Potatoes were a basic source of food for 19th century Wisconsin farmers. Grown primarily in the south and southeastern counties at first, potato acreage increased nearly four times as settlement spread across the state. After 1880, potato production grew exponentially and were soon grown in every county. From 1900 to 1930, potatoes were the state's chief cash crop and Wisconsin ranked third among states in potato production. Most farmers stored their potatoes in their own storage cellars while others stored them in commercial warehouses before shipment. The warehouse system was integral to the marketing of potatoes for it was here that agents would grade, price, and purchase the potatoes before shipment to markets in Chicago and beyond. Some warehouses were run as cooperatives to protect against unscrupulous middlemen and uncertain market conditions. After WWII, potato blight, high labor costs and increased competition from western states made potato farming less attractive to all but the largest producers.
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[Source: Wisconsin's Cultural Resources Study Units, Wisconsin Historical Society]