Take a day to do something dairy


The sunsets the past week have been beautiful. The haze that was lingering in the air, clouding the sun, created a stunning, fluorescent orange. As the days progressed and the smell of the smoke from the fires from Canada was more noticeable, it reminded me of camping when you can’t get away from the other campers’ smoke.

Tuesday, I received air quality warnings on my phone. The prediction was that Wednesday was going to be the worst day of the week. Wednesday morning, I got a text message that the group that would be joining us needed to cancel. The group would reschedule for the following week, but now we had an open day, so we needed to do a day trip to do something off the farm.

With the air quality issue, we quickly made plans to head to the Hoard Historical Museum, home of the National Dairy Shrine in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. We wanted to see all of the dairy information and history as well as learn more about someone local. It has been many years since our last visit. The museum had air conditioning, and it was free, but we put money in the donation box.

I often tell my visitors who are looking for other things to do in the area to head to the museum. It is full of history about dairy farming but also about an amazing and influential person named William D. Hoard. There is also an area in the museum dedicated to Abe Lincoln, as W. D. Hoard was an admirer, and great displays of the early dairy farming life and also of the Native Americans who lived in the Koshkonong area.

The museum is actually an addition to the home in which Hoard’s wife Agnes and their three children lived. The rooms appear to be just as they had been back in the 1890s. There are many rooms and different floors to visit, so give yourself enough time to see it all. I was told the displays also change, so come back again.

Most dairy farmers know of the name because of the publication, Hoard’s Dairyman. W.D. Hoard was a newspaper publisher, politician and agriculture advocate and also served as a governor of Wisconsin. He has been called the father of modern dairying. His advocacy for scientific agriculture and the expansion of dairy farming changed the economy. He promoted the use of silos and alfalfa for cattle feed, encouraging farmers to shift away from growing wheat. He also pushed for agricultural practices such as testing for bovine tuberculosis, which became a mainstream practice in Wisconsin and throughout the world.

Because the publication was able to travel to readers far away, Hoard’s Dairyman was very influential in bringing more dairy farmers to Wisconsin. Along with farmers came cheesemakers, brewers of beer and other items that Wisconsin is now famous for.

In the National Dairy Shrine, there are displays that showcase dairy producers, scientists, students, educators and more who share a passion for the dairy heritage.

The story of W. D. Hoard is long, and his accomplishments are many, too many for me to list. I suggest making a trip to the museum and the shrine. If you make plans ahead of time, you can reserve a tour at the Hoard’s Dairyman Farm.

The Hoard’s Dairyman Farm and Hoard’s Dairyman Farm Creamery are on the other side of Fort Atkinson. The farm was purchased in 1899 by W.D. Hoard. Today, the farm’s operators milk registered Guernseys and Jerseys and turn the milk into award-winning cheeses.

    Tina Hinchley, her husband Duane and daughter Anna milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots.  They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin. The Hinchleys have been hosting farm tours for over 25 years.


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