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From Fantasy to Reality: The Impact of Rural Electrification on the Dairy Farms of West-Central Wisconsin

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Tierney, Joseph M.
Mann, John W. W.; Chamberlain, Oscar B.
May 10, 2011
Rural electrification--Wisconsin; Agricultural development projects--Wisconsin; Dairy farming--Wisconsin--History
Prior to the mid 1930s, nearly all of rural America was without electricity. In conjunction with that reality, daily activities and tasks were performed in much the same way as they had been for generations. From 1935-1936, the U.S. Government, as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" economic recovery plan, passed legislation that created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) and tasked it with organizing and administrating a nation- wide rural electrification effort. Functioning primarily as a lending institution, the REA vigorously and successfully promoted the formation of companies intending to extend electric service to rural areas. Over the course of the following two decades, those REA-financed rural electric providers, most of them cooperatives comprised of local farmers, built an extensive infrastructure of power plants, lines, and substations that offered central-station electric service to nearly every farm in America. On the dairy farms of west-central Wisconsin, electrical innovation in the form of various conveniences, appliances, and equipment revolutionized farm work and daily life. Leaving practically no area of farm life untouched, electricity vastly improved the standard of living for farm families, decreased the amount of time and effort required for daily work in the home and on the farm, and greatly improved the efficiency, production, and milk quality of the dairy farms in that region of Wisconsin.
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