Throwback: When alfalfa was queen

In 1926 UW agronomist Laurence Graber created a pageant called The Coronaton of Queen Alfalfa to promote the merits of the crop and the proper way to grow it.

Wisconsin’s dairy farmers grow more than a million acres of alfalfa today, but a century ago, they had to be convinced and the primary convincer was Laurence Graber, otherwise known as Mr. Alfalfa, who was a UW agronomist from 1910 until he retired in 1957. Graber was a highly creative promoter. In 1926 he wrote a pageant called the Coronation of Queen Alfalfa for performance by high school girls. Each participant carried a sign labelled “lime,” “innoculation,” “fertilizer,” “hardy seed” etc., and recited a statement of what she had done for Queen Alfalfa. Graber also wrote jingles, such as the seven verse It Pays Alfalfa to Raise: “It is good for the land. It grows upon sand. And to make it real sure, use lime and manure,” one verse began. When Graber started his crusade in 1910, the state planted 1,800 acres of alfalfa. When he retired in 1956, they planted well over 2 million acres.