Wisconsin has the climate and abundance of water that allows farmers across the state to grow a diverse variety of food, fuel and fiber. In turn, that diversity is exhibited in the selection of products we as consumers rely on in our daily lives. It is easy to take for granted that those products will be readily available as we go to the store, shop online or stop at the fuel station.
The vast array of products raised in Wisconsin ranges from easily recognized commodities like cranberries, corn, dairy, potatoes and beef, to more niche markets that you may not know as much about such as ginseng, mink, sweet corn and maple syrup. There are simply too many local agricultural products to list but we all should feel fortunate about the agricultural diversity we have here in our state – much of which is not possible in other parts of the world.
Agriculture contributes $104.8 billion to Wisconsin’s economy annually, much of which is spent within local communities. I am a dairy farmer and recently analyzed every expense on my farm. I found 62% of my expenses were spent within 15 miles of where we are located in central Wisconsin. With 64,000 farms in Wisconsin, it is easy to see the tremendous impact agriculture has locally.
Imagine a circle 15 miles around your home and how many farms are in that area. We are all impacted by the dollars farmers invest in our communities. Expenses to land, labor, feed, seed, fertilizer, parts, supplies and so much more are dollars spent over and over within our communities.
If those farms were gone, the impacts on the surrounding community would be huge. There is plenty of risk for agriculture in Wisconsin and the U.S.: weather extremes cause narrow windows of planting, caring for and harvesting crops; price swings also can move from profitable to a loss in a given season; and the amount of assets a farm must maintain and upkeep is usually in the millions of dollars.
At the end of the day farmers just want to farm, raise their crops and care for their livestock. Farming is high asset, variable profit and farmers have learned to wear the many hats needed to manage their businesses.
Diversity is important, especially in agriculture. It puts Wisconsin in a unique position to be a leading producer of many crops and food products. But diversity also creates challenges. Many voices are hard to hear.
Farm Bureau was started generations ago to help create a collective voice and stand up for our state’s farmers. That need continues today which is why Farm Bureau is the trusted voice leading Wisconsin agriculture forward.
Our organization advocates for tools that give farmers the ability to protect themselves. From the farm bill to local road infrastructure, WFBF carries the collective voice of our members directed by our policy to our state and nation’s capital. I am extremely proud of the work of Farm Bureau protecting our farmers, which in turn protects the food supply chain and addresses the major concern of food security.
WFBF is dedicated to connecting consumers with farmers across the state. Through an initiative set by our members through a strategic planning process, WFBF recently introduced Gather Wisconsin, a website sharing connections between food, farming and family. This new website will serve as a valuable advocacy tool for the work of our members within their local communities. I encourage you to visit this new website at gatherwisconsin.com and follow Gather Wisconsin on Facebook and Instagram.
Whether at the dinner table or in your local community, agriculture has a tremendous impact on us all. Your Farm Bureau membership helps strengthen the voice of our organization and provides the tools necessary to keep farmers farming in your local community.
Thank you for being a member and for supporting Wisconsin agriculture.
Kevin Krentz was elected to the WFBF Board of Directors in 2012 to represent District 5, which includes Adams, Fond du Lac, Green Lake, Juneau, Marquette, Waushara and Winnebago counties. In December of 2020, Kevin was elected as President of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. Kevin and his family own a dairy farm in Berlin. He started his farming career when he purchased his father’s 60 cows in 1994. He grew the farm to 600 cows and 1,300 acres of crops. This column appeared in the June | July 2023 Rural Route.