Watch Now: The Story of the Wisconsin Farming Crisis Told Through Poetry | Local news


Dan Smith, a poet and former dairy farmer, with his wife Cheryl in front of their barn across from their house in the rural arena. The 1951 Farmall tractor has been in the Smith’s family for 70 years.


“This is the story of the Wisconsin dairy industry,” said Smith. “There is a story of pain and decisions and processes that each of these 41,000 dairy farms that we have lost since 1978 has gone through. I try (with poetry) to reach out to both the agricultural and non-agricultural audiences. This is a social, economic, and cultural impact that Wisconsin must deal with. Because the result cannot be felt in the supermarket. The loss of these 41,000 dairy farms had a huge impact on local schools, school boards, the city council and the cooperative board. There are simply fewer people in these areas. “

Smith will begin promoting the book later this summer and into the fall. One event is a reading and signing on August 22nd at 3pm at Arcadia Books in downtown Spring Green. The events will allow Smith to better contextualize his writings, answer questions, and likely hear more stories of lost farms and changed lives.

The poetry of Dan Smith

Dan Smith’s poem “Chasing Chores” can be found in his book “Ancestral”.


“Just today I felt myself falling in love with this country,” wrote Smith in his poem “Dry Dirt”, 80 pages in his book. “How many times can a man step in the dirt and swear he’s never been so dry. Now I am tossing decades of harvest and livestock care in a heap in the back, closing the year like an old door on an empty barn. “

One of eight college graduates, Smith grew up on a family dairy farm north of Freeport, Illinois. In 1978 he graduated from UW-Madison, where he met his wife Cheryl, who grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland. They returned to the farm where Dan farmed, Cheryl taught kindergarten and first grade, and raised three boys who all graduated from UW Madison as men but moved away from farming. Ryan is a facial reconstruction surgeon in Chicago; Levi is an attorney in Minnesota and Austin, the elder, teaches writing and poetry at Stanford University.


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