Wisconsin Agriculture: A History

By Jerry Apps

Hardcover: $34.95

ISBN: 978-0-87020-724-2

336 pages, 192 color and b&w photos and illus., 2 maps, 8 x 9; E-Book Edition Available


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"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.

Discover more books by Jerry Apps on the Jerry Apps author page!

To receive a review copy or press release, to schedule an author event, or for more information, contact the WHS Press Marketing Department: whspress@wisconsinhistory.org.

Jerry Apps is professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than twenty-five books, many of them on rural history and country life. Jerry's nonfiction books include "Every Farm Tells a Story," "Living a Country Year," "When Chores Were Done," "Humor from the Country," "Country Ways and Country Days," "Ringlingville USA," "Horse-Drawn Days: A Century of Farming with Horses" and "Barns of Wisconsin." He has written two books for young readers, "Tents, Tigers and the Ringling Brothers" and "Casper Jaggi: Master Swiss Cheese Maker," and the novels "The Travels of Increase Joseph" and "In a Pickle: A Family Farm Story." He received the 2007 Major Achievement Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers and the 2007 Notable Wisconsin Author Award from the Wisconsin Library Association. Jerry was born and raised on a small farm in Waushara County, Wisconsin, about two miles from the land that is the subject of "Old Farm." He and his family have owned their farm, Roshara, since 1966, and he and his wife, Ruth, continue to live there part time. Once a small dairy farm, the property is now a tree farm with an ongoing prairie renovation. Check out his latest book, "Never Curse the Rain: A Farm Boy's Reflection on Water". Discover more books by Jerry Apps on the Jerry Apps author page!

For more information on author, storyteller and historian Jerry Apps, please visit:

And check out his blog, which covers his thoughts on everything from his books to environmental subjects to his personal life and much more at: www.jerryapps.com/blog

The cover of “Wisconsin Agriculture” features a painting by Richard W. Patt, a fine art landscape painter from Elm Grove, Wisconsin. The barn painting is part of his Barns in the Wisconsin Landscapes series. Learn more about his work in this recent interview with "The Peninsula Pulse".

On Oct. 23, 2015, rural historian, author, and retired agriculture professor Jerry Apps highlighted farm products, trends and traditions in the Badger State during a special Wisconsin Book Festival and Wisconsin Science Festival joint lecture on his Society Press book Wisconsin Agriculture: A History.

Apps was joined by the Wisconsin Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Ben Brancel, Dr. Kathryn VandenBosch, Dean of the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and Dr. John M. Shutske, program director for the state's UW Extension, to stress the importance of "understanding agriculture's past" to succeed in its future. Secretary Brancel also thanked Apps for bringing agricultural history not only to the forefront but also for bringing that history to life. "You have made history a relevant part in our thinking, our education and our need to know," he told Apps. "If every author approached history and writing the way you do, kids in school would clamor to get into the classroom to learn who they are, what they are, and what made them that way."

The lecture was recorded by Wisconsin Public Television as a "University Place" program and can be viewed online.