By Pamela S. Meyers
Growing up in Wisconsin, for a long as I can remember, the license plate always included the slogan, “America’s Dairyland.” And it still does, unless a vehicle owner requests a specialty plate. I hadn’t given this much thought until I opened a recent newsletter from the Wisconsin Historical Society and saw an article regarding how the state of Wisconsin came to be known as the dairy state.
William Dempster Hoard began life in New York State and had difficulty at first deciding on what to do with his life. He eventually settled on journalism and accepted a position as editor of the Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. At the time, the state was known as a wheat-producing state, but the yields were not very high. Back in his home state of New York, farmers had been able to reverse the downturn on their farms by raising dairy cows. Hoard purchased a small acreage he named “Hoard’s Dairyman Farm.” He then obtained a small herd of Guernsey dairy cows, whose milk was preferred because of its yellowish tint. Around 1900, he began selling milk from his herd, and by 1908, he was bottling all the milk the farm produced for customers in town.
Backing up a bit, in 1872, he helped begin the Wisconsin Dairymen’s Association and advocated the idea of a one-purpose cow. A cow would either be raised to be a dairy cow or a cow raised for beef. One of the feeds he suggested for the health of the cows was alfalfa. In 1885, he began publishing an agricultural journal called Hoard’s Dairyman, which
is still published today in Ft. Atkinson.
is still published today in Ft. Atkinson.
In 1887, he acquired his county’s first purebred Guernsey named Bonnibel who became the farm’s figurehead, appearing on the farm’s logo. As Hoard’s popularity grew, he became a polished and entertaining speaker, and such popularity led to his being elected Governor of the state in 1888. He was definitely a man of many talents.
The photo is of one of the original bottles Hoard designed for bottling his milk. Note the picture of Bonnibel.
By the early 1930s, his dairy farm had grown to about 270 acres and his herd of Guernsey cows had enlarged to about 90 head. But as better equipment to bottle milk was invented, he chose not to invest in the expensive machinery, and instead, sold the milk to farm cooperatives to allow them to bottle the milk under their own label.
Today, the farm still operates under its original name and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Check out the farm here. It’s part of a larger website, that contains a lot of interesting things to learn about dairy farming.
On a personal note, the mention of alfalfa sparked a memory of my own. Back in the 1970s when my pediatrician uncle in Ohio bought a small farm, he began raising cattle. Cattle for beef, not dairy. On the morning of my first visit to the farm, still in my pjs and robe, I sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee. Suddenly, he burst through the door, tearing off his tie and jacket, and yelled, “Get dressed, the cows are in the alfalfa!
A few minutes later, I joined him and my aunt as we scurried down the lane to the alfalfa and shooed the cows toward the lane. I never dreamed cows were so big. And they were feasting on the alfalfa like crazy, not at all interested in the frantic woman waving her arms in the air. Finally, one or two of the beasts began heading for the lane and the others followed. I was told the alfalfa was meant to be harvested and stored away for the winter months when grazing would be lean. That was my one and only “up close and personal” encounter with a cow and I still remember it as though it was yesterday. Although I did need to learn how to describe the act of milking a cow when researching for my book, Tranquility Point.
Have you ever lived on a farm that raised cows for either beef or dairy products? Please tell me in the comments.
NOTE MY GIVEAWAY!!! INFO BELOW
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Source: Wisconsin Historical Society Article: Hoard's Dairy Farm Milk Bottle, https://tinyurl.com/8dnjnt6z
Source info for photos used:
Hoard portrait: Source: Wisconsin Historical Museum object #1942.103
Picture of milk bottle: Source: Wisconsin Historical Museum Object 1977.354.84
Front page of Hoard’s Dairyman from June 2, 1899: Source: Wisconsin Historical Library, SF221 H62
The Farm today: Source https://hoards.com/article-13602-hoards-dairyman-farm-map.html
Pam Meyers grew up in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the setting for her historical romances. She began writing at age eight when she received a diary for Christmas. But, didn't take it seriously until she began taking writing courses while enrolled in a college bachelor's program for older adults.
She lives in northeastern Illinois with her two rescue cats and is active in her church. She can often be found in and around Lake Geneva, looking for new story ideas, which is only about an hour's drive away.