Green County Premiere
A fourth-generation Swiss dairy farmer in Wisconsin strives to keep his farm open while the state sees record family farm bankruptcies, closures, and rising suicide rates amongst agricultural workers.
Wisconsin is the Dairy State. Nowhere else is there more importance placed on the small, multi-generational family dairy farms than Wisconsin. Some farms have been operating non-stop for well over 100 years, handed down from generation to generation. It’s one of the state’s most vital industries, and the milk produced from these small farms helps make up a bulk of the nation’s cheese supply.
To understand why the dairy farms are struggling and closing in record numbers, Dairyland goes beyond the national headlines and explains many of the major factors at play, including: oversupply of milk and demand, changing consumer habits, rising costs of inputs needed on a dairy farm (feed, equipment, maintenance), changing labor markets, and globalization.
This topic is timely because not only are dairy farms closing in Wisconsin, but elsewhere across the Midwest and the United States. What was once a primary source of food for Americans is facing a great shift. Neighboring farms are getting bigger, and the family farms are feeling the brunt. The region Dairyland focuses on in Wisconsin–Green County, is one of the largest cheese-producing counties in the country, dependent on small family farms.
More importantly, a dairy farm relies on a chain of local businesses that connect a rural farm with its closest city–bankers, feed stores, milk truck drivers, milk suppliers, co-ops, and veterinarians. When one dairy farm closes, it deeply impacts this long string of the local economy.
In addition, Dairyland touches on the changing world of dairy and explores the deep complexity of how milk is priced, who sets the price (Chicago Mercantile), and compares it to other pricing systems. This world is largely understood by others and with a combination of interviews, animations, and archival footage.
My connection to Dan has opened up an entire community to our crew, and we’ve been given unique access to his world, and that of those who depend on him. It’s my belief that by following Dan and all of these other characters in Monroe, we’ll get to tell a national story through the lens of Dan and his community in an effort to accurately and correctly explain the fate of Wisconsin’s dairy industry to a broader audience.