Farming Pioneers

© Photographed October 16, 2015
Erected 2015 by Fitchburg Agriculture Route (FAR),
The City of Fitchburg, and Dane County Parks
Fitchburg, Dane County, Wisconsin
42.995075, -89.460166
Google Map

Early settlers and soils lay groundwork for modern, large-scale argiculture
The O'Brien family dairy has been a part of Stoner Prairie since the early 1900's. In its early days the dairy housed an innovative milking parlor that became a dairy tour showcase and also served as a teaching center for the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Agriculture. A major dairy renovation took place in 2001, including installation of a modern milking parlor and a free stall barn to house cattle. The dairy lies just to the north of this sign, straddling both sides of Seminole Highway. 
Viable agriculture begin with productive soil. Stoner Prairie, and the lands to the east of this sign, have some of the most productive soils in the United States. Soil productivity is measured by the crop volume that can be produced from an acre of soil given normal weather conditions. The soils to the east of this sign have a soil productivity score of 98 out of 100. Crops grown in these soils in recent years include corn and soybeans. These soils produce approximately 1 1/2 times the number of bushels of corn and soybeans, per acre on average, compared to other soils in the City.
[sic] This is a good township of land, mostly gently rolling, with a good soil; it is not well watered; otherwise holds out many inducements to the farmer. It has some springs and streams on the east side. On this township we saw many deer and prairie wolves."
---- Lorin Miller, Federal Government Lank Surveyor, 1833
The lands to the north and south of this sign are known as Stoner Prairie, the first area in Fitchburg settled by European immigrants. John Stoner, the prairie's first farmer of European ancestry, raised crops just north of this sign in 1838. Brothers Joseph and George Vroman were Fitchburg's first permanent settlers, arriving in the region in 1836 from New York. The Vromans, carpenters by trade, worked on construction of the State Capitol building and built a farmstead on the prairie in 1859. Other early prairie settlers included the McKennas, O'Briens, Lacys, and Dunns. The McKenna stone barn, built in the mid [sic] 1800's, stands on the east side of Seminole Highway 0.9 miles north of this sign. 
Dairy farming played a vital role in the early settlement of Stoner Prairie. The wooden building at the northwest corner of the Lacy Road-Seminole Highway intersection served as a cheese factory at the turn of the 20th century, processing milk from prairie farms. Trains running from the Stoner Prairie Depot, located on Rufus Gillet's soybean farm on the west side of Seminole Highway 0.2 miles north of this sign, distributed milk throughout the region. The depot was known locally as "Beanville Station."
The marker is located along the Badger State Trail and is accessible from northbound South Seminole Highway between Whalen Road (to the south) and Lacy Road (to the north), near where the Badger State Trail crosses South Seminole Highway, Fitchburg, Wisconsin 53711.

The "interpretative sign" marker is included in the Fitchburg Agriculture Route (FAR).

Fitchburg Agriculture Route (FAR) Bike Tour (PDF).

Looking north along the Badger State Trail,
with Seminole Highway visible to the left.

LEFT: Beanville Station with barrels of Fitchburg milk.
RIGHT: Joseph Vroman, one of Fitchburg's first permanent settlers.
Looking south along the Badger State Trail,
with Seminole Highway visible to the right.

The view directly across the road, presuming part
of the O'Brein family dairy . . .

The closest, safest parking, with or without a camper en tow.

The marker is located in Fitchburg, Wisconsin.

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