Topping the list for this summer’s ag-related must-see adventures is the 161st Wisconsin State Fair, Thursday, August 2, through Sunday, August 12, 2012, when you can count cows, admire draft horses and eat just about anything imaginable fried, dipped in chocolate or snagged on a stick. Did you know that Abe Lincoln spoke at the fair’s forerunner, the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society Exposition, held in Milwaukee in 1859?
A tip: Stampede to the Wisconsin Products Pavilion for bison burgers, duck fajitas, baked potatoes and hand-dipped ice cream. For the best deal there, three grilled cheese sandwiches are available for only $5, made up in the thousands by the Wisconsin State Fair Dairy Promotion Board.
So slather on the sunscreen, wear a wide-brimmed hat and stride forth in strong walking shoes while seeking out “nonfattening” cream puffs, the giant Ferris wheel and championship porkers (sans barbecue sauce).
Another important stop could be to one or more of the state’s many cheese plants, to see how Wisconsin’s famous savory product is made. For a list of possibilities, tour the factories of Wisconsin’s award-winning cheese producers. Green County Cheese Days, September 14 – 16 2012, in Monroe, tops the bucket list of activities that also capitalize on the region’s Swiss heritage. The “crowning” event is that Saturday night’s Cheesemaker & Royalty Ball in the city’s historic Turner Hall.
Naturally, cheese and malt beverage certainly go together on any hot summer’s eve. Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery has just released its Wisconsinite Summer Weiss Beer. This is the country’s first beer made from 100 percent locally grown ingredients, including hard-to-get hops and utilizing a fermented, indigenous Wisconsin yeast strain. Add sharply aged cheddar and Wisconsin-baked crackers to a mug o’ frosty for value-added kickback time at sunset.
For another slice of Wisconsin, take a farm tour for a better understanding of why Wisconsin is the premier Dairy State. The families at Hinchley’s dairy operation in Cambridge, Dane County, and the Knigge Farm near Omro in Winnebago County, are always glad to show off their cows and milking parlors. Be sure to call ahead, in case the folks are outside working.
For this summer’s grand finale, take in the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw & Festival, August 31 through September 1st, 2012, in Marion Park. See if you can beat the state record toss of 248 feet. Making the silliness official in a rare bipartisan move, the Wisconsin legislature proclaimed the cow chip as the Unofficial State Muffin in 1989.
Martin Hintz is the Milwaukee-based author of the recently-released “Wisconsin Farm Lore: Kicking Cows, Giant Pumpkins and Other Tales from the Back Forty” (The History Press) which is chock full of anecdotes about the state’s farm heritage. His 10th edition of “Wisconsin: Off the Beaten Path” (Globe Pequot) has also just come out, uncovering many of the state’s marvelous tourism secrets. Hintz and his wife, Pam Percy, also farm several acres of vegetables for their Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) clients, in addition to selling eggs and broilers from their chicken flock. They are members of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau and Milwaukee Urban Gardens (MUG).