Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Say “no” to cheese? September 28, 2011

“Did u hear about the anti-cheese billboard up by green bay?” my Wisconsin-resident daughter texted.

Since I discovered her message seven hours after she sent it, I was on my own to investigate. You don’t dangle a tidbit of information like that in front of my eyes and expect me to let it go.

So here’s the deal, according to information I gleaned in a quick online search.

The Washington D.C.-based nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has sponsored a billboard along Highway 41 near Lambeau Field with this message:


Cheese Can

Sack Your Health

Fat. Cholesterol. Sodium.

I don’t need to explain. If you want details on the Physicians Committee’s stand, click here.

Originally, the billboard featured an image of the Grim Reaper wearing a cheesehead hat. Now he’s hatless, reportedly due to a threatened lawsuit by the company that makes those signature hats.

So, that all said, I wonder if the D.C. folks understand, really understand, the importance of cheese in Wisconsin.

I’ll take you on a little photographic tour through Wisconsin, showing you images taken within the past 10 months.

I expect this isn’t the last we’ll hear of this billboard controversy.

And, just for the record, I love cheese.

Cheese is a big part of the tourism industry in Wisconsin as evidenced by this photo taken at Simons Specialty Cheese in Little Chute. Yes, those would be the famous cheesehead hats.

Simons Specialty Cheese is one of the retail outlets for Trega Foods, Ltd., which produces natural curds and mozzarella sticks right next door at its Little Chute plant.

Kitschy cheddar cheese shapes sold in Wisconsin.

You can't miss these cows and cheese sign along a Wisconsin roadway.

A small sampling of the cheeses available at Simon's Specialty Cheese.

Humbird Cheese, a popular tourist stop at Tomah.

Promoting cheese on a billboard along a central Wisconsin highway.

SO, WHAT’S YOUR take on the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine billboard and/or its stand on cheese?


The final harvest

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:55 AM
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DEEP IN THE RICH FARMLAND of southwestern Minnesota, a group of farmers are planning for harvest. But not their harvest.

They will gather to bring in the crops of their friend and neighbor, Steve, who was found dead at the scene of a single-vehicle crash eight days ago. Even before last Friday’s funeral, these good people had lined up half a dozen combines to sweep across Steve’s corn and soybean fields south of Lucan.

One day for the corn. One day for the beans.

I don’t know the identities of these friends. But I expect they were among the mourners who packed St. John’s Lutheran Church in Redwood Falls on Friday to console a grieving family, to find comfort in Scripture and song and words spoken.

I was there. We heard the pastor tell us how God loved Steve so much that he called him home—too early in our eyes, at the age of 64—to spare him from evil and to give him peace.

Words that helped us to understand, from a pastor who considered Steve a personal friend, who himself paused to wipe tears from his eyes during his message.

As I sat in the balcony, looking down toward the casket, to the family in the front rows, my heart broke. For my youngest brother who had stretched his arms along the back of the pew to encircle his wife and their teenaged daughter and their son. They had lost their father, father-in-law and grandpa.

And later, at the cemetery, as my dear sister-in-law leaned forward in her chair, her head bent, her hands clasped tight in her lap, my heart broke.

Minutes later I pulled my 11-year-old nephew close as tears slid down his cheeks, as his body shook with sobs of grief. I wrapped him in my arms, stroked the back of his head, wished with all my might that I could make everything better for the boy who loved his “Papa” so much.

Later, in the church basement, we found moments of laughter in the stories shared by Steve’s oldest son about the perfectionist farmer who each morning walked out of his farmhouse and checked to see that everything was in its place in the farmyard.

We laughed at the man who spent one final weekend with his family, arriving at a downtown Minneapolis hotel with a small bag, asking to, once again, borrow his other son’s shaver.

It felt good to laugh through the tears, to hear about the grandfather who kept cats because he knew his grandchildren loved them, who got a lamb because he knew his grandchildren would love that lamb.

We laughed and remembered and celebrated the life of a man who was dear to so many.

When Steve’s farmer-friends roll their combines onto his acreage, they’ll pay him one last tribute—by bringing in the final harvest.

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted…”


NOTE: The above combine photo is for illustration purposes only and was shot just outside of Courtland on Saturday morning.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling