with a shorter distance to travel to urban markets.
cheese culture
Cheese Culture
  • Diary agriculture reveals much about the origins of WI settlers.
    • Different breads of dairy cows originate from different countries
      • Holsteins from the Netherlands, Brown Swiss from Switzerland, and Jerseys from the British Isles.
    • Different types of cheese also came from different places
      • Swiss cheese, English cheddar cheese, and Colby cheese (invented in the Wisconsin village of Colby).
  • Fond du Lac County had the nation’s first cheese factory in 1864.
america s dairyland
“America’s Dairyland”
  • Wisconsin’s position is threatened by the rise of large-scale dairy farm operations, particularly in California.
    • 1996 – CA overtook WI in fluid milk production
      • But our state remains the leader in cheese production.
cash crops
Cash Crops
  • Farmers planted a variety of cash crops as agriculture developed in different eras and areas of Wisconsin.
    • Many spread elsewhere where they continued to be grown commercially, while some other crops declined.
  • Historic Wisconsin Crops Timeline
    • Which 7 crops that were grown commercially but declined?
    • Hops and barley were produced for the brewing industry but later declined in production.
growing seasons
Growing Seasons
  • Wisconsin has a wide range of growing seasons (number of days in which crops will grow in one year).
    • WI crops tend to grow better in areas with warmer temperatures and in areas near moisture of the Great Lakes.
      • Orchard Crops (cherries) – best near the Great Lakes – Door County?
  • Colored Map – Crops Grown for Market
    • More cash crops were first grown in southern and eastern WI
    • Rather than in cooler more forested northern WI or drier western WI
canning industry
Canning Industry
  • Wisconsin is among the top-ranked states in raising vegetables for canning.
    • Canneries (factories where produce is canned) process locally grown crops, turning them into familiar foods.
      • Pickles from cucumbers, sauerkraut from cabbage.
      • They also process crops from outside the state and are major employers in some rural communities.
    • Some of Wisconsin’s migrant (seasonally present) farm workers found work in canneries and settled permanently in the state.
  • Besides processing vegetable crops, canneries are also important to some fruit crops.
    • WI is one of the leading cranberry-producing states (raised in watery bogs). Colored map