New research from the University of Southern Denmark has revealed that the many Danes who emigrated to the US in the late 19th century had a profound impact on sculpting the future of the US dairy sector.
Many of the around 300,000 Danes who left Denmark to settle in midwestern US from 1865-1914 were sons of farmers and settled on farms in Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota.
Aside from dreams of a new life in America, they brought with them great knowledge of co-operative dairy farming – which helped combine family-run dairy farming with mass production on an industrial scale. That specific skill helped revolutionise the US dairy sector into what it is today.
“It is impressive that it was the poor emigrating Danes who created this development, which is clear today in the US, where dairy production is concentrated in Minnesota and Wisconsin – and where the world’s biggest co-operative dairy company, Land O’Lakes, exists,” said Paul Richard Sharp, the professor behind the research.
“It’s the direct result of the development the Danish emigrants sparked when they arrived in the US.”
Relevant to today
Sharp’s research shows that modern dairy production techniques emerged in the areas where the Danes settled. The emigrants also kept up to date with dairy development back home in Denmark.
The professor also contends that his research could be relevant to better understand contemporary immigration from developing countries that have a focus on agriculture.
“It’s difficult to predict whether something will happen in their homelands that will mean that ‘useless’ immigrants suddenly become ‘useful’ and can thereby contribute positively to the societies they arrive in,” said Sharp.