Few know that the impact the dairy business in Wisconsin has on the state’s economy is more than twice that of the citrus industry’s impact on Florida’s economy and nearly nine times the economic impact as Idaho’s potato industry?
Dairying in Wisconsin is the industry that’s made Wisconsin famous. It is the one industry that defines us in the eyes of our fellow Americans and in the minds of people from around the world. Wisconsin has been an international leader in dairy and cheese technology for more than 150 years.
Dairy farming and cheesemaking date back more than 160 years, before Wisconsin was even granted statehood in 1848. In fact, Wisconsin’s first cheesemakers were farm wives who, in the 1830s, began making cheese in their kitchens as a way of storing excess milk. By 1900, Wisconsin had become a powerful player in cheese production nationally and, by 1920, was the nation’s top producer.
Today, about 90% of Wisconsin cheese is sold outside the state’s borders. Wisconsin is home to more dairy farms than any other state- nearly 14,000 dairy operations (about 20 percent of the nation’s total) caring for over 1.25 million dairy cows. The Badger State ranks first in the number of organic and grass-based dairy farms. Wisconsin leads the nation in the number of on-farm bio-energy technology installations which converts animal waste to “green energy.”
Wisconsin leads the country in the number of cheese plants (136), and Wisconsin is No. 1 in overall cheese production. The state’s cheesemakers produce more than 2.4 billion pounds of cheese annually, 26% of the nation’s total.The state is home to more than 1,200 licensed cheesemakers and is the only state with a Master Cheesemaker®Program, a sign that cheesemakers are committed to reinvesting in expertise.Thanks to the University of Wisconsin System, our state is also home to some of the country’s top dairy scientists, researchers and technology experts.
When your are “America’s Dairyland” is means more than mere numbers. The dairy business is central to our past, an important component in today’s state economy and vital part of our future. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of dairy farms in Wisconsin are still family owned and operated. Wisconsin produces more dairy products than any other state in the United States except California and leads the nation in cheese production. Wisconsin ranks second behind California in overall production of milk and butter, and third in per-capita milk production, behind Idaho and Vermont. Wisconsin ranks first in the production of corn for silage, cranberries, ginseng, and snap beans for processing. Wisconsin is also a leading producer of oats, potatoes, carrots, tart cherries, maple syrup, andsweet corn for processing.
Citizens of Wisconsin are referred to as Wisconsinites, although a common nickname (sometimes used pejoratively) among non-residents is “Cheeseheads.” This is due to the prevalence and quality of cheesemaking in the state, and for the novelty hats made of yellow foam in the shape of a triangular block of cheese. Cheese curds are an extremely popular treat, exported as gifts throughout the country. (Information from Wisconsin reference & Wikipedia)