WPT University Place – Wisconsin Agriculture: A History


– And welcome to
both the festival and to the Wisconsin
Historical Society, and to a program that I think
you’re going to enjoy a lot. My name is Ellsworth Brown. I’m the director, the Ruth
and Hartley Barker Director of the Wisconsin
Historical Society, and I’m pleased to
welcome all of you here, a special guest in the
front row especially, but we’re glad
that you all came, and I’m looking
forward to the program as I’m sure you are, too. Thank you for coming. I wanted to just mention
that although I’m not going to
introduce Jerry Apps, someone else has
that wonderful duty, I’ve done it before myself
on a number of occasions, I do want to say that
this man, Dr. Apps, is a treasured asset for those
who care about rural history, agricultural history, and the sentiments that go
along with those as well. He has worked with us
on 11 of his 40 books, and the first time I saw
Jerry, that 40-book number, I was astonished at it. So are you, right?
– [Jerry] Yes. – [Ellsworth] (laughs) But, in fact, the
last several include the “Wisconsin Agriculture:
A History” which we are here
to learn about more today, “The Quiet Season:
Remembering Country Winters”, “Whispers and Shadows:
A Naturalist Memoir”, and “Old Farm: A History”,
just to mention four. And some of these, and I’m
sure some in the future, are coordinated as well with
Wisconsin Public Television, and you may have seen some
of those programs, too. I should tell you,
though, as I contemplate the titles of his
books and Dr. Apps’ own academic background
and then consider the resume of Secretary Brancel, who I’m going to introduce
momentarily to you, I realize I’m
absolutely in all ways the wrong person to be up here. Maybe only because
of the prompts from knowing that I would be, I’m still struggling with
the definition between Holstein and
Hereford and heifer. (audience laughing) You really ought to do something about starting
them all with an H. That would be the first
thing you could do to reform this profession, I think,
for people like me. And I have one thing to tell
you, apart from introductions, and that is that afterward,
after the program, take your entry ticket, maybe it’s a little
bookmark or something, I don’t think they’re
going to be very fussy about the ticket in fact,
to the lobby right outside after this event and trade it in for a free scoop of
Babcock ice cream courtesy of the University
of Wisconsin College of Agriculture and
Ice Cream Sciences. (audience laughing) (audience applauding) Thank you for that. I think that’s the
right title, isn’t it? Yeah. (laughs) I especially want to
welcome to our podium today for first remarks the
Secretary of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. I’m assured that they have
inspected the ice cream that’s waiting for us,
and it’ll be just fine. His name is Ben Brancel. Secretary Brancel
will share, in part, how the history of agriculture is important to the
future of agriculture. He’s a UW-Platteville
graduate and has spent years serving the state and the
state’s agricultural industries. He was a Wisconsin State
Assemblyman from 1987 to 1997, was assembly speaker,
in fact, in 1997. He helped craft Wisconsin’s
Right to Farm Law
, foundedWisconsin’s
Discovery Farms
andPioneer Farmsprojects, and led the effort to revitalize the Wisconsin Veterinary
Diagnostic Laboratory by housing it in the
University of Wisconsin System. He served as state
director of the United States Department
of Farm Services Agency and also served as the
state relations liaison for Wisconsin UW-Madison’s
College of Agriculture and, oh, I have it
here, Life Sciences, where he helped support the Wisconsin Agricultural
Research Stations. He was born and raised
in Marquette County. Secretary Brancel managed a
dairy operation for 22 years and now raises cattle on
his family’s 290-acre farm. His son and daughter-in-law
actually run the farm, and this is interesting
to me, sixth generation, consecutively, farming
that particular land. I think that’s a
remarkable thing, and it’s probably not
so uncommon in Wisconsin as it might be in
some other states. But it’s still remarkable. And this gives him not only
the professional experiences in making laws and
policies and programs that are directing
agricultural future, but also tying him and his
family deeply to the roots of Wisconsin’ agriculture
from which that future rose. So, without further ado, Mr.
Secretary, for you, the podium. (audience applauding) – Thank you. Thank you. (audience applauding) Thank you. What a great day. Only 40, Jerry? Now, I was informed
earlier today that there is a lot of material. I don’t know how many of
you personally know Jerry, but he is a
voracious researcher, and he researches his
topics extensively before he pens those to paper. And I’m told he has
another five volumes to come with material he has
not placed in this book yet. So, wait for the whole story. But we are here today to
celebrate this particular book. And I was approached by
a gentleman in my agency before I came over, and he said, “I hear you’re going
over to the university, “the Historical
Society. Check 172.” And I said, “172?” “Yes, page 172.
That’s my family.” (audience laughing) So people are already
identifying themselves within the material
you have presented. What is important
about that material? History is the fabric from which each one of us are here today. You have history of family. You have history
of neighborhood. You have history of
your actual involvement in whatever walk
of life you are in. But as it deals with this book, it talks about the
history of agriculture, which is actually the
production of food, and we all know food
is fairly important. There are a lot of different
parts of life that impact us, but I can tell you after
extensive research, we have determined at
the Department of Ag that food is pretty instrumental because four out
of four people eat. (audience laughing) And without
understanding history, you don’t really have a great
grasp of where you’re at and why you’re in
the place you’re in and what made you who you are. And Jerry has a unique
way of writing a story and presenting it that
brings it to life, that gives it the “I know,
I remember, I get it now.” And a lot of people
who write books do it for entertainment value. Jerry Apps has not missed
that entertainment value. But in that, he has woven in
an educational opportunity that all of you and
me can benefit by. So I don’t know if the oldest
statistics are in your book, but I had to look up a couple because I’m talking
about history. So this may have been
in your lifetime, Jerry. 1920, the value
of an acre of land at that point in
time was $81.42. It’s got to be
accurate if it’s cents. Today, not quite a hundred
years later, $4,000. The value of a bushel of corn, and I will tell you
today corn is king. Whether you like it or not, corn establishes the value
of almost every commodity in the United States,
which establishes the value of almost every commodity
within the world. And other parts of
agriculture have a huge, huge impact and a very
significant involvement in food. But corn is the
standard by which most everything
else is measured. And so if you measure it
in 1915, it was 74 cents. Today, in the year
2015, 100 years later, the established price
in August was $3.67. So I want you to think about
the value, the interest rate, the inflation rates,
and what was happening in all of our activities of
life, automobiles, homes, lands, roadways for building,
everything you can think of, and then you go back to
this commodity of corn and you have a value of 74
cents and it is now 367 cents. What that tells you
is in our history in the state of Wisconsin we have made food cheaper
and cheaper and cheaper for the public relative
the amount of money available to spend on food. And Jerry catches the
different commodities, the different histories,
the fads that came and went, what is going on today that
will be our future of tomorrow, and why we are what we are. Without speaking too long and stealing all
of Jerry’s remarks, all I can tell you is, Jerry, you have brought
history to life, you have made history a
relevant part in our thinking, our education, and
our need to know, and if every author
approached history and writing the way you do,
the kids in grade school, middle school, and high
school would clamor to get into the classroom
to learn who they are, what they are, and what
made them that way. Congratulations on this book. Jerry Apps. (audience applauding) – Thank you very
much, Mr. Secretary, and I appreciate you being
here and sharing this with us. It’s now my pleasure
to introduce Dean
Kathryn VandenBosch, the dean of the University
of Wisconsin Madison, and you’ve already
heard the title, College of Agricultural
and Life Sciences, speak on ties of the
University of Wisconsin Madison to Wisconsin’s
agricultural history. And she’ll offer a few
highlights about that. She is, as we think about the
remarks that we’ve just heard, we can realize that Dr. Apps
has detailed in the new book that we’re here to celebrate, the University of Wisconsin
students, the professors, and the alumni have
all contributed volumes to the history, success, and innovations
of agriculture in Wisconsin and beyond. In fact, I was in an old early
20th century dairy building, it hasn’t been changed, that
had a complete Babcock tester, the old fashioned one, still clamped to the
board in their shop area, ready to start up if
you needed it again. The other part of the
area did not house holsteins let’s say
but cars instead. Nonetheless, it was
interesting to see that that piece of
history is still intact. I’d like to welcome
the dean here. She is a person who
is heading a college where speaker Jerry Apps studied and once taught and is
now a professor emeritus. And prior to coming to the University of Wisconsin
Madison in 2012, she was a professor
of plant biology at the University of Minnesota
where Dean VandenBosch also served as interim dean
of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural
Resource Sciences. As a professor, her research
focused on the genetics of plant microbe interactions and nitrogen
fixation of legumes, a family of plants that
includes several agriculturally important species and
makes Holstein, Hereford, and heifer easy to remember. She holds MS and PhD
degrees in botany from the University of
Massachusetts Amherst and spent time at
both UW Madison and the John Innes
Institute in Great Britain as a postdoctoral associate. So please join me in
welcoming Dean VandenBosch. (audience applauding) – Well, thank you, Dr. Brown. I’m so pleased to be
able to be here today in this beautiful
and historic building at an event that is part of
both the Wisconsin Book Festival and the Wisconsin
Science Festival. This is the second year they’ve
been running concurrently, and, wonderfully, we have
a lot of crossover events. They’re a couple of my
favorite events this year because they each
foster our curiosity and provide an
educational platform for all of us in the community to explore concepts and
issues and our history. This afternoon’s program
provides a chance to explore a topic that’s near
and dear to my heart: the history of
Wisconsin agriculture. Last year, in 2014, we spent
all of the year celebrating 125 years of the College of
Agricultural and Life Sciences, and it’s wonderful to see so
much of that represented here. Chapter eight of
Jerry’s book, in fact, is called Educating Farmers,
and it includes many ways Wisconsin farmers
shared information amongst themselves in a
cooperative education model built on local agricultural
societies and fairs. And he also talks about the
influence of the farm press, many of whom are still in
circulation, still active today. And, of course, I was
particularly struck by the quote that Jerry included from
the university president John Bascom to the first
dean of the college, my predecessor, William A Henry. Bascom told him that he was to, one, give instruction in botany, which I think is a good
idea, being a botanist; two, to superintend farm
experiments and improvements; three, to attend, in
the winter months, local meetings of farmers; and, four, to build an
agricultural department, which later became the college. I’m really grateful for the
foundation that was laid by President Bascom and Dean Henry. The world has changed a lot
since 1880 when Henry was hired, but these duties
remain relevant today and remain part of what we do. My colleagues in the
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
here at UW Madison take our partnership
with the state and its farmers and its
citizens very seriously. We heard a little bit about Babcock’s buttermilk
fat test too. More recently, we’ve had many
breakthroughs in crop breeding and animal genetics
and nutrient management and many more areas. We still rely on farmers to
help us identify challenges for our research efforts and
to support on farm research. I guess we frequently
refer to what we do as an embodiment of
the Wisconsin Idea, but it’s also a really
good way to do science, and it often generates
some pretty good stories, as we’ll hear. I’m appreciative for Jerry
Apps as an emeritus professor from our college CALS
in writing this book and giving us all a chance to celebrate
Wisconsin agriculture. At this time, I’d
like to introduce my colleague John Shutske, who holds a joint appointment as the Associate Dean for
Extension and Outreach in the College of
Agricultural and Life Sciences and also as the leader of the Agricultural and
Natural Resource Program in UW’s Cooperative
Extension service. John. (audience applauding) – Good afternoon, everybody. I can assure you that
in about 90 seconds we will get Jerry up
here to the podium. As Kate said, I’m John Shutske. I’m with the College
of Ag and Life Sciences and also with
Cooperative Extension. I was asked several months ago, I was thrilled to be
able to introduce Jerry. More than a year ago, it was probably close
to two years ago, I had a chance to review the
manuscript, and Jerry’s book, Wisconsin Agriculture:
A History, I truly must say, Jerry,
it turned out beautifully. And it’s just an
amazing piece of work. I also want to recognize
in that process the Wisconsin
Historical Society Press because it is really
a piece of fine art. When I joined the college
and Extension back in 2008, two different people
sent me the book, I have a copy of it up
here, The People Came First: A History of Wisconsin
Cooperative Extension, which Jerry published in 2002. And this work, more than
any other work that I read as I prepared to come here, really helped prepare
me to come to Wisconsin from my work in Minnesota. So I truly do appreciate that. I was asked as
part of my remarks to just talk a little bit
about Cooperative Extension. Through jointly funded positions
at places like UW Madison, Platteville, River
Falls, and Stevens Point, we leveraged the resources
that come from faculty and other campus-based
experts to provide education, applied research, and
an array of support through our agents working
in our 72 county offices. This partnership provides
all Wisconsin communities access to our great
university system, and we also help to support our $88 billion
agricultural industry. Back to Jerry. I did give him a call, or we
emailed a couple of days ago. And there’s lots of stuff
about Jerry on the web. It’s pretty amazing. He’s got quite a biography. As an author and historian, Jerry understands
the role of managing and facilitating change
is really what Extension and the college works to do better than any
person who I know. Jerry was born and raised
near Wild Rose, Wisconsin, which is in Waushara
County, in 1934. When I talked with Jerry
to get a little bit more insider
information, he told me: “We had no electricity
in my house “until I was in eighth grade. “We milked 14 cows by hand. “We had no indoor plumbing, “and we heated our house
with two wood stoves.” He also told me: “I
attended a one-room “country school for eight years, “graduated from Wild Rose
High School in 1951.” And he received a one
semester paid scholarship to attend UW Madison
where he enrolled in the College of Agriculture. He was very precise about this. He said, “The
scholarship that covered “my tuition was for $63.50.” (laughing) Jerry went on to have a long
and highly productive career with the University
of Wisconsin. He is a professor emeritus,
as we mentioned earlier. He is an author of
more than 40 books, many of which cover
history and rural living. In 2010, Jerry received the
Distinguished Services Award from the College of
Ag and Life Sciences. He has also been named a fellow by the Wisconsin
Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters in 2012. And, to further
demonstrate his commitment to Cooperative Extension
and our state’s culture and tradition, he was also named to the Wisconsin 4-H Hall
of Fame back in 2014. I must say, in conclusion
before I welcome Jerry up, Jerry up to the podium, Jerry understands more than
any person in the world the forces that shaped
Wisconsin agriculture over many millennia, and
he’s helped the industry that we all serve
to become one today that enhances our
economy, our families, our culture, and
our communities. Jerry, you truly are a
treasure to our great state, and we are thrilled to have
you here to speak today. Please help me
welcome to the podium Dr. and Professor Jerry Apps. (audience applauding) – Thank you so very much
for those kind words. It’s beginning to
sound like a funeral. (Jerry and audience laughing) But I’m more than pleased
to see so many of you here and more than pleased
to share a few thoughts from this book on the history
of Wisconsin agriculture. As Ben Brancel
suggested, I really, when I began working
on this project, I really discovered that it
would probably take 10 volumes to write the history of
Wisconsin agriculture. And I also, though, was
encouraged that in 1922 a one-volume
history was written, and that person at that
time indicated that there are more
pages to be written, and I would say the
same thing today. There are more
pages to be written about Wisconsin’s
agricultural history. So, I’m going to share a
few of the illustrations that are in the book and a
few thoughts along the way. Now, don’t run for the
door when I tell you to understand
Wisconsin agriculture, we’ve got to start
with glacial history. And that sounds like
a stretch perhaps, but it is vitally important
because 20,000 years ago the last great glacier came
roaring down into Wisconsin from Hudson’s Bay up in Canada, and it created the
soils that we have, the rivers that we know,
the lakes that are here, and in central Wisconsin
where I grew up, right on the terminal moraine, which is where the
glacier stopped, this is my home
country right there. And I didn’t know
it at the time, but one of the gifts that that
glacier left for all of us in the glaciated areas
of the state were stones. Big stones, little stones, round
stones, all size of stones. Did any of you in this
audience have that wonderful opportunity
to pick stones? More people than I ever thought. And how many of you really
enjoyed picking stones? (audience laughing) And how many of you left the
farm because of the stones? (audience laughing) That’s one of the reasons. I still have a farm a
couple of miles just south, still on the terminal moraine, and I take people on tour
there every so often. I have 60 acres of woods that
was never ever cultivated. And in that 60 acres
of woods I have stones, huge stones, some as
large as Volkswagens, that have sat there
for 10,000 years because that’s when the
last glacier receded. And when that glacier
receded, it left, well, it left behind
not only stones but the rivers and the
lakes, and it also created, you’ll notice Waushara
County listed there, my home county,
just to the west, that kind of a bluish area,
that was Glacial Lake Wisconsin, a huge body of water that was
there when the glacier melted. And that now is one of our major vegetable producing
areas in the state. And when I was a kid
growing up on a farm just a little bit east of that
old Glacial Lake Wisconsin, people said that you
could buy that land for about 10 bucks an acre, and if you bought 40 acres
they made you take 40 more. And, interestingly today, that’s some of the most
valuable land that we have. This thing is
jumping ahead on me. I must be pushing
the wrong button. Electronics and technology are something I’m
trying to get used to. Once the glacier began receding, we saw an influx of
Native Americans. And so I have a
whole history in here of Native American agriculture. Our first farmers really
were the Native Americans. And we think of them as
hunters and gatherers, and that’s true, but
they also grew crops and they settled in one place. And so for several
thousand years, we kind find all
kinds of evidence of the kinds of
agriculture that the Native Americans carried out. It was in 1634 that Nicolet
landed just north of Green Bay. The first white
person, so to speak, to set foot in what
became Wisconsin, and there we saw the beginning of the fur trading
industry in the state. And that went on for, well,
probably a couple hundred years, and there wasn’t a
whole lot of farming. These French traders, they weren’t that much
interested in farming. They were interested in the
furs and selling them in Europe. And then we saw the
development of Prairie du Chien and Green Bay, Green Bay
the oldest city in the state and Prairie du Chien
the second oldest, and a fascinating
thing that one learns from these fur traders
is that the Fox River and the Wisconsin
River with the portage, where now the city
of Portage is, that became the super
highway of the day. And so that saw the development
of these two cities. By the 1820s, the
lead miners began coming into southwestern
Wisconsin, Platteville and Dodgeville and Mineral
Point and those places. And here we see a picture
of some lead miners who’d come up the Mississippi
River in the 1820s. Many of them, once the
mines, the lead mines, died, they continued to farm, and
we can find all kinds of relatives of the
early lead miners in southwestern Wisconsin. I find this map
absolutely fascinating because the Native Americans had a whole different
idea of land use. Their idea was not to own it, but that it belonged
to everyone. And, of course, when
the US government began negotiating treaties
with the Indians, immediately the land
was surveyed so that
it could be sold. A buck and a quarter an acre. And this is the map of
the Wisconsin territory. We became a territory in 1836. In 1838, and notice still
that the Fox-Wisconsin River still defines pretty
much what was Wisconsin. That southeastern part
was surveyed by 1838, and that’s where the
early settlements were. And one of the things
that Wisconsin, because we’re a little
bit of the beaten track, we’re a little bit north and
we’re not on the main drag, so to speak, from east to west, Wisconsin put
together what’s called the Immigrant’s
Handbook in 1851. And the idea of the
Immigrant’s Handbook was to bring into
Wisconsin settlers, and it was very effective. But prior, and this is an
important point in our history, prior to the immigrants
coming in large numbers, we saw Yankees, folks
from New England and primarily from upstate New
York, coming into Wisconsin. And these people, most
of them were farmers, had been dairy
farmers in New York, and they came here not to
raise cows but to grow wheat. And that’s a very
important point to keep in mind as I go along. So, we’ve got the
New Yorkers here, and now the immigrants,
Germans first, then Norwegians, and by 1900 the Irish,
they were third, and after 1900 the Poles. I always check. How many of you in the audience
are of German background? And how many of
Norwegian background? And how many of
Irish background? And how many don’t want me
to know what your background? (audience laughing) Well, by the 1890s, when
Wisconsin, southern Wisconsin, from a line about
from, oh, Green Bay somewhere between Eau Claire
and La Crosse today south, was wheat, the
north was logging. And by the 1890s, we had logging
camps all across the north. And how would you like to
worked in a camp like that? That’s a great picture. It looks like and
it was terrifically
hard, dangerous work. And they cut everything. And the north became known
as the great cutover. Later, much of it became
important in agriculture. And some of the early settlers, oh, they lived a difficult life. And notice here we have the
father with his team of oxen and the mother to do it a
little bit up close here. People think oxen are
just enormous beasts. These are the poorest
looking specimens of motive power you
could ever find. And notice there
must have been a sale on one kind of dress material. Because the whole family has
the same kind of a dress. But so people in those days, and it was true
when I was a kid, you were proud of your
horses and your cows. The horses always
got into the picture. They were as important
as the family. And notice the house. It’s just a poor old house. Well, now, how are we
handling all of this wheat that people were planting? It was sowed by hand. It was harvested by hand. That’s what’s going
on here with cradles, a scythe-like device. And the men did the
cutting and the women and the kids did the
binding of the bundles, forming the bundles. And it was hard work. And some farmers had as
much as 50 acres of wheat. It was sowed by hand, harvested
by hand, and threshed. And now a little aside, I’ve written a book on
the barns of Wisconsin, and one of our
earliest barn types was a three bay threshing barn, which meant it had
three sections. And it was a barn
designed to house and provide a place for
the threshing of wheat. Wheat was stored on
either end of that barn, and in the middle was
the threshing floor. And when I was still a kid, that’s what we called that
center part of our old barn, was the threshing floor. And one interesting
little aside, the wheat was threshed
by wailing on it with a flail or having an
old oxen walk across it, and there were big
doors on either side of that three bay
threshing barn. And the doors, when
they were opened, a breeze could blow through so that when the chaff
was tossed up into the air it was blown way. And in front of each door, across the bottom was
probably a two by six or a two by eight which was
called the threshold. And when you go home tonight
and open your front door and you cross the threshold, now you know where
that word came from. It came from those early
three bay threshing barns they were part of
our wheat history. But then this character
called Cyrus McCormick, a Virginia mechanic
and blacksmith, invented a way of cutting wheat that did not require a scythe. This was one of the most
ingenious inventions that could come along. And if you want to study
the history, which I have, the history of inventions, those early blacksmiths
were most creative people because now with horses
you could cut the grain with a sickle bar, which
was a whole new invention, and, of course, you still
had to form the bundles because it was not a binder. It was just a cutter. Well, now we’re
going to move forward to about right
after the Civil War. By the way, in 1860-1861, we were number two in
the production of wheat in the United States. A lot of people don’t know that. And you fly over
southern Wisconsin. and you see all those little
ponds, little mill ponds, and that’s because of our
wheat industry because we, farmers and businessmen,
found it more profitable to grind the wheat into flour rather than ship
to reap kernels. So there was a lot of
flour made in Wisconsin. And each one of those
little mill ponds provided water power for a mill. But then, by the 1870s,
wheat growing began to fail, and Wisconsin farmers were
looking all over the place. What are we going to do? This was a wonderful
money making activity. Farmers enjoyed it.
They knew how to do it. They now had the
equipment for doing it. And then disease came
in, insects came in, and, of course, if you
plant the same crop on the same field year after
year without fertilization, they didn’t know about that, then you’re going to
have reduced yields. So the yields went way down. They started doing other things. Hops. We had, by the 1870s, a tremendous beer
industry in this state. We still do. And beer requires,
besides good water and we had a lot of
that, hops and barley. And so we grew hops. Did we ever grow hops. We became the leading hop
growing state in the nation, and then that failed as well by the time we got towards
the, well, the late 1880s. And now we move
along to tobacco, another alternative
crop that was prominent in western and
southwestern Wisconsin. And potatoes. My gosh, in central Wisconsin
on the central sands where I grew up, potatoes
became a wonderfully important alternative
crop to wheat. And a quick personal story. When I was a kid back
in the ’30s and ’40s, I’m an old guy, we still
planted 20 acres of potatoes by hand with a hand
potato planter. We hoed them by hand. If there was nothing else to do, Pa said you can
hoe the potatoes. And we had 20 acres and we hoed and we hoed and we hoed. And when it was time to
harvest the potatoes, the one-room country
school that I attended had a two-week potato vacation. So all of the kids
could pick potatoes. And can you imagine in
that whole area around western Waushara County every little kid was
picking potatoes. And my dad paid, paid me,
most kids didn’t get paid, I got paid a penny a bushel, if you hustle right along you
could pick a hundred bushels which would mean
a dollar, and I, after several years of that, earned enough money to
buy my first .22 rifle. So, potatoes were
very important. They still are to that
part of the world. And I need to get back
and show you something that I’ll bet you didn’t know. That we were, by 1915-1917, the second most
important producer of industrial hemp
in this country. Kentucky was first. Hemp was, hemp gets a bad rap. Everybody thinks it’s marijuana. Well, it’s a relative
but you’d have to smoke a car load of it
to get what you’d get out of a glass of beer. Industrial hemp is
a wonderful crop. You can make rope from it. You can make clothing from it. It’s just a really good fiber. So we had a lot of it all
across southern Wisconsin. We grew a lot of hemp,
especially two wars, the First and Second World Wars. The Navy demanded a lot of rope, and hemp made wonderful rope. Also, by this time, of
course, we had grain binders, and the binders
required binding twine, and hemp made good
binding twine. We also now began to
see diversified farming. Isn’t this a wonderful
looking farm? There’s sheep and
there’s cattle and, well, I don’t know that you’d
like to work on that farm, but that’s an example
of diversified farming where there were several
different enterprises going on. I love this picture
because by the 1870s we are beginning to
see the transition from wheat growing
to dairy farming. And these wheat growing
farmers, these macho men, had nothing whatever, wanted nothing whatever
to do with cattle. Those stinking cows,
that’s women’s work. They should milk them,
they should feed them, they should make the
cheese in the kitchen and the butter in the kitchen, and that’s exactly
what was going on. And here, this woman
just does like her cow. They get along just
fine, apparently. The New Yorkers,
the New Yorkers now come back into the picture. And most of you know about
William Dempster Hoard. William Dempster Hoard
came from New York. He, along with Hiram Smith, there’s a building on the
campus named after Hiram Smith, Hoard came to his
neighbors and said, “Look, I know a way for
you to make a living in this state on the
farm, and it’s not wheat. “It’s dairy cows.”
“Yeah, right. Dairy cows. “Stinking dairy cows.” It took the better part of 30
years for Wisconsin farmers, men especially, to
work their minds around the idea that it
was appropriate for men to have something
to do with cattle. It was a gender issue. I think I’m probably
the first person, at least I haven’t seen
anybody else talk about it as a gender issue, but it
was that, in my judgment. It just took a while for men to get their minds
wrapped around it. Hoard said things like this: he traveled all over the state. He started Hoard’s Dairyman, a magazine which is
still in existence. He said something
like this, he said: “Queen cow is forever going “to take the place
of king wheat.” That was before king corn. (Jerry chuckles) And so now the men, they weren’t going to
deal with the kitchens. They began building
cheese factories. And so we have an influx
of cheese factories all around the state. Why cheese factories? Why not just sell the
milk straightaway? Our road system was so awful and it was a
considerable distance to Chicago and to Minneapolis
and to the fluid milk markets, so we made a lot of cheese. We still do. The vast majority of our
milk goes into cheese. But this is an early
cheese factory. And the early cheese factories were social centers
for the farmers. Each day they brought their
milk to the cheese factory with the team and the buggy, and they stand around and
talked with each other while they’re waiting
to unload their milk. And now we’ve got a
magnificent building going up on the University of Wisconsin
campus: the UW Dairy Barn, which was built in 1898, and somewhere here
I’ve got what it cost. It was one of those
interesting, well, here. It cost, in 1898, $16,000, Dean. $16,000 to build that building. And they sent an Ag
engineer to France, I don’t know why to France, to find a magnificent example of what a dairy barn should be. And he came back with this. No farmer in this state
has built a barn like this. You do not find
this barn anywhere. (audience laughing) But as an undergraduate, I
started school here in 1951, I had a lot of classes
in that building, and it’s a wonderful structure. And we saved it a few years ago. It was doomed to be torn
down for Campus Drive, and a bunch of us
stood up and said, “Hey, that’s a part of
this state’s history “that we must save.” And we did. I’m going to say some more
about that silo in a little bit. And so the University of
Wisconsin had a lot to do with the promotion and the
support of agriculture. The university first
opened in 1848. It began a land grant
institution in 1866. 1862 was the passage of
the land grant legislation. And this is a little
aside, and, well, I’m going to say it anyway. The University of Wisconsin
in 1848 and 1849 and 1850s, and in fact by even
the Civil War time, farmers did not see the
university as very important. They simply didn’t. And the university
had a tough time convincing the legislature that it should be
granted the land grant. And can you believe
that Ripon College was considered at one time
to receive the land grant? Wouldn’t that have
been interesting if the College of Ag
was at Ripon College? That’d be a little unusual. Well, it worked out in
the right direction, in my biased mind. And so in 1866 we became, the University of Wisconsin
had land grant status. First experimental
farm that same year. First professor of agriculture
was William Daniel, ’68, and the farmers
institute began in ’79. And I need to say a
word in underlying the notion of the
Wisconsin Idea. From the very early days,
the University of Wisconsin, including the College of Ag, saw one of its roles
as taking its knowledge to the far corners of the state. And people get confused
about the Wisconsin Idea, but it was, and still is,
an extremely important part of this great
university’s mission. The Wisconsin Idea,
meaning the knowledge, the new research, the
teaching is available not only on the campus
but all over the state, and today we would
say all over the world because this institution has
that kind of a reputation. And a little bit, just a
little bit of the importance of ag research in
the development of the agricultural history. Professor Russell,
pasteurization of milk, TB was on a rage and
milk could transmit TB along with a lot
of other diseases. Brucellosis was another disease that was transmitted
through milk. It’s manifested,
brucellosis is manifested in something called undulant
fever when people get it. And one of our neighbors had it. I know it very well. Pasteurization
took care of that. And now back to this silo. To me, the history of,
as crazy as it sounds, the history of silos and
the history of silage is a very important part of
Wisconsin’s agricultural history because silage, corn silage
in the early days allowed us to have an alternative
feed in the wintertime. And, as Hoard said to
all of his neighbors and the Germans and
all the rest of them, “If you’re going to dairy
cattle milk in the wintertime, “you’re going to
have to feed them.” And F.H. King, an
agricultural engineer, he came up with the idea
of our cylindrical silo. The early silos were
trench silos underground. And then somebody
got the bright idea of standing it on
end, they were square but there was a lot of
spoilage in the corners. And so they made an
eight-sided silo, and there was still
a lot of spoilage. Fermentation is how
silage develops. It’s an anaerobic process. Means there can’t be any air. Any air causes molds to form. And so here is one of the very
earliest cylindrical silos that Professor King came
up with in the 1890s. We had a tough
time in this state for farmers to accept
silage, corn silage. In fact, the Farm Journal
magazine had an editorial that said do not feed
silage to your cattle, their teeth will all fall out. (laughing) The cheese factories
will not buy your milk, and on and on and
how wrong they were. Silage, we’re the predominant silage making state
in the nation. And don’t forget this gentleman, after whom the ice cream
that you’re going to eat a little bit later is named. Stephen Babcock came up
with the milk tester. We see an example of it here. And some strange things happen. I have a book on the
history of cheesemaking where I go into
this in some depth. But prior to Babcock, all kinds of shenanigans
were going on. People, farmers would
water their milk. I mean, who’s going
to tell the difference if you add a few quarts
of milk to the water? One example, and, of course, a cheesemaker knew
the difference because it’d spoil the cheese, but in this particular
incident the cheesemaker was dumping this farmer’s
milk with his team of horses, had forded a little stream and he’d always watered
his horses there. Anyway, he arrived at
the cheese factory, dumped the milk into
a receiving tank, and a fish flopped out. (audience laughing) So, I’ll tell ya, Babcock
solved that problem because now with the
Babcock milk tester you were able to
separate the fat from the milk and measure it. I was an ag county agent
for a number of years, as John said, and in our office, when I was in Green Lake County, we had an old Babcock tester. The county agents used to do
a lot of the milk testing. But that milk tester, and
Babcock also did something. He gave that technology
to the world. That was kind of a
really interesting aside. And then alfalfa, as
goofy as that may sound, that was one of our major, major developments
on this campus. New varieties of alfalfa. Alfalfa that would
stand our harsh winters. And the first course I had
at this university in 1951 was a course on forages
with an emphasis on alfalfa. And the instructor
happened to be LF Graber. And Professor Graber said to me, “I want all of you students, “if there’s nothing else that
you take away from this class, “I want you to remember the
Latin name for alfalfa.” How many of you know the
Latin name for alfalfa? Ah-ha. What is it? – [Woman] Medicago sativa. – Medicago sativa. I’ve remembered
that to this day. And I know lots of
things like that. That’s about how
I know German, too. So I run around saying, “How many of you know
about Medicago sativa?” Like, who cares? But alfalfa was really,
really important, and we developed a lot
of it here on campus. Now, this is another story. You see that mouse? You see that mouse? (laughs) (audience laughing) Thanks to my son-in-law, he’s good at developing
these things. But Karl Paul Link, and I have
that whole story in my book, he, along with his graduate
students, developed Warfarin. And you know what
Warfarin stands for? Wisconsin Alumni
Research Foundation. And Karl Paul Link
came up with something that some place I read recently I think it’s the
second most important money maker for WARF today. It’s used now not only in
rat poison and mouse poison, but anybody with heart problems, Coumadin is a
derivative of Warfarin. So it’s a great story, and
there are a lot of others. See that guy coming
in right there? That was the first county
agent in Wisconsin. And what county do you think
the first county agent was in? Anybody have a guess? You should know
this, John. (laughs) Oneida County. Way up north. That cutover area. And there he is. E.L. Luther with his Model T, and he also had a motorcycle
that he tooled around. Well, the educational efforts
of the UW were several. The farm short
course actually began before the College of Ag in
1885, College of Ag in 1889, Extension service in 1908,
first county ag agent in 1912. Here was one of the very best
examples of the Wisconsin Idea when the Extension
service was organized. And I spent five years
as an Extension agent, so I know firsthand how it
worked and the importance of it. But it’s taking the
research information from the university
out to the people and not only sharing it
with them but showing them and helping them and
telling them stories about others who have
used it and so on. So, the UW had a lot to do. Well, what was early
dairy farming like? How would you have liked
to live on this dairy farm? Now, those, Ellsworth,
those are the cows that you ought to really
study, that group right there. She’s milking the cow
out in the barnyard. I mean, that milk
has got to have been really of high quality
coming out of that farm. And then we have,
oh my son-in-law had to have a barn raising
that actually rose. But we began now
seeing the development of these magnificent barns. Some 250,000 of these barns. I have a book just on
barns of Wisconsin. And OSHA would have been so
pleased to see this picture. Because this is the day
of the barn raising. Any of you attend
a barn raising? I did when I was a kid. And a barn raising was a wonderful social event
for the community. Not only was it a way for
the farmer to celebrate the putting together of all
of the pieces of his barn, but it also got
all the women came and they had lots to eat and it was one of
many social events. Agriculture and
rural communities had all kinds of
these social events, and the barn raising
was one of them. And we had a lot of round barns. Vernon County, Wisconsin,
Viroqua, Westby, that part of the
state for many years, and I think it’s still true, was the leading
county in the nation in the number of round barns. And I have a whole
story about round barns in the book that
you can read about. How many of you know, how many of you rake
cranberries by hand? Let’s check that. The first job I had
when I graduated from the University
of Wisconsin, it was the Korean War
and I was supposed to go to the Army and so
nobody would hire me and so I raked cranberries. And that’s exactly
how we did it. And the cranberry industry
started in this state in the 1860s in my home
county in Waushara, and then it moved over to
Wood County, Wisconsin Rapids, and then it’s over many, many
counties in the state now. We’re the premiere producer
of cranberries in the nation. Raking cranberries was the most
miserable job in the world. Let the truth be known. And the fellow at the
lead set the pace. We all worked in a conga line,
and we’d like to drown him. We’re working in water up
to our knees in October and early November raking
cranberries by hand. That’s how it’s done today. A whole lot easier. And then we are a major
producer of canning peas, and we have been for
a very long time. And it’s the canning
industry started in a kitchen in a hotel in Manitowoc, and I have that story
in the book as well. And we had truck farming. That doesn’t look
like much of a truck, but that’s what it
was in the early days when farmers in Racine
County, Kenosha County loaded up their
produce and took it to the grocery
stores in that area. And these are tomatoes
that they’re hauling. Now we come back to
the central sands, that area that I
mentioned before which was old Glacial
Lake Wisconsin. And with the Second World War and the development of aluminum, we also saw the
development of irrigation because now the irrigation
pipes could be lighter and the technology
of using irrigation became more widely known. The experiment
station up at Hancock did a lot of work
with irrigation. It still does. And so this is a very, it’s
also very controversial, by the way, getting
more so because water, I’ve just finished writing
a book about water, come out in a year or so, is going to be one
of our big issues. There’s no question about it. And here we have what? Where are our ginseng lovers? This is ginseng, and we’re
a major producer of ginseng. And we also are a major
producer of mink pelts, and fur farming is a part
of Wisconsin agriculture that many people are
not so much aware of. And cherry production
up in Door County. I had a chance to interview
and spend a half a day with a cherry grower
right at harvest time. And I can remember
when I was younger we used to pick
cherries by hand. Now there’s a big
machine that comes along, grabs hold of the tree, shakes
the bejeebers out of it, the cherries fall off, and
they roll into a water tank, and they go on to the next tree. And they don’t spend more
than 10-15 seconds at a tree. And I don’t know how
the trees like that, but it sure gets the
work done in a hurry. And would you believe
that one of the emerging agricultural pursuits
in this state happens to be grape
growing and winemaking. In a lot of the areas
that grew tobacco, especially over
in Vernon County, they are transitioning
from tobacco to grapes. And we have wineries everywhere as you travel around this state. And the university is doing
a lot of experimentation with grape growing
and especially grapes that can stand some
of our winters. A lot of problems with grapes
making it through the winter. And maple syrup is still a part of what we do and a
very important part. And I had to throw this in,
but this is my home farm. This is where I grew up. And I was born in
that room right there. (audience laughing) And I spent many hours right
in there milking these 14 cows. And that silo, I
was scared to death to crawl up to the
top of that silo. My brother was, he was
the one who did that. And there’s the
old chicken house and there’s the granary
and there’s the… the tractor shed and there
was another shed back here and there was the brooder house. And, anyway, that’s
the whole farm. In the 1930s, I’m
working on a book on the Civilian Conservation
Corps and their contributions, especially to soil conservation and the development of parks
and all that sort of thing. And they were
instrumental in working with the Soil
Conservation Service, which had just emerged as a
separate entity in the 1930s, and we saw strip cropping and terracing and all
of that sort of thing. Especially in the hill country
over in the driftless area where farmers have been
plowing up and down the hill and losing all kinds
of soil to erosion. So that became an
important part, and the university
had a lot to do with that during the ’30s. And then one of the
dumbest things in the world is that we got in such a row over oleo margarine
in this state. I mean, we were just
beside ourselves with oleo margarine and
how dreadful it was. And we had the oleo
wars they were called, and people were sneaking, the whole thing was that you
couldn’t buy colored oleo. You could buy white oleo, and you had to mix it
up with some coloring. Some of you will remember that. So what did people do? They snuck down into
Illinois and over into Iowa and Minnesota, and they
brought back illegal, illegal yellow oleo margarine. Colored oleo margarine. And that went on for a
long time, I don’t have this in the book because I can’t
really verify it, but it’s a wonderful story. I’m going to share it anyway. One of our elite
legislators claimed that he, in a blindfold test,
could tell the difference between oleo
margarine and butter. And so they blindfolded
him and they set him down in front of oleo and butter
and he tried each one. And he picked out oleo
as the best, as butter. He screwed it up. Come to find out,
as the story goes, he had heart problems and his
wife, without telling him… (audience laughing) Had switched oleo for butter. So it was an
embarrassing moment. (audience laughing) I have a couple of chapters that deal with
agriculture today, and with a little bit
of where we’re headed. And organic farming is becoming very important in this state. We have Organic Valley, which is one of the
largest cooperatives, organic cooperatives
in the country, operating out of La Farge. We have drones. You’ve seen them in
the news all the time. Drones are becoming more and
more important to agriculture because they could inspect
the fields without having to personally walk
to inspect the crops. And we have GMOs, the
genetically modified seeds, corn and soybeans in particular. And then the dairy industry,
obviously, has not stood still. It has changed and
changed dramatically. Remember that shot I shared of this guy milking his
cows out in the barnyard? Well, here’s a more modern day
dairy barn from the outside, and that’s how it
looks on the inside. And we have quite a few
of these in this state. One of our largest dairy
herds is in Rosendale, and they have 8,000 cows. Compare that to 14 that we
milked by hand when I was a kid. And we make now some 600
different kinds of cheese. The artisan cheese business
has just blossomed, and the UW ag school has
had a lot to do with that, developing new cheese varieties. We’re doing very well
with cheese in this state. And just a little bit of, you’ve got to watch these
cows come into place now. (audience laughing) This is what we
looked like last year. It’s changed some, a little bit. The number of dairy
farms last year: 10,800. I think we’re a little
less than 10,000 now. Number of dairy
cows: 1.27 million. Total milk production,
second to California. This is an editorial comment. California is about its fourth
year now of a severe drought, and my guess now is
in about a year or two we’re going to rest away
from them the milk production because it takes a lot of water
to have a large dairy herd, and they are lacking in water. The average number of
cows per farm is 117. The seven kind of goes
around the corner there. And total cheese production,
people don’t believe this: 2.8 billion pounds of cheese
come out of this state. That is a lot of cheese. And a quiz for you all. What’s the most
popular kind of cheese that’s made these days? Do I hear cheddar? If I hear cheddar, you’re wrong. (audience laughing) It’s mozzarella. The pizza industry has
had a fantastic influence on the cheese industry. And when I was,
again, when I was, well, right after the
Second World War when I was listening to the
soldiers coming back, especially those from Italy, and they were
proclaiming the virtues of this wonderful new
thing they were eating. It was called a pizza pie. And it had on it
tomatoes and cheese, and my mother said, “That’s no pie. Who would
eat that for a pie?” Well, look what’s happened
with the cheese industry. And where are we now in
our agriculture in 2015? Number one in cheese production, number one in corn for silage, number one in cranberries,
mink pelts, snap beans, carrots for processing,
and milk goats. We have a bunch of milk
goats in this state. And we’re number two
in milk production, oats, milk cows, potatoes,
second, I can’t see this thing. Third, potatoes,
sweetcorn, green peas, and then Christmas
trees, cucumbers, and mint for oil
is on the bottom. I want to end with
this shot because it’s, to me that is a picture
of Wisconsin agriculture. It’s maybe traditional. I don’t see, well, I do
some larger buildings. But it shows off the
importance of various crops and it shows off the
importance of strip cropping and it’s just a wonderful
thing to look at. A few years ago,
a study was done with Chicago people
coming into Wisconsin. And they asked them, why do you like to
come into Wisconsin? And they had this little
ranking of things. And people expected it
would be Wisconsin Dells and the water parks, that
would be the number one reason. Well, it wasn’t. The number one reason was
the opportunity to see farms, to see alfalfa growing,
to see farm buildings, to see the beauty that’s
a part of our agriculture. I’ve never forgotten that. That’s very important. We always think of the
economics of agriculture, and that’s important. But we should also think there’s an aesthetic
to agriculture. There’s an inherent
beauty in agriculture. And with that, I’m
going to close, and thank you all so
very much for coming and learning perhaps
a little more about what Wisconsin’s
agricultural history
is all about. And we’ve just
scratched the surface. Thanks so much. (audience applauding)

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