Sunday, October 10, 2010, marked the first official observance of W. D. Hoard Day in the State of Wisconsin. Although this is the first official recognition of W.D. Hoard Day, in reality, Wisconsin residents have been observing this holiday for many decades as dairy continues to be a major economic driver in the Badger state's economy. Agriculture accounts for 12.5 percent of the state's economy, representing $59.16 billion and dairy accounts for $26.5 billion of that total or nearly 45 percent of agriculture's economic activity.

"Governor Hoard was a great champion of our dairy industry, and his hard work helped make Wisconsin the dairy leader it is today," said Governor Jim Doyle. "I am proud to sign this bill into law to establish Governor Hoard's birthday as a holiday," Doyle said at the bill signing earlier this year.

William Dempster Hoard was born in Stockbridge, N.Y., October 10, 1836, and he migrated to Wisconsin in 1857. An admirer of Lincoln, he traveled far to hear him debate and was among the first in his community to respond to Lincoln's call for troops in 1861. After joining the 4th Wisconsin Infantry (later cavalry), he was stricken with break-bone fever in 1862 and was forced to leave the service but re-enlisted in 1864 and served through to the end of the Civil War.

After several minor business ventures, he launched a weekly newspaper, the Jefferson County Union, at Lake Mills, in 1870. Three years later, he moved to Fort Atkinson where the newspaper has since been published. One year later, in order to combat the depletion and erosion of soil resources brought about by a one-crop system of agriculture, W. D. Hoard founded the first dairymen's association in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. One year later, he led the "seven wise men" in founding the Wisconsin Dairymen's Association. Through it the dairy industry became the backbone of a permanent, soil-building and conserving type of agriculture.

In 1873, W.D. Hoard secured a reduction in freight rates and obtained the first refrigerator car ever to ship Wisconsin cheese to eastern markets. And Wisconsin has been shipping cheese out of state ever since with 90 percent of Wisconsin's milk being turned into cheese to this very day.

In 1885, his crusading for a prosperous, soil-building agriculture prompted the founding of Hoard's Dairyman, the national dairy farm magazine. His qualities of leadership were quickly recognized by his state and the nation.

Upon being elected Governor of Wisconsin in 1888, he pioneered in the fight against food adulteration which was commonplace throughout the nation. The nation's first Dairy and Food Commission, which he created, became a defender in the public interest against the rapidly spreading malignancy of misbranding and adulteration of human food.

To read more about W.D. Hoard and his continuing legacy, click here