Touring Wisconsin Dairyland

EDEN’s annual meeting didn’t officially begin until the opening reception Tuesday evening, but those of us who arrived in time to join the October 8th tour got an early taste of what was to come. Cheryl Skjolaas, meeting host, arranged three stops that highlighted two important Wisconsin economic drivers: agriculture and tourism.

Cheryl Skjolaas introduces Justin Pope of Foremost Farms
Cheryl Skjolaas introduces Justin Pope of Foremost Farms.
First stop was Foremost Farms in Baraboo. This is a farmer-owned milk processing and marketing cooperative with nearly 2,000 member-owners located in the upper Midwest. Justin Pope, director of environmental health, safety and sustainability, shared lessons learned from real events and exercises. Processing plants can be affected by contamination, disease outbreak, or physical catastrophes. Like many other businesses, Foremost Farms has developed a continuity of operations plan–and has had to implement it on more than one occasion. A highlight of the presentation was discussion of their enterprise-wide exercise of response to discovery of Foot and Mouth Disease in the state.

We also visited a milk producer, the New Chester Dairy. The  facility has 8,600 cows and operates two rotary parlors, milking approximately 8,000 cows three times a day. All cows are housed on premise in climate-moderated, covered barns and fed feed mix created on site. It was fascinating. While not every state has a large dairy industry, all of us can appreciate the need for biosecurity and farm facility security–poor sanitation, disease, theft, and other problems have a direct impact on the economic welfare of the operation.

EDEN tour group at New Chester Dairy in front of milk transport trucks.
EDEN tour group at New Chester Dairy in front of milk transport trucks.

 

Meg Galloway, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, describes the 2008 Lake Delton washout and subsequent reparation.
Meg Galloway, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, describes the 2008 Lake Delton washout and subsequent reparation.

Sandwiched between dairy stops was a visit with Meg Galloway (Chief, Dams and Floodplain Management Section, Bureau of Watershed Management, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). She met us on Lake Delton‘s earthen dam. As chief, she was responsible for coordinating break reparation after a road embankment washed out on June 8, 2008. Most of the 267-acre lake drained in two hours. Lake Delton was formed in 1927 to attract tourists to the Wisconsin Dells area. It was very successful and has been a key tourism destination ever since. Repairing the 400-foot break, which also took out a section of County Highway A, was a huge task.The repair proceeded hastily because it was tied to the highway reconstruction and was a priority for the area tourism. The lake resort was able to reopen just one year later.

The tone was set. We returned to the University of Wisconsin Pyle Center in time for our opening reception and kickoff to the 2013 EDEN Annual Meeting.

Next week we’ll highlight a few of the meeting sessions.