Hurray for county fairs!

Growing up in Boyceville in the 1960's, I so looked forward to attending the Dunn County Fair with my mom, dad and brother, to have my mouth water with the delicious smell of freshly cooked sweet corn on the roasters, taste the pronto pups, hear the music, and get excited over seeing what new "dangerous" rides I could go on that year! As a kid, I also enjoyed going to see the best in show animals, from the cows to the ducks to the sheep to the rabbits. This old family tradition of going to the local county fairs in the summer is clearly a wonderful part of the fabric of growing up in Wisconsin, and is truly one of the best times of year to be here and call Wisconsin home!

In 2017, more than 3 million people attended one of the 76 county and district fairs throughout our state. These 3 million people not only got the chance to be exposed to the local customs of each fair, but they were exposed to the plentiful displays of our state's agricultural heritage. In Wisconsin, the agricultural industry contributes $88.3 billion a year to our economy. In addition, it accounts for 413,500 jobs, nearly 12% of all the state's employment in the state.

But showing the impact of agriculture as a strong economic driver can be difficult, and that is where our county fairs can be one of our best educational tools. Where else can Wisconsinites and tourists alike meet with the local gardener to learn how they grew that blue ribbon pumpkin or talk to the kid who raised the fluffiest bunny that someone has ever seen? You can also talk directly to a farmer and get an up-close visit with a dairy cow and learn how to milk by hand or see some of the amazing new technologies that farmers utilize on the farm to feed the world.

This tradition of agricultural education is something that we need to further support in our state to make sure that people continue to get hands-on exposure to such a vital industry. That is why I supported increasing state resources for our local fairs in the budget, bringing total state aid to nearly half a million dollars. We also provided more funding for technical colleges and the UW-System so our farmers can learn about new farming techniques. The budget also expanded the state School Day Milk program to help ensure our children are connected with our local farmers.

With the legislative session still going, I want people to know that I will continue to work with my fellow legislators to support our agricultural industry in Wisconsin through unique initiatives like the new Dairy Hub at UW-River Falls which will increase innovation and research to assist our farmers.

And if you haven't yet marked your calendars, upcoming local fairs include:

Eau Claire Co. (Eau Claire) July 24-28

Dunn Co. (Menomonie) July 24-28

Buffalo/Pepin Co. (Mondovi) Aug. 1-4

Pierce Co. (Ellsworth) Aug. 8-11

You can find more information on county fair dates and events at