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Dairy diverges in Polk County

Friday, August 02, 2019

How family farms are coping with the ever-evolving industry

It is well known that Wisconsin leads the nation in cheese production. After all, it’s the reason Green Bay Packers fans proudly embrace the “cheesehead” label, despite the team’s name itself deriving from the meat packing industry. Perhaps this statistic is why our state can still claim the title of America’s Dairyland, despite decades of lagging behind California in overall production of milk. 

“I don’t know when Wisconsin became known as… America’s Dairyland,” said Farmington township dairy farmer Bill Thiel, who farms with his wife Linda, “but the peak of dairymen [in the state] was 103,000 in 1959.”

Alas, this figure is no more. That number has dwindled to 8,419 as of last year, and is continuing to drop at a rate of around 4%.

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