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Safety First in Choosing Great Gifts

Picking the perfect gift for the little ones on your holiday list is never as simple as pulling the first toy off the shelf that catches your eye. You end up weighing many factors, like whether or not a toy is in line with the child’s interests, if the toy is interactive, if it is cute, and so on. While you make a number of considerations in this decision, what may be lost in the shuffle is the most important factor of all: whether or not a toy is safe for the child and other young ones in the home.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection asks toy shoppers to think about the safety of each potential gift before hitting the register this holiday season.

“Make a habit of checking the safety labels on toy packaging and use that information to determine whether the product is appropriate for the home,” said Michelle Reinen, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Any warnings given about the inclusion of small parts, magnets, chemicals or other risks should be taken into consideration.”

The safety of a product is not necessarily dictated by its popularity, the brand’s reputation, or the businesses that sell the item. This October, for example, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled around 3.6 million childrens’ plates and bowls that were made by a major manufacturer and sold at “big box” retailers nationwide. The thin plastic layer on the surface of the items was found to bubble, peel and detach, creating a choking hazard.

When shopping for toys, look for these labels on packaging or associated warnings on product webpages:

  • General warning labels listing small parts, magnets, suffocation hazards, etc.
  • Age grading: use the manufacturer’s suggested age range as a foundation for whether a toy is appropriate for the physical development of a child.
  • All toys: “ASTM F963” – this label indicates that a toy meets the latest toy safety standards. All toys sold in the U.S. must meet this standard. ASTM F963 includes guidelines and test methods to prevent injuries from choking, sharp edges and other potential hazards.
  • Art materials: “ASTM D4236” – this label indicates that art materials have been reviewed by a toxicologist and are labeled with cautionary information, if necessary.
  • Toys with fabrics: “Flame resistant” – this label means that a material will resist burning and should extinguish quickly once removed from an ignition source.

Some additional things to think about when shopping for gifts for children:

  • Pick up any safety items that go along with a toy such as a helmet for a bike or scooter.
  • For homes with younger children, avoid toys with small parts, magnets, cords or strings.
  • Choose gifts that are both age and skill appropriate for the child.
  • Check for recalled toys at the CPSC website:
  • Watch out for “button batteries,” coin-sized (or smaller) batteries that are used in some toys, remote controls, flashlights, hearing aids and more. Never let a child play with these batteries as they pose a choking hazard and can cause serious internal chemical burns in as little as two hours. Make sure that any toys that use these batteries have a screw to secure the battery compartment.
  • Watch out for gifts containing high-powered magnets. These small “rare earth” magnets can easily be swallowed by children and can attract one another in the intestinal tract, requiring surgical removal.
  • Avoid no-name products. A manufacturer’s name and address is not a guarantee of safety, but it means you can track down a legitimate company to remedy problems.
  • Look for hidden dangers such as sharp points, loud noises or projectiles.
  • If you are purchasing wooden toys, look for splinters or sharp edges.
  • If you are purchasing used toys, skip ones with chipped paint in order to avoid possible exposure to lead.

Safety concerns don’t end at the register. Be mindful of younger children and keep small or pointed toys and accessories out of their reach. Make sure to read any battery charging instructions that come with toys as chargers and adapters can overheat and pose burn hazards to young children**. Continue to keep an eye on the CPSC website for new recalls and consider signing up for DATCP’s Keep Your Kids Safe e-newsletter in order to receive a monthly summary of the children’s products recalled by the CPSC.

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Tree Pruning with a Purpose

Fall is a great time to be outside admiring the trees in our landscapes. We take stock of which trees are looking good and which seem to need a little help. If we discover trees that look like they’ve seen better days, we instantly want to solve the problem. It is natural to want to do something to help a plant – prune it, fertilize it, polish it – we can’t help wanting to touch it in some way.

One basic housekeeping chore that might help a struggling tree would be pruning. Pruning is an oft-needed maintenance treatment for good tree health and safety, but pruning without a good reason is not good tree care practice. Pruning just because your neighbor is doing it may not be beneficial for the tree, and could result in too much live tree tissue being removed. This can cause the tree to become stressed, and perhaps decline. In the fall, limit the amount of live tissue being removed and focus mainly on removing dead or broken branches.

In fact, industry tree pruning standards (ANSI A300) say no more than 25 percent of a tree’s foliage should be removed in a single growing season. If the tree is of a species that cannot tolerate a lot of pruning, even less should be removed.

When determining how much pruning your tree can tolerate, a qualified arborist may consider if the tree:

  • is healthy
  • is still growing rapidly or has matured and slowed its growth
  • had its roots severed or damaged recently or in the past
  • suffers from disease
  • is a species tolerant of heavy pruning

“All that said, fall is a good time to evaluate a tree to plan future pruning that may be needed to meet certain tree health goals,” says Tchukki Andersen, BCMA, CTSP* and staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association.

A qualified arborist will work with you to set an objective for the pruning job (i.e., what you want accomplished when the work is done). Pruning objectives usually include one or more of the following:

  • reduce risk of damage to people or property
  • manage tree health and direction of growth
  • provide clearance for vehicles or roadways
  • improve tree structure
  • increase or improve aesthetics
  • restore shape

“Once tree pruning objectives are established, the arborist can provide specific details on how your trees could be pruned to get the desired result,” says Andersen.

The pruning process can be overwhelming to those not familiar with the pruning of shade and ornamental trees. A qualified tree care expert trained in tree and woody plant health care can answer your questions, as well as help you with your tree-pruning goals. Make sure to ask for tree pruning to be done according to ANSI A300 standards, the generally accepted industry standards for tree care practices.

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Family Care Drive Brings In Over 850 Items

UnitedOne Credit Union’s 15th Family Care Drive took in over 850 personal and home care items to help local individuals and families in need.

The donations by the credit union’s employees and members were made at UnitedOne’s offices in Manitowoc and Sheboygan throughout the month of October.

“People helping people is a core part of the credit union philosophy,” said CEO Kim Rooney. “We have been a part of our community for almost 80 years, and helping our neighbors is very important to us.”

Items collected at UnitedOne Credit Union’s Manitowoc offices were delivered to the The Haven and Hope House, both serving Manitowoc County, on Nov. 6 for distribution.

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Alice in Dairyland to Do Christmas Tree Cutting Ceremony Tuesday

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection invites media professionals to join 70th Alice in Dairyland Crystal Siemers-Peterman and Adams County students when Siemers-Peterman helps cut down a Christmas tree to mark the start of the 2017 Christmas tree season. The event will be held Tuesday, Nov. 14, 1 p.m., at Ginter Tree Farms, 1884 County Rd N, Friendship WI 53934.

A group of Adams County fifth-graders will spend the day with Alice in Dairyland learning about Wisconsin agriculture and the Christmas tree industry at Ginter Tree Farms, a family-owned Wisconsin farm producing cut-your-own and fresh-cut Christmas trees, and wreaths, garland, and boughs. Additional education stations will also be hosted by the Adams County DNR and FFA chapter.

The Christmas tree cutting by Alice in Dairyland is held each year on a different Wisconsin tree farm. The annual tree-cutting is sponsored by the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association.

Alice in Dairyland is a contract employee of DATCP and serves one year as Wisconsin’s agricultural ambassador educating media, students and communities about the state’s $88 billion agriculture industry. This event will be one of many in the next several months leading up to the selection of the 71st Alice in Dairyland May 17-19, 2018 in Adams County.

Wisconsin is the nation’s fifth-largest Christmas tree producer, with an annual harvest of more than 600,000 trees valued at more than $16 million. There are more than 850 Christmas tree farms in the state, covering more than 23,600 acres.

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Milk Source LLC Donates to Wisconsin Discovery Center

Milk Source LLC is partnering with the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center with a $100,000 gift to support the educational experiences for visitors. Interested in telling the story of modern sustainable agriculture and premier animal care, both organizations felt it was opportune moment to join together.

“Having been named the international Innovative Dairy Farm of the Year and a two-time Leopold Wisconsin Conservation Award finalist in recent years, Milk Source was an ideal partner for the Discovery Center,” said Julie Maurer, president of the organization’s board of directors. “Whether we’re discussing humane herd management, consumer- and employee-safety practices or environmentally responsible farming techniques, Milk Source has earned a reputation of being in the vanguard,” she said. “Who better to help us tell the modern farmer’s story?”

The future Dairy Diversity exhibit will feature an interactive wall of dairy products, everything from butter, yogurt, cheese and ice cream. Also included in this exhibit will the opportunity to explore how dairy processing facilities safely prepare these foods for the market. Visitors will be able to experience this exhibit along with dozens of others after the much-anticipated Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center Grand Opening in Summer 2018.

“From the first day the Center opens, we’ll be excited to share our story with visitors of all ages,” said Todd Willer, Milk Source partner. “This will be a great opportunity.”

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Holiday Gift Ideas from Wisconsin

2017AliceSSfW.jpgWith the most wonderful time of year just around the corner, many shoppers are preparing for the gift-giving season. As you shop your local stores for holiday ingredients and unique gifts this year, keep an eye out for the Something Special from Wisconsin™ sticker.

“Just like Wisconsin agriculture, the products and companies that are part of the Something Special from Wisconsin™ program are so diverse,” says Crystal Siemers-Peterman, 70th Alice in Dairyland. “When your loved ones see the Something Special from Wisconsin™ logo as they unwrap their gift, they’ll know that you exceeded their expectations on their Wisconsin wish list.”

It’s easy to spot: this oval logo has a bright red background and white and yellow lettering, allowing you to easily identify a Something Special from Wisconsin™ product. This sticker carries a meaningful message, for when you see it you can be assured that at least half of the product’s ingredients, production, or processing has come from right here within our state.

The Something Special from Wisconsin™ logo can be found on everything from meats and cheeses, sweet syrups and candies, to soaps, candles, lotions, wreaths and more. With more than 480 participating companies, you can easily add local flavors and items into your holiday celebrations.

“By purchasing Something Special from Wisconsin™ products today and every day, you are supporting local producers and processors, and the Wisconsin way of life by keeping those dollars in our local economy,” adds Siemers-Peterman.

Since 1983, the Something Special from Wisconsin™ program has been trademarked through the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. To find more information, visit and you can give thanks to our local farmers and agribusinesses all year long.

Alice in Dairyland is Wisconsin’s agriculture ambassador, and works with media professionals to educate consumers about the importance of agriculture to Wisconsin’s economy and way of life. To learn more about the work Siemers-Peterman is doing this holiday season and beyond, visit her travel blog at, or keep in touch with her on Facebook and Twitter. Find background information on the Alice in Dairyland program at

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Cedar Crest Donates to WAEC

Cedar Crest Ice Cream announced today they will support the state-of-the-art educational center with a $250,000 gift. This tremendous gift marks another important local investment in the capital campaign to build the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center.

In recognition of this leadership gift, the ice cream parlor in the discovery center will be named “Ice Cream Acres” in Cedar Crest’s honor. Visitors will be able to purchase a selection of the over 80 crafted flavors the company makes throughout the year with seasonal flavors featured.

Nic Schoenberger, Farm Wisconsin Board Vice-President indicated, “We are absolutely honored by this philanthropic partnership. Cedar Crest Ice Cream is a strong, local company and their ice cream is certain to be a popular stop for visitors. Their family’s story and the company’s history is another shining example of how agriculture is woven into our state’s culture.”

“This extraordinary gift from Cedar Crest Ice Cream brings us over $12 million raised-to-date towards our $13 million capital campaign goal. I can see it now – next year at this time, visitors will be lining up for their favorite ice cream and enjoying it on the patio.” exclaimed Kim Kowieski, Farm Wisconsin Director of Operations. “It is another important step in making our vision for the center a reality.”