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Audio Archive Captures The Stories Of Wisconsin's Dairy Farmers

Ed Janus

Any long road trip in Wisconsin will most likely take you past farms. Some old and run down, and some still thriving. 

Although it may seem that the profession of self-made farmer is dwindling, one man has been exploring and recording Wisconsin's agricultural "memory." He's been collecting the farmers' stories and archiving them so that they are available long after the farmers' lifetimes.

Five years ago, Creating Dairyland was created when Ed Janus set out to capture the lives of Wisconsin’s dairy farmers as their ranks dwindled and the industry changed. Janus, who – for a brief period - was himself a dairy farmer, ended up collecting more material than he could use on the project.

And so Janus’s latest effort was born. He’s now curator of a major effort to collect stories of dairy farmers, told in their own words. The audio archive is called The People Remember, and Janus spoke with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich to explain what he hopes to accomplish with this project.

"I am very struck by how interesting, surprising, and sometimes quite colorful, rural people are," Janus says. "City people could learn an awful lot by actually listening, because these are people speaking in their own voices."

Janus hopes that this archive will not only display the stories of past farmers, but instill hope for future farmers as well.

"I think people are worried, rightfully so, about the sort of family farmer disappearing, and that's another thing I hope to help with. He may be disappearing, but on the other hand they're still out there," he says.

Dorothy Farrell, who served as Wisconsin's Alice in Dairyland in 1982, tells a story Ed Janus calls, "The Catcher in the Rye."

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.