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All About Wisconsin

Cows, Farms, Places

Sep. 30, 2015
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Although Wisconsin is known as the Dairy State, our farms are more than pastures for milk cows. In his latest book, Wisconsin Agriculture: A History (Wisconsin Historical Society Press), Jerry Apps notes that “Wisconsin is one of the most diverse farming states in the nation,” producing cranberries and ginseng along with potatoes and vegetables of all sorts as well as corn, honey and maple syrup.

A prolific Wisconsin author, Apps writes well, combining lucid narratives and descriptions with raw data. Wisconsin’s agricultural history has been directed by many factors, starting with landscape and climate and encompassing the culture of its inhabitants, changes in technology and public policy. Apps weighs each element in his account. While German and Norwegian immigrants took the lead in Wisconsin agriculture during the 19th century he doesn’t ignore the pre-Columbian farming of Native Americans, and even finds a handful of former slaves who established farms. He takes his history into the 21st century with farm-to-table restaurants, aquiponics, urban farming and the proliferation of farmers’ markets.

A beautifully designed book, Wisconsin Agriculture is richly illustrated with contemporary and archival photographs, postcards, prints and maps.

Apps penned the forward to a new edition of Robert Gard’s The Romance of Wisconsin Place Names (Wisconsin Historical Society Press), a reminiscence of how the book was put together back in the ‘60s with the help of hundreds of information gatherers. The names on maps tell their story of the state’s past; many are Native American, a surprising number are French, and all have stories to tell (and sometimes contradictory tales, depending on the teller).

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