I bet you didn’t know this about Mexico

I’ve recently learned something pretty fascinating about rural Mexico. There’s a heavy presence of Mennonites! And they farm (and make really good cheese) ­čÖé

The northern regions on Mexico is where the Mennonite communities have settled ┬ásince the 1920s – Zacatecas, Chihuahua, Durango and several others. You will find them speaking Spanish, some English and even German in some communities.

The Mennonites have helped to increase the farming in Northern Mexico growing corn, beans, oats and wheat. They also have greatly increased the milk production in Mexico (Chihuahua is the leading state in the country) through having several large dairy herds. Many of the herds have several thousand head of cattle. Right now, their production is around 100,000 gallons of milk each day!

Dairy farm

Mennonite dairy farm, La Honda, in Zacatacas, Mexico

The thing they are well-known for in Mexico is their cheese. They have created their own special variety, called “queso chihuahua” and produce 155,000 pounds of it each day. This cheese is similar to a mild, white cheddar or monterey jack. This cheese is a staple in many of the meals in Mexico, especially in the northern states. Locals will send it to their family in the U.S. and visitors will always try to take a few pounds back home.


Queso Chihuahua

Check out this link to learn more about the history.



World Dairy Expo

I can’t talk about international agriculture without mentioning one of the biggest events in the dairy industry – World Dairy Expo.

Most everyone is familiar with the AKC dog shows, right? Well dogs aren’t the only animal that can be shown – cattle, horses, goats, cats etc – all have similar events. In the dairy industry, the biggest event of the year is World Dairy Expo (WDE). Held in Madison, Wisconsin, WDE has more than 1,000 people bring their dairy cattle to show, in 2011 there were over 2,000 animals on the grounds! Having a class winning animal or even the Supreme Champion is the highest honor in the dairy show circuit.

International Holstein Show (photo via Shannon Hayes)

But World Dairy Expo is so much more than just showing cattle. This is where farmers and industry experts interact and learn about the new technologies and breakthroughs in the agricultural industries. Companies and researchers from around the world set up booths in the convention center to educate and make business connections. If you have a new product, WDE is the best possible place to launch it.

Not only do farmers and agricultural companies attend, World Dairy Expo is a great place for families and schools to visit and learn something new. Educational information, tours and exhibits are used to support agricultural education. In 2011, over 68,000 people attended WDE over a 4 day period.

Educating a school group (photo via WDE)

Since World Dairy Expo is the biggest event of the year, it’s only fitting that this is the event that international visitors will want to attend. Every year, WDE hosts educators, businessmen, companies and researchers from a variety of countries. These international guests use WDE as their time to learn from the industry’s best and gain new insight to take home with them. Last year, there were over 2,500 international guests from 90 countries!

World Dairy Expo is my favorite time of the year and takes place in my backyard (Madison). It’s truly a special event in the agriculture industry and it’s like the Christmas of the dairy industry. It’s a place to see old friends, make new friends and learn something new.

Serena (the cow) and me at World Dairy Expo

America’s Dairyland

I can’t start to talk about agriculture around the world without first talking about the agriculture in my own state….Wisconsin!

Everyone knows of Wisconsin as the Dairy State, which leading the country with the highest number of farms at around 78,000. But Wisconsin has more than just cows, agriculture bring over $59 billion in economic activity, that’s right, BILLION. And here’s how we do it.

Wisconsin is the nation’s leading producer of cranberries, ginseng and snap peas. Not just leading, but dominating the field. We produce over 97% of the nation’s ginseng and over 50% of the cranberries. In addition to those foods, oats, cherries, potatoes, carrots and sweet corn rank high in the state. That’s a lot of food!


Cranberry Production in Central Wisconsin

But, going back to the name, Dairy State, Wisconsin has the highest number of dairy goats in the country, 46,000. And we like cheese here – producing 25% of our nation’s cheese supply. Of the $59 billion that agriculture brings to the state, dairy is leading the pack, bringing over $26 billion! To put that in perspective, Wisconsin dairy generates more income than Florida citrus, Idaho potatoes, Washington apples, Maine lobsters and California raisins combined.


Wisconsin's Dairy

Wisconsin farmers are hard at work year round in the state, working to produce food for the local farmers market and for export.