National Nutrition Month – Wisconsin’s got it all!

Did you know that March in National Nutrition Month?

Established by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, this nutrition education and information campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

National Nutrition Month encourages everyone to include healthy foods from all food groups through this year’s theme: “Get Your Plate in Shape”.  And what better way to do this than by choosing locally grown food from Wisconsin!

America’s Dairyland is a top producer of many agricultural goods.  Just like producers all over the United States, Wisconsin farmers provide consumers with the highest quality food possible.  Growing and raising wholesome, safe food is one of their top goals.  Today’s farmers work hard to enhance their knowledge, training and skills, while continuing to look for every opportunity to improve the quality and safety of the food they produce.

If you’re wondering which foods to choose to help “Get Your Plate in Shape”, take a look at these impressive Wisconsin agricultural facts!

  • Wisconsin leads the nation in production of snap beans, cheese, cranberries and ginseng.
  • Wisconsin chicken farms produce 1.35 billion eggs.
  • Wisconsin ranks third in the production of potatoes, green peas and sweet corn for processing.
  • Wisconsin dairy farmers produce 25.2 billion pounds of milk.
  • Wisconsin is a leading state in maple syrup, tart cherries and cucumbers for pickles production.
  • In 2011, exports by Wisconsin’s agricultural companies totaled $2.85 billion and ranked 16th among all the states for value.

Wisconsin is known for producing top quality food products that can be found all over the state, nation and world.  Celebrate National Nutrition Month by eating locally grown products and thanking the farmers that produce them!  If you would like some more tips about how to “Get your Plate in Shape”, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.

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Wisconsin…America’s Candyland?

Wisconsin is known for producing lots of quality foods, and when it comes to sweets, the state is no exception!

For many years, Wisconsin’s candy and chocolate makers have been hard at work developing new recipes and creating special products for their customers.  Most of these confectioners are part of long-standing family traditions, with their pride and craftsmanship showing through in the sweet treats they create.

Today, more and more people are giving in to the urge to feed their sweet tooth.  According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, chocolate candy dollar sales and non-chocolate candy sales have increased 3 to 4 percent per year for the past several years.  Some of this growth can be attributed to confectioners creating more sugar-free candies and low fat, low carb chocolates in response to the current health craze trends.  In addition, a survey done by the National Confectioners Association shows that  93% of women polled eat chocolate and 52% say eating chocolate makes them happy.

Speaking of chocolate, one of my Wisconsin favorites is the The Original Cow Pie!  When you first hear this, you may be thinking that sounds quite unappetizing, but you will quickly change your mind after trying it.

Baraboo Candy has been using the same recipe for the chocolate cow pies since 1981 when the company was founded.  The caramel is made from scratch in copper pots, and has to sit on top of the pecans overnight, before it is drizzled in chocolate the next day.  The cow pie is then cooled in a tunnel, packaged up and ready to ship.  Baraboo Candy is shipped around the world, but can still be found in local stores and at the headquarters in Baraboo.

Last night, a local news station aired a story about Baraboo Candy as part of its segment Made in Wisconsin.  You can view the video at the link below!

Made in Wisconsin: Baraboo Candy

When you purchase products from any Wisconsin confectioner, you will get not just a great treat, but also the benefit of knowing that you are supporting your friends, neighbors and local communities.  Visit www.savorwisconsin.com to try the many candies and confections available from Wisconsin-owned companies.

Alice in Dairyland – Wisconsin’s Agricultural Ambassador

Alice in Dairyland is one of the most recognized spokespersons of Wisconsin agriculture.  As a public relations professional for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Alice travels throughout the state, nation and world promoting Wisconsin products to audiences of all ages.

The first Alice was crowned over six decades ago in 1948.  Since then, Alice in Dairyland has grown and changed with the times.  In the early years, Alice was a beauty queen fresh out of high school.  Today, she is a marketing professional that has at least four years of experience or education in agriculture, public relations, communications or related fields.  She also is required to be knowledgeable about Wisconsin’s diverse agriculture and products, history, resources and rural-urban issues.

Throughout her year of reign, Alice is expected to work effectively with colleagues, the media and the public. In addition, she is responsible for developing her own materials, speeches and presentations that educate the media, youth and civic groups about the many facets of Wisconsin’s agricultural industry.

As Wisconsin’s agricultural ambassador, Alice in Dairyland travels more than 40,000 miles, visits 100 schools and makes nearly 370 appearances during her one year on the job.  Additionally, she attends numerous agricultural events and does hundreds of media interviews, generating over $1 million worth of coverage for Wisconsin agriculture.  Katie Wirkus, from Athens, Wis., is currently serving as the 64th Alice in Dairyland.

The 2012 Alice in Dairyland Finals are coming up soon!  Grant County will be hosting the event this year on May 17-19.  The three-day selection process is an exciting time of the year and includes community events open to public.  For more information about Alice in Dairyland, visit www.aliceindairyland.com.

You can also connect with Alice through all of the following:

2012 World Championship Cheese Contest

This past week, Madison proudly hosted the 2012 World Championship Cheese Contest.  The event was held at the Monona Terrace and was an exclusive opportunity opened to the public.  At the contest, attendees had the opportunity to taste 20 of the world’s best cheeses, meet 40 international judges from six continents and witness the final round of judging to determine the 2012 World Champion Cheese.

Wisconsin was well represented at the event.  Cheesemakers attending and sampling their finest cheeses included: BelGioioso Cheese, Carr Valley Cheese, Holland’s Cheese, LaClare Farm, Montchevre, and Sartori.  All of these Wisconsin cheesemakers were  either past U.S. Champions or won at least two gold medals in the last World Championship Cheese Contest.

Many international cheesemakers were also in attendance.  Nations such as Argentina, Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom brought along their best products in hopes of taking home the winning title.

The three-day contest began Monday, with judges grading over 2,500 entries in 82 cheese and butter classes.  Products were judged on flavor, texture, body and color.  The winner in each class advanced to the semifinals, where the top 16 were chosen for Wednesday night’s finals.

Wisconsin cheese companies took top honors in 34 different classes, with four making it to the Sweet 16 round.  They included Decatur Dairy, Brodhead, who topped both the Havarti class and Pepper Flavored Cheeses; Lactalis American Group, Belmont, Brie class; and Holland’s Family Cheese Team, Thorp, Smoked Soft & Semi-soft Cheeses.

However, in the end the top three winners of the World Championship Cheese Contest came from overseas.  This year’s top winner was submitted by the FrieslandCampina cheese company from the Netherlands, which made a mild Gouda cheese.  Adrian Mayer of Switzerland was the first runner-up with an entry in the Smear Ripened Semi-soft Cheeses category.  And third place went to Karl Germann from Switzerland, who brought a product called Appenzeller Kaese.

Companies representing the Dairy State also took second place in 26 different categories and third place in 32 areas of the competition, continuously proving why Wisconsin is leading both the nation and world in quality and quantity of cheese production.

Happy National Ag Day

National Ag Day has arrived! 

Today is a day to recognize and celebrate agriculture.  Almost everything we eat, use and wear on a daily basis is provided by agricultural farmers and producers.  However, too few people truly understand this contribution.  American agriculturalists are the backbone of our nation’s society, and the following statistics do more than just prove this.

  • Each American farmer feeds more than 144 people, which is a dramatic increase from 25 people in the 1960s.
  • Today’s farmer grows twice as much food as their parents did – using less land, energy, water and fewer emissions.
  • American farmers ship more than $100 billion of their crops and products to many other nations.
  • U.S. farmers produce about 40 percent of the world’s corn, using only 20 percent of the total area harvested in the world.
  • Farmers are a direct lifeline to more than 23 million U.S. jobs in all kinds of industry.

To put it simply, American agriculture is doing more – and doing it better.  As the world population soars, there is an even greater demand for the food and fiber produced in the United States.

Below are two videos that celebrate exactly what National Ag Day is all about.

2012 Ag Day Video Essay Contest Winner:

Producers Talk about American Agriculture:

Enjoy National Ag Day! And as always, remember to thank our farmers!

Celebrating National Ag Week

Today marks the beginning of National Ag Week!

Established in 1973, National Ag Week recognizes and celebrates the abundance provided by agriculture.  Every year, producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America join together to recognize the contributions of agriculture. 

Within this week, National Ag Day is also celebrated.  This year, it takes place on Wednesday, March 8th.  National Ag Day is organized by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA), a nonprofit organization composed of leaders in the agricultural, food and fiber community, dedicating its efforts to increasing the public’s awareness of agriculture’s role in modern society.

The ACA implemented National Ag Day to encourage every American to:

  • Understand how food and fiber products are produced.
  • Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
  • Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.

Throughout the week, I hope you will take the opportunity to celebrate the contributions of agriculture in our everyday lives and help spread its positive message!

Home of the “Cheeseheads”

There is more than just one reason Wisconsin residents are often referred to as “Cheeseheads”.  It could be due to the fact that cheese has been made and commercially sold in Wisconsin for more than 160 years, but in my opinion, it goes far beyond that.

In 1876, the first Wisconsin cheese plant was opened near Sheboygan.  Since then, Wisconsin has come a long way, and is currently home to 129 cheese plants.  Even more impressive, Wisconsin’s world-renowned cheesemakers produce over 600 varieties, types and styles of cheese, far more than any other state.  I don’t think I’ve even come close to trying a quarter of them!

As the nation’s leader in cheese production in terms of both quantity and quality, 90% of Wisconsin’s milk is made into cheese.  In addition, Wisconsin cheesemakers produce one out of every four pounds of cheese that is sold in the U.S.

It takes about 10 lbs. of milk just to make 1 lb. of cheese!  Wisconsin cheesemakers take this seriously with producing over 2.6 billion pounds of cheese every year.  If Wisconsin were a country, it would rank 4th in the world in terms of total cheese production, behind the U.S., Germany and France, and just ahead of Italy.

Continuing the bragging rights, Wisconsin cheese wins more awards than any other state or county in national and international cheese competitions.  With this being said, Wisconsin cheesemakers have won 12 out of 16 “U.S. Champion” awards since the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest began in 1981.

In 2009, I served as the Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Promotion Board Intern.  Throughout the summer, I had the opportunity to learn all about the Wisconsin dairy industry, especially cheese!  Below is a picture of me with a wheel of my favorite Wisconsin cheese.

Becoming America’s Dairyland

Wisconsin has been proudly promoting its agricultural heritage for more than 160 years.  One can’t help but notice the farm scene shown on the upper corner of Wisconsin’s license plate or the cow head, ear of corn and wheel of cheese featured on the Wisconsin State Quarter.

Dating back to before Wisconsin was even granted statehood, dairying and cheesemaking were more than just a norm for Wisconsin farmers.  Beginning in the 1830s, Wisconsin farm wives began making cheese in their kitchens as a way to store excess milk.  By the 1900s, Wisconsin had not only become a top competitor in national cheese production, but was also home to the nation’s first dairy school located at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

It wasn’t until the 1930s that Wisconsin was officially named “America’s Dairyland”, a nickname that was both deserving and significant for a state that had been leading the dairy industry for over a century.

Just as it was then, Wisconsin’s dairy industry continues to be the largest segment of Wisconsin agriculture.  Each year, this industry contributes $26.5 billion to the state’s economy and accounts for nearly 40% of all Wisconsin agricultural related jobs.  In addition, Wisconsin is nationally ranked 1st in cheese production and 2nd in both milk and butter production.  Now that’s something to brag about! 

The Wisconsin dairy industry not only represents those that live in Wisconsin, but it is also a defining factor in how others view our state as a whole.  Serving as the nation’s leading dairy industry, is not something Wisconsinites take lightly.  Wisconsin’s agriculturalists work hard to provide consumers with the safest and highest quality of products, upholding the true standards of “America’s Dairyland”.