“My name is Bill Anderson. I am 25 years old. I was born and raised in Wisconsin, and have lived here for my entire life. Though I grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee, I just completed the entire Wisconsin cheese maker licensing program, and passed the final exam yesterday. I should also mention that my mother grew up on a diversified family-run dairy farm in central Wisconsin.
However, this week I am making the biggest move of my life. I am moving to Athens, Ohio, to start an artisanal cheese program for Snowville Creamery, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
But before I leave my home state, I would like to share some of my thoughts and observations with this Board of Directors. As someone who greatly cherishes local sustainable agriculture, artisanal cheese, and the community of people who share those values, it was not an easy decision for me to leave Wisconsin and seek opportunities elsewhere.
Today, America’s Dairyland stands at a crossroads. There is a clear choice before you: Agriculture or Agri-business? Shall we sacrifice the family dairy farm at the alter of profit and commerce? Or shall we nourish the types of culinary and agricultural traditions which make nations like France and Italy famous — and might I add, models for our Wisconsin cheese makers today?
Conducting business is a reality in our modern market-driven economy. However, it would be a grave mistake for us to believe that the interests of business ought to trump human concerns such as environmental quality, health, social justice, and local democracy.
Sadly, my experience in Wisconsin has led me to believe that this state is increasingly placing the values of commerce and industry over the interests of the people of the state, particularly in the realm of agriculture.
This has been most dramatically illustrated recently, by the ongoing struggle over consumer access to farm-fresh raw milk. Despite overwhelming public support for the availability of this whole unprocessed raw milk, and budget shortfalls which have left this Department understaffed, the division of food safety and the dairy processing industry have only intensified their campaign to criminalize any dairy farmer who dare forgo the mandatory middleman, and connect directly with his or her consumer.
However, raw milk is not the only issue which illustrates this trend.