Downtown Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Finding Dairyland

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At the dawn of World War II, Wisconsin was home to nearly 200,000 dairy farms. Today, barely 6,000 remain. The ghosts of the missing can still be seen in withering old farms along lonely highways—some restored, many abandoned or decayed, but all with a story to tell. Immigrants dreamed of owning their own farms, only to be fleeced by the promotion of “cutover” lands in the Northwoods. Freed men and women arrived in southwestern Wisconsin and became farmers and renowned barn-builders in one of the earliest integrated communities in the nation. Through hundreds of hours of site visits, interviews and research, historian and photographer Scott Wittman extracts the forgotten truths from legend to tell the real stories of those who created the Dairy State.