William D. Hoard’s enlightened understanding of the importance of livestock to soil health, coupled with his courageous advocacy work, helped pull Wisconsin agriculture from the depths of despairing wheat production in the late 19th century. When year after year of wheat production led to devastating disease pressure, he opened a door to unimagined prosperity. Hoard ignited the concept of America’s Dairyland by understanding the importance of diversified cropping to break disease cycles, the role of livestock in recycling nutrients, and the importance of peer-to-peer education to making change.
Hoard’s lore, captured in the booklet “Hilltop Decision,” speaks of how Governor Hoard saw “good farmers” exiting the industry all around him, and he realized the importance of education and technical support to maintain families on the land. We might call his work agricultural innovation because he transformed the industry. That is, Wisconsin agriculture was never the same, and that was a good thing . . . “back in the day.”