The rural landscape in the US is changing drastically: The days of the independent family farm have given way to industrial agriculture and factory animal farms. In states around the country, from Iowa and Minnesota to North Carolina, the expansion of Big Agriculture and the factory farming industry has dramatically altered local economies and communities, using up communal resources while posing serious threats to public health and the environment. Far from halting this trend, governments at the state and federal level have worked with powerful industry groups for years to incentivize large-scale farming operations and to make it increasingly difficult for local governments to adequately regulate these operations. But resistance from within rural communities, stretching across political lines, is mounting.

At this very moment, farmers, residents, and environmental advocates in three rural counties in Wisconsin—Polk, Burnett, and Crawford—are engaged in a battle to protect their communities against the construction of two proposed concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which would collectively house roughly 34,000 hogs. Residents fear that the millions upon millions of gallons of liquid manure produced by these CAFOs every year, along with their many other impacts, could cause irreversible damage to their land, air, water, property values, and ways of life. As part of a special collaboration with In These Times magazine for “The Wisconsin Idea,” TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez traveled with Cameron Granadino (TRNN) and Hannah Faris (In These Times) to Crawford, Polk, and Burnett counties to speak with residents about their concerns and about their struggles to defend themselves against Big Agriculture and the factory farming industry.

Pre-Production: Maximillian Alvarez, Simon Davis-Cohen, Hannah Faris, Cameron Granadino

Studio: Cameron Granadino, Stephen Frank

Post-Production: Cameron Granadino, Stephen Frank, Kayla Rivara

The Wisconsin Idea is an independent reporting project of People’s Action Institute, Citizen Action of Wisconsin and In These Times.

Maximillian Alvarez

Editor-in-Chief

Ten years ago, I was working 12-hour days as a warehouse temp in Southern California while my family, like millions of others, struggled to stay afloat in the wake of the Great Recession. Eventually, we lost everything, including the house I grew up in. It was in the years that followed, when hope seemed irrevocably lost and help from above seemed impossibly absent, that I realized the life-saving importance of everyday workers coming together, sharing our stories, showing our scars, and reminding one another that we are not alone. Since then, from starting the podcast Working People—where I interview workers about their lives, jobs, dreams, and struggles—to working as Associate Editor at the Chronicle Review and now as Editor-in-Chief at The Real News Network, I have dedicated my life to lifting up the voices and honoring the humanity of our fellow workers.
 
Email: max@therealnews.com
 
Follow: @maximillian_alv

Cameron Granadino

Studio Technician

Cameron is a researcher, camera operator, and editor for TRNN. Cameron focuses on prisoners rights and grassroots organizing in Baltimore, MD. He brings his trained eye to creating and cutting together the shots that we broadcast to your screen.

Hannah Faris

Hannah Faris is associate editor at The Wisconsin Idea, an independent reporting project of People’s Action Institute, Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund and In These Times.