The word "culture" can take on different meanings. One example is in agriculture - working the land. Another is the social expression of heritage. Or "culture" as an ingredient in the cheesemaking process. Here in Green County, all three meanings have rich, time-honored traditions.
Back in the day when "eating local" was reality rather than trend, and long before white settlers appeared in Green County, members of the Winnebago nation (now Ho-Chunk) lived off the land as a successful agricultural tribe. They hunted, foraged, fished, and farmed. Later came Irish, Scotch, Scandinavians, Germans, and other "Yankees" - aspiring farmers who had first settled in the New England states before migrating west.
In 1845, a group of 108 immigrants set out from Glarus, Switzerland seeking opportunities in the New World. When the scouts looked over the landscape of northern Green County, they looked around and said something like "ja, die hügel gseh us wi die daheim!" (yes these hills DO look a bit like home!) And so they founded the community of New Glarus. Their first attempts at farming involved raising swine and planting turnips. With limited success, the settlers ended up surviving on fish and game as the Native Americans had.
The Swiss immigrants soon realized the challenges of tilling with ox and plow and planting crops on the rolling hills of limestone. The early years were very lean. But they bought a herd of Brown Swiss cows and drove them from Ohio to New Glarus. Their innovative approach, first to survival, and then to advancement - eventually proved that what the resourceful Swiss lacked in knowledge of farming, they more than made up for in their experience in raising dairy cows. Commercial cheesemaking followed; quickly putting Green County on the map with the proud designation "Swiss Cheese Capital of the USA."
Today, thirteen cheese plants churn out cheese known for reaping top awards at national and international competitions. The demand for cheese and other value-added dairy products has resulted in more dairy cows than people in Green County, and a workforce with 22% of jobs related to agriculture.
The Swiss roots established more than 150 years ago are vividly evident today in festivals, cuisine, folk art and architecture, family and business names, yodeling and alphorns, and the herds of Brown Swiss that still graze the green hillsides.
Is everyone here Swiss? Nope. We're as diverse in ethnic heritage as we are in opinions, or the variety of cheese produced - ranging from the traditional Limburger and Brick to the perhaps less expected flavors like Queso Fresco or Fontina.
Green County is truly a melting pot. You know - the kind used to serve cheese fondue. Picture yourself right here - the cozy table surrounded by friends, a basket of good crusty bread, tall tales, and warm conversation punctuated with a glass of wine or favorite local brews.
Come join us. Eat, drink, yodel. We're flavorful, friendly, and fun. With so many ways to experience what we've got here, you'll soon discover there's an art to enjoying the authentic culture of Green County.