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It's harvest time in Wisconsin



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September 15, 2010 | 08:03 AM
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. If this is true, Wisconsinites have plenty of opportunities to avoid the doctor this fall.

Fall is harvest season and everywhere you look there is an orchard with a stand selling everything from fresh produce to homemade pies. Apples are just one of the many agricultural crops Wisconsin specializes in. Corn, soybeans, potatoes and cranberries also rank in Wisconsin's top 10 commodities.

In our area of the state, agriculture continues to be an integral part of the landscape, both figuratively and literally. There are more than 3,100 farms in the counties of Jefferson, Kenosha, Walworth and Waukesha — counties making up the 11th Senate District.

Those farms total more than 653,000 acres and sell nearly $300 million in agricultural products annually. In addition to dairy products, Wisconsin is the national leader in several specialty crops including cranberries, ginseng and many vegetables. Agriculture generates more than $59 billion of economic activity annually and close to 350,000 jobs statewide.

Wisconsin ginseng farmers account for 95 percent of the total ginseng production in the United States. Not only is Wisconsin's agriculture utilized throughout our country, but also around the world. Exports account for 21-percent of Wisconsin farm income, with dairy products, baking and brewing ingredients, foods and food preparation, beverages and hides, being shipped to countries such as Canada, Mexico, Japan, Italy and China.

More locally, during harvest time, you might encounter farm equipment on the road. Many farm vehicles travel 25 mph or less, which could be dangerous if faster moving drivers are not alert. According to the National Safety Council, roadway collisions that involve farm vehicles on the road total more than 15,000 per year. More than two-thirds of these collisions involve the farm vehicle being hit from behind. Collisions can also occur when the tractor tries to make left turns into a field. Farmers are not required to drive on the shoulder of the road, and drivers may not pass tractors while in a no passing zone.

Harvest time is productive, but it should also be enjoyed. A variety of fall festivals, farmers market, corn mazes and orchards which offer pick your own apples can be a fun way to experience some of what harvest time has to offer. Elegant Farmer in Mukwonago, offers a variety of activities including: apple picking, tractor-pulled hayrides and vintage trolley rides. There are also a number of corn mazes in Southeast Wisconsin, the Homestead Animal Farm located North of North Lake on Highway 83 is just one in our area.

Whether you visit — and potentially get lost — in a corn maze, pick your own apples, or take a seat on a hayride, be sure to take time to enjoy Wisconsin's Harvest Season. For a more complete list of corn mazes, or to find additional things to do and places to go this season, visit the Wisconsin Department of Tourism at: www.travelwisconsin.com.

Kedzie can be reached in Madison at P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI, 53707-7882, or by calling toll-free (800) 578-1457. He may be reached in the district at (262) 742-2025 or on-line at www.senatorkedzie.com.

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