Milwaukee journalist speaks on farming struggles


Rori Leonhard

Journalist Rick Barrett points to his presentation on rural and urban polarization.

Rori Leonhard, Lifestyle Editor

1%, 2% or Whole. Whether you’re looking for a complimentary taste to your cereal or simply something to drink with your dinner, milk is a common choice. According to business and agricultural reporter Rick Barrett, local dairy farms put a lot of effort into their work and due to the financial crises they are facing now, could use the support of the community around them.

Barrett, a reporter of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, visited the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater on Oct. 18. His goal was to inform his audience, especially younger generations, of the struggles and hardships that rural Wisconsin is facing. The session took place in Timmerman Auditorium at Hyland Hall.

“Go out and visit a farmer. They’d love to have you come by,” Barrett said. “Support them any way you can.”

Barrett has worked on many projects in both the manufacturing and agriculture sectors and in the business areas of reporting. He conducted a documentary in Clark County that truly emphasized the polarization and divide of urban and rural communities, using specific examples of farmers who’ve been burned by the difficulties of their occupation. To learn more about this documentary visit, “America’s Dairyland at the Crossroads.”

Barrett suggested one of the ways someone can support local dairy farmers is to buy straight from the farm. Doing this allows someone to truly get to know the people who source their products, as well as putting more money directly into the pockets of farmers.

Anna Thompson Hajdik, a senior lecturer of English and Film Studies in the Department of Languages and Literatures, organized the event in an attempt to spread awareness about the topic. She comes from a farming background in which her family raised dairy goats. She finds the agricultural community very important due to her background in Wisconsin and Minnesota. 

“If we ignore our rural communities, that breeds resentment and division between urban cities like Madison and Milwaukee,” Hajdik said. “If we can strengthen rural broadband and access and digital inclusion, that is a way to really revitalize our rural communities.”

Rick Barrett invites the university to hear his presentation

Hajdik encourages people to reach out to their local farmers and express their gratitude for their hard work. Doing so will give them incentives to keep going and help better their conditions.

Rick Barrett’s presentation was live streamed and recorded for remote and future use. To watch visit,