COLFAX, WISCONSIN — Did you know that since 1969, the United States has lost 85 percent of its dairy farms. And did you know that since 1969, Wisconsin has lost nearly 70 percent of its dairy farms?
"I lived away from my hometown in west central Wisconsin for 15 years. When I returned in the mid 1990s, I expected to be living in a farming community again. Instead, I discovered that many of the small family dairy farms like the one where I grew up had disappeared" said LeAnn R. Ralph, author of the books Christmas in Dairyland (True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm) (August 2003) and Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam (October 2004).
Figures from the Census of Agriculture and from the American Farm Bureau Federation indicate that in 1969 more than a half a million dairy farms operated in the United States, but by the year 2000, only 83,000 dairy farms remained. And according to statistics from the U.S. Census of Agriculture, during the last three decades of the twentieth century, Wisconsin went from 66,000 dairy farms down to 20,000 dairy farms.
"That's why I decided to write stories about growing up on a dairy farm. Our farm was home-steaded by my Norwegian great-grandfather in the late 1800s, but small family farms are a thing of the past. They have pretty much disappeared from the landscape," Ralph said.
"My dad milked 20 cows and knew all of them by name. Nowadays the trend is toward corporate farms that milk hundreds of cows," she said.
Ralph's new book, Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam (192 pages; $13.95; ISBN 1-59113-592-3) is a collection of 20 true stories that took place on her family's farm 40 years ago. Story titles include "Taking the Bull by the Horns," "Spring Cleaning," "A Different Sort of Cow," "Dad's Favorite Recipe," "Popsicle Blues," "On Top of the World," and "Better Butter."
According to Midwest Book Review, Ralph's first book, Christmas In Dairyland: True Stories From A Wisconsin Farm "is a heartwarming anthology of true anecdotes of rural life on a Wisconsin dairy farm. Even though Wisconsin is still known as America's Dairyland, life on a family homestead is fast being replaced by corporate agribusiness, and the memories treasured in Christmas In Dairyland are quickly becoming unique milestones of an era needing to be preserved in thought and print for the sake of future generations. Christmas In Dairyland is simply wonderful reading and is a 'must' for all Wisconsin public library collections."
Ralph earned a Bachelor of Arts in English with a writing emphasis from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and also earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from UW-Whitewater. She worked as a newspaper reporter for nine years and also has taught English at a boys' boarding school. She is the editor of the Wisconsin Regional Writer (the quarterly publication of the Wisconsin Regional Writers' Assoc.).
Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam and Christmas in Dairyland (True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm)are available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com. For more information or to order the books, visit www.ruralroute2.com or call LeAnn at (715) 962-3368.
LeAnn R. Ralph; E6689 970th Ave.; Colfax, WI 54730; (715) 962-3368
LeAnn R. Ralph is the author of the books "Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam" and "Christmas in Dairyland." http://ruralroute2.com