Understanding the impact of dairy farm changes on social capital in rural Wisconsin

PI: Christopher Holtkamp


Holtkamp is an assistant professor of conservation and environmental planning at UW–River Falls whose experience and focus is on rural communities. As a planner, Holtkamp takes the unique challenges and opportunities facing small towns and helps them leverage their limited resources for maximum benefit.

Dairy farming is transitioning as small farms, a hallmark of Wisconsin’s identity, are declining in favor of larger farms. Research finds that changes in farm size and ownership are contributing to changes in economic conditions and social capital in affected areas. Developing policies that foster social capital in communities experiencing a transition to larger farms may contribute to more sustainable economic vitality. This project will provide local knowledge of changes occurring in Wisconsin communities. Interviews will be conducted in communities transitioning to larger farms and communities where small farms still dominate. Additional research using secondary sources will be used to understand social and economic conditions. The overall goal of this study is to understand how changes in dairy farming are affecting communities in rural Wisconsin.

Dairy Social and Economic Conditions Survey Report – July 2022