The Farming Era in the Northwoods

  • Article

    In many parts of the country, clearing the land of forest was a necessary prerequisite for farming. Many people considered the logging of the northern Midwest to be the first step in the same pattern: Farming would follow the loggers and the country would continue to prosper.

    The Extension Service of the University of Wisconsin was an enthusiastic booster of the farming possibilities of the region. Land developers were equally eager to encourage new settlers to come to the area as farmers.

    The very thin layer of topsoil left after the cutover, as well as the poor sandy soil, coupled with a growing season which was too short for successful farming combined to make farming unprofitable.

    The farming era didn't last long. Farmers, mostly immigrants, headed into the area following the loggers, which for the Star Lake region meant that began arriving fairly early in the new century. It took very few years for their farms to fail. Not much evidence of farming in the Star Lake area remains: a few fields, and road names such as the Mykelby Farm Road.

    The idea didn't die easily, however. The "Backward Glances" column in the Vilas County News Review of September 17, 2008, contains "80 Years Ago [1928]... A survey conducted by a bank indicated that farming in the North Woods was becoming increasingly more profitable." (Tobacco companies were also telling us that smoking was sophisticated and healthy.)

    Charles P. Forbes
    September 24, 2008
  • Bibliography

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    Vilas County Fair. Manual and Rules for Exhibits & Entries, 4-H & Open Class Exhibits. [August 12-15, 2010] Eagle River, 2010. View Full Entry
  • Links
  • Images
  • Miscellany

    1930 Census

    Backward Glances in the Vilas County News Review on January 20, 2010, for 80 Years Ago (1930) says "Census numbers showed vilas County gained 34 farms the previous year [decade?], with Oneida County gaining 46 and Iron County gaining 26."

    1960 Census

    Backward Glances in the Vilas County News Review on July 26, 2000, for 40 Years Ago (19360) says, "A total of 100 farms were counted in Vilas County in an agricultural census."