|Physical divisions of U.S. and maximum extent of|
South DakotaWe followed the Bad River Valley east along highway 14 from Wells, South Dakota, towards Pierre (pronounced Pier by the locals) the state capitol, on the Missouri River. This area, south of the line of glaciation, is dominated by cattle ranching and small irrigated crops over an undulating western landscape.
|Bad River drainage, South Dakota/Platek|
|Pierre, South Dakota/s3.amazonaws.com|
South Dakota has a small population of 865,000, but it has 32,000 farms. There are 4,075 farms between 1,000 acres and 2,000 acres; 3,667 farms between 2,000 and 5,000 acres; and 1,970 farms with more than 5,000 acres. The average farm size is 1,366 acres (fifth place behind the large cattle ranching states of Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Nevada).
Although we cross no discernible natural border, there is an unmistakeable transition as we cross into Minnesota on our way to Minneapolis: the farms are more numerous, smaller, and they are nestled among stands of trees.
|Minnesota farmland/Robert Mizrahi|
Minnesota, just 11% larger, has twice as many farms as South Dakota (74,542), but the farms are smaller: only 205 farms exceed 5,000 acres; there are only 1,960 farms between 2,000 and 5,000 acres; and only 4,003 farms between 1,000 and 2,000 acres.
Minnesota has a population of 5.5 million. Hillary Clinton eked out a 1.5% victory in Minnesota over Donald Trump in 2016 (46.9% vs. 45.4%). The "never Trump" Evan McMullin (1.8%) and the libertarian Gary Johnson (3.9%) were the spoilers for Trump in Minnesota.
Minnesota is represented by five Democrats in the House of Representatives (Tim Walz, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Collin Peterson, and Rick Nolan) and three Republicans (Jason Lewis, Erik Paulsen, Tom Emmer) and by two Democrats in the Senate (Amy Klobucher and Al Franken).
From Minneapolis we drove south on Highway 52 into Amish country. At Cannon Falls, home of Pachyderm Studio, we turned left towards the Mississippi River, and entered Wisconsin at La Crosse, the largest city in Western Wisconsin. [Yes, the name is derived from the Indian game] Wisconsin is only slightly smaller than South Dakota and Minnesota, yet it has nearly the same number of farms as Minnesota (69,754); but its farms are much smaller. Only 74 farms are larger than 5,000 acres; there are only 587 farms between 2,000 to 5,000 acres; and only 1,580 farms from 1,000 to 2,000 acres.
Forty-six percent of Wisconsin is covered by forest. It has been gaining, not losing, forest acreage as marginal crop and pasture land has been planted with trees, or reforested naturally. Today the state has more forestland than at any time since inventories began in 1936.
The stereotype is true: Wisconsin is a heavy hitter in the production of milk (30 billion pounds annually) and cheese (3 billion pounds annually). Wisconsin, just forty percent the size of California, produces nearly as much milk as California and produces more cheese than California.
Glaciers largely bypassed the western uplands region of Wisconsin. Erosion in this "Driftless Area" was accelerated when ice dams, backing up large lakes, suddenly gave way as the ice receded. Rivers draining into the Mississippi have carved shallow east-west trending valleys in this region.
|Regions of Wisconsin|
In the fertile central plain soft hills were formed by glacial moraines.
|Drumlins formed by glacial moraines west of Milwaukee|
Wisconsin has a population of 5.8 million. They gave the nod to Trump by 1 percentage point (47.9 vs. 46.9) in the last election. The lefty, Jill Stein, received 1.1 percent of the vote, and the libertarian Gary Johnson received 3.6 percent of the vote.
Wisconsin is represented by five Republicans in the House (Paul Ryan, Jim Sensenbrenner, Glenn Grothman, Sean Duffy, and Mike Gallagher) and three Democrats (Marc Pocan, Ron Kind, and Gwen Moore) and by a Democrat (Tammy Baldwin) and a Republican (Ron Johnson) in the Senate.
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