–submitted by Jerry Thain; photo by Jeff Smith
Kate VandenBosch, Dean of UW-Madison’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, presented a brief but far-ranging summary of Wisconsin agriculture to Club members on January 28. She noted the efforts of Governor William Hoard to promote the dairy industry in the 1800s and the contributions of Professor Stephen Babcock who developed the butterfat test for milk in the early 20th Century. The economic impact of agriculture in Wisconsin is huge; it composes 11% of the state’s economy, with 78,000 farms producing $88 billion in total sales. Beyond dairy products, Wisconsin agriculture is a leader in production of cranberries, potatoes, corn, snap beans and other fruits and vegetables. Our largest agricultural export is ginseng root. Most farms in the state are family owned and operated.
As to the future, Dean VandenBosch noted the “modest goals” were to achieve greater productivity, increased nutrition, and greater variety of foods to help feed an expected world population of about 10 billion people by mid-century, while maintaining environmental stability and animal welfare. She noted the likelihood of an increased emphasis on genetically modified crops in future years and gave examples of CALS staff and programs working toward better agriculture such as developing meats “beyond brats” to go with Wisconsin’s special artisanal cheeses and the “field to food-bank’ program that delivers surplus food to the needy. She concluded with examples of efforts by CALS faculty and staff to improve food production and security around the globe.
The talk surely left Club members impressed with the current state of Wisconsin agriculture and the ongoing efforts to maintain and possibly improve the industry’s vitality and contributions to the state’s well-being.