Term: commercial fruit production
Definition: Although Wisconsin's first white settlers brought fruit with them, they quickly became discouraged when the familiar varieties from New York and New England rarely withstood the harsh Wisconsin climate. In 1854, the Wisconsin Fruit Growers Association was created to find profitable fruit varieties and techniques, to encourage skeptical farmers, and to provide aid. Though some progress was made, harsh winters in the late 1850s followed by the Civil War slowed down real progress. In 1865, the Wisconsin Fruit Growers reorganized as the State Horticulture Society and began to discover through trial and error, a limited but profitable bumber of hardy fruits. Systematic efforts to grow fruit on trial orchards throughout southern Wisconsin in the late 19th century proved a boon to local growers and served as the center for commercial fruit production in several areas. By the early 20th century, apples, cherries, cranberries, and strawberries were identified as the most profitable large-scale fruits. Other fruits, including peaches, pears, quinces, grapes, and plums, continued to be grown on a small scale but did not develop into important commercial crops. As markets expanded beyond the region, cooperative associations were organized to establish uniform standards and to market surplus: the first was in Sparta. Commercial production of apples, cherries, and strawberries were concentrated in different regions of the state. By 1916, apples constituted 95 percent of state's fruit crop, most marketed within the state.
[Source: Wisconsin's Cultural Resource Study Units, Wisconsin Historical Society]