June Dairy Month: Celebrating Lincoln County?s and Wisconsin?s Rich Dairy History
June… the beginning of summer with baseball games, fishing, camping, swimming, picnics, and an ice cold, tall glass of milk. That’s right, milk! June is Dairy Month, a time when we celebrate our state’s dairy industry and enjoy one (or more!) of our favorite dairy products.
June Dairy Month began as “National Milk Month” in the summer of 1937 as a response to reduce the surplus of milk on the market due to the pasturing and the calving of dairy cows during the spring months. It was sponsored by chain drug store organizations across the country and ran from June 12 to July 10. In 1939, the promotion expanded to include all dairy products and became “June is Dairy Month” being celebrated from June 1 through 30. The official proclamation of June Dairy Month in Wisconsin occurred in 1940 by Governor Julius P. Heil. During the 1940’s, June Dairy Month became a full-fledged celebration resulting in increased awareness and sales of dairy products. Today, June Dairy Month celebrates Wisconsin’s proud dairy heritage of producing high quality products.
And what a rich history Wisconsin has producing some of the most sought after dairy products, that being cheese! The first cheese factory was started in 1841 near Lake Mills in Dodge County by Mrs. Anne Pickett and was continued until 1845 when demand and production grew too large from her kitchen. By 1878, cheese produced in Wisconsin factories grew to 19 million pounds. Today, Wisconsin leads the country producing a little over 25% of the nation’s cheese (about 2.8 billion pounds) in 114 factories. The cheesemakers in those factories produce over 600 varieties, types, and styles of cheese, far more than any other state. Ninety percent of the cheese produced is sold outside the state borders, including exports to Mexico, Canada, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. Some of the cheese even had its birthplace right here in Wisconsin! Colby cheese was invented in 1921 in Colby and Brick cheese, named for its shape and the use of bricks to squeeze out moisture from the cheese, was invented in Dodge County. We can’t forget that Wisconsin is the only state in the country that produces Limburger cheese!
Lincoln County also has a strong dairy heritage. The earliest Census of Agriculture describing Lincoln County dairy was in 1924 with 12,948 cows milked producing 6,111,456 gallons of milk. At that time, Lincoln County dairy farms made 155,699 pounds of butter, sold 1,445,327 pounds of butterfat, 10,079 gallons of cream, and 733,191 gallons of whole milk. The total value of dairy products sold in Lincoln County in 1924 was $758,436. Today, milk is Lincoln County’s top agricultural commodity accounting for $15.2 million in sales. Lincoln County’s 49 dairy farms and 4,200 cows produce over 9 million gallons of milk each year. That is enough milk to produce 6,500 gallons of ice cream or 3.6 million pounds of butter or fill over 146 million cartons of milk!
I would encourage everyone to participate in one of the June Dairy Breakfasts occurring throughout the state, especially the one at the MARC in Merrill on June 9 from 8-noon. Other June Dairy Month celebrations can be found at the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board’s Dairy Days of Summer website: http://dairydaysofsummer.com/.
So while you are at the beach, in your boat, or at the campsite this June take your favorite flavor of milk and raise it as a toast to all the dairy farmers who work hard to make our summers a little more special.
Some of the data in the above article came from the National Agriculture Statistics Service Census of Agriculture, a special thank you needs to go to the Lincoln County Dairy Breakfast Committee for supplying many of the facts used to write this article.