Wisconsin Agriculture (Hardcover)
Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 9780870207242, 336pp.
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
"I'm embarrassed to say I thought I knew anything substantial about Wisconsin agriculture or its history before I read this book. 'Wisconsin Agriculture' should be required reading in history classes from high school to the collegiate level. It makes me thankful that Jerry Apps has such a sense of commitment to Wisconsin's agricultural heritage--and to getting the story right." --Pam Jahnke, Farm Director, Wisconsin Farm Report Radio
Wisconsin has been a farming state from its very beginnings. And though it's long been known as "the Dairy State," it produces much more than cows, milk, and cheese. In fact, Wisconsin is one of the most diverse agricultural states in the nation.
The story of farming in Wisconsin is rich and diverse as well, and the threads of that story are related and intertwined. In this long-awaited volume, celebrated rural historian Jerry Apps examines everything from the fundamental influences of landscape and weather to complex matters of ethnic and pioneer settlement patterns, changing technology, agricultural research and education, and government regulations and policies. Along with expected topics, such as the cranberry industry and artisan cheesemaking, "Wisconsin Agriculture" delves into beef cattle and dairy goats, fur farming and Christmas trees, maple syrup and honey, and other specialty crops, including ginseng, hemp, cherries, sugar beets, mint, sphagnum moss, flax, and hops. Apps also explores new and rediscovered farming endeavors, from aquaculture to urban farming to beekeeping, and discusses recent political developments, such as the 2014 Farm Bill and its ramifications. And he looks to the future of farming, contemplating questions of ethical growing practices, food safety, sustainability, and the potential effects of climate change.
Featuring first-person accounts from the settlement era to today, along with more than 200 captivating photographs, "Wisconsin Agriculture" breathes life into the facts and figures of 150 years of farming history and provides compelling insights into the state's agricultural past, present, and future.
About the Author
Jerry Apps was born and raised on a central Wisconsin farm. He is a former county extension agent and professor emeritus for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Today he works as a rural historian, full-time writer, and creative writing instructor.
Jerry is the author of more than forty fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books with topics ranging from barns, one-room schools, cranberries, cucumbers, cheese factories, and the humor of mid-America to farming with horses and the Ringling Brothers circus. He and his wife, Ruth, have three grown children, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandson. They divide their time between their home in Madison and their farm, Roshara, in Waushara County.
Praise For Wisconsin Agriculture: A History…
Sorry, but this is as close to critical this review is going to get. As many know, Apps is a master storyteller and prolific writer, comfortable in rural fiction and nonfiction realms. It could be argued he’s the best-ever Wisconsin rural folklorist.
This book, however, is something unlike anything Apps has attempted in his long and fruitful career. A richly-illustrated release from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, Wisconsin Agriculture: A History is a concise and informative chronicle of this place called Wisconsin.
A work of this sort is a challenge for any writer or historian, evidenced by the dearth of agricultural history titles with a Wisconsin slant. Perhaps the telling of the story is so difficult it has dissuaded others from taking a swing. There are a few nuggets, including Robert Gard’s enduring yet ethereal My Land, My Home, My Wisconsin: The Epic Story of the Wisconsin Farm and Farm Family from Settlement Days to the Present (1978) and Joseph Schafer’s comprehensive A History of Wisconsin Agriculture in Wisconsin (1922). But a true history book like this one requires a level and depth of understanding and source materials few possess. A farm-born Wisconsin native, Apps has lived it all along—farmer, educator, storyteller, and author.
Apps follows some of his familiar folksy pathways in the telling of this history, and natural history, of farming in Wisconsin. But he does so in a compelling way that might at once appeal to an array of audiences, from Wisconsin history buffs to agricultural devotees to those with only minor interest in agriculture. Indeed, the book’s strengths are its broad appeal and the way it moves smoothly and efficiently through centuries of developments. Wisconsin agriculture is varied, from cows and corn and soybeans, to vegetables, fruit, and an array of specialty crops. Yet each is a story in itself.
Wheat dances in the wind in early chapters, cows and corn take their place in others. The immigrants who raise them come in their own waves, bringing their traditions, customs, and beliefs. Machines keep getting better, and so does the cheese. Education drives innovation as agriculture achieves and maintains a huge swath of Wisconsin’s economy, challenged though it always is by nature and economics.
Apps tells the good stories and the tough ones, from cranberry festivals to migrant workers marching for rights. Some may wish for more detail, as in Wisconsin’s ground water challenges, but, given the task at hand, Wisconsin Agriculture doesn’t have time to linger too long on these complicated challenges of the commons.
The author’s storytelling skills are complemented by the quiet hands of the Wisconsin Historical Society Press editors and designers who composed the pullouts, sidebars, photographs, and graphics that steer the book in the friendliest of ways. The sum of all accomplishes a rare feat for books of history: You can pick up Wisconsin Agriculture, open to almost any page, and be instantly drawn in. - See more at: http://www.wisconsinacademy.org/magazine/wisconsin-agriculture-history-jerry-apps#sthash.Rk2vmIOM.dpuf (Bill Berry, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters Magazine, March 2016)