Alfalfa production at Cornfalfa Farms, New Berlin Historical Society

The New Berlin Historical Society is home to an archive of photos and documents from the Swartz family, whose experimental farming methods at Cornfalfa Farms in Waukesha County gained national recognition in the 1910s and 20s. The Swartzes led the way in making alfalfa a viable crop in the state, earning Peter C. Swartz the nickname “Alfalfa King of Wisconsin.”

The Society has recently digitized a series of glass lantern slides and photographs that document the many steps involved in growing alfalfa at Cornfalfa Farms, from plowing and seeding to fertilizing and harvesting. Peter C. Swartz used the slides to illustrate his presentations to the Wisconsin Farmers’ Institutes and other educational events for farmers across the state.

Jayson Swartz (L) and another man broadcast alfalfa seed by hand, followed by another man with a team of horses pulling a harrow.

Jayson Swartz (at left) and another man broadcast soil by hand, followed by a man with a team of horses pulling a harrow. Cornfalfa Farms collection, New Berlin Historical Society.

Phosphate spreader pulled by a team of horses.  Cornfalfa Farms collection, New Berlin Historical Society.

Phosphate spreader pulled by a team of horses. In his presentations, Peter C. Swartz recommended adding phosphate to Wisconsin soils to improve alfalfa yields. Cornfalfa Farms collection, New Berlin Historical Society.

Hand-colored photograph of four teams of horses mowing alfalfa hay. Cornfalfa Farms collection, New Berlin Historical Society.

Hand-colored photograph of four teams of horses cutting alfalfa hay. Cornfalfa Farms collection, New Berlin Historical Society.

Using poles, a sling and a winch to stack hay. Cornfalfa Farms collection, New Berlin Historical Society.

Using poles, a sling and a winch to stack hay. Cornfalfa Farms collection, New Berlin Historical Society.


Browse and search the Cornfalfa Farms collection from New Berlin Historical Society.

Read Peter C. Swartz’s lecture to the Wisconsin Farmers’ Institutes in 1919 (pages 70-79). From History of Wisconsin Agriculture and Rural Life, University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.

Read more about Cornfalfa Farms and the Swartz family in Libbie Nolan, “Alfalfa Seeded in County History,” New Berlin Citizen, August 18, 1983.

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