This weekend, Judy and I were vendors at the Kickapoo Country Fair in La Farge, Wisconsin: Kickapoo Country Fair. The fair is in its fifth year and is hosted on the grounds of Organic Valley’s headquarters. Organic Valley is the farmer’s cooperative that has been at the forefront of the organic movement in the United States.
This part of Wisconsin, The Kickapoo River Valley, is part of a large portion of southwestern Wisconsin knows as the driftless area. It’s called that because the last glaciers that scoured the land in the Midwest into a relatively flat topography did not scrub off hilltops here. For several reasons the huge glacial flow split and went around the area. While most of the land in all directions is flat or rolling, the driftless area is extremely hilly, and filled with picturesque little valleys. The scenery is spectacular. It could remind one of West Virginia or the hills of California, but unlike the California hills, the area gets plenty of rain and they are always green (except winter when they are mostly white).
It’s an excellent area for dairy farming and cattle raising, but for the last two years, rain has been in too much abundance, and the valley was particularly hard hit by flooding. Evidence of the water damage is everywhere as you drive around. One sees fields still with standing water, roads temporarily repaired with gravel where the asphalt had washed out, and scrubby crops or bare fields in places the farmers have either tried to plant a second crop or just left the fields to dry out until next year.
What was very disheartening about this year’s flooding is that it hit a lot of the small farmers, the ones doing the market growing using organic methods, for a second year in a row. The Kickapoo Valley has been a magnet for small farmers. Two years in a row of having the land inundated has put quite a few small growers out of business and made the economics very precarious for others.
This was very evident at the fair, where several of the tents were promoting assistance to small farmers and even FEMA chose to be an exhibitor, with a tent and a large staff of blue shirted representatives explaining the government programs available to those in need of assistance. The mood at the fair was hardly gloom and doom, however. This is Wisconsin where the people love to party. So music, food, and of course, beer, was available to make the fair a very festive event.
We were happy with our presence at the fair and we met many people who were already users of our tools. It was a very easy and relaxed show to do, and the message of the show is very consistent with our philosophy, so I’m pretty sure we’ll be back next year.