How an American Crisis Brought Together Midwestern Dairy Farmers and Mexican Workers

A compelling portrayal by the veteran journalist of the lives of farming communities on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border and the surprising connections between them

“Conniff brings her skills and insights to a particularly urgent project: moving beyond the polarizing politics of our current era, and taking a deeper look at how people who have been pitted against each other can forge bonds of understanding.” —E.J. Dionne Jr., co-author of 100% Democracy

Winner of the Studs and Ida Terkel Award

In the Midwest, Mexican workers have become critically important to the survival of rural areas and small towns—and to the individual farmers who rely on their work—with undocumented immigrants, mostly from Mexico, accounting for an estimated 80 percent of employees on the dairy farms of western Wisconsin.

In Milked, former editor-in-chief of The Progressive Ruth Conniff introduces us to the migrants who worked on these dairy farms, their employers, among them white voters who helped elect Donald Trump to office in 2016, and the surprising friendships that have formed between these two groups of people. These stories offer a rich and fascinating account of how two crises—the record-breaking rate of farm bankruptcies in the Upper Midwest, and the contentious politics around immigration—are changing the landscape of rural America.

A unique and fascinating exploration of rural farming communities, Milked sheds light on seismic shifts in policy on both sides of the border over recent decades, connecting issues of labor, immigration, race, food, economics, and U.S.-Mexico relations and revealing how two seemingly disparate groups of people have come to rely on each other, how they are subject to the same global economic forces, and how, ultimately, the bridges of understanding that they have built can lead us toward a more constructive politics and a better world.


“Conniff brings her skills and insights to a particularly urgent project.”
—E.J. Dionne Jr., co-author of 100% Democracy
“Illuminates the profound connections and commonalities between undocumented agriculture workers and their American employers while examining the policies that have pushed both groups into painful precarity.”
—Bernice Yeung, author of In a Day’s Work: The Fight to End Sexual Violence Against America’s Most Vulnerable Workers
“The only way we will ever fully appreciate the vital role immigration plays in shaping the American economy is by understanding the human beings who are drawn together—across borders and cultures—by a rough combination of necessity and hope. Ruth Conniff, with her remarkable eye for detail and her global perspective, provides us with the road map we require to find a future where fear and vision are replaced by love and solidarity. This is a remarkable, redeeming book.”
—John Nichols, national affairs correspondent for The Nation
“Readers will find more than a story of farming and politics; they will be drawn in by personal stories and friendships that transcend culture.”
“[An] illuminating, distressing, yet oddly optimistic exploration of America’s Dairy Land.”
Washington Monthly
Milked reaches far beyond the people its author profiled. The stories are personal and universal, stretching into farms and fields across the country and over borders.”
Modern Farmer
“From the back roads of Mexico to the dairy farms of Wisconsin, Milked is a wondrous and important work of ‘going there’ reportage. Ruth Conniff breaks through so many misperceptions and stereotypes to reveal the commonality of the human experience.”
—David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father
“Anyone who wants to understand the real relationship between people in the United States and Mexico should read Milked.”
—David Bacon, author of Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants
“A heartfelt collection of stories from both sides of the border detailing life and work experiences that unite rather than divide people, this is a must-read for anyone interested in the human dimension of economic forces in two different but complementary regions.”
—Alberto M. Vargas, associate director, Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison
“Sensitively reported and cautiously optimistic about finding common ground, this is a worthwhile look behind the headlines.”
Publishers Weekly
“An exceptionally thoughtful examination of fundamental issues—immigration, farm and food policy, globalization—that leaders in Washington have struggled to address on a deeply human level.”
The Capital Times

News and Reviews

Wisconsin Public Radio

Listen to an interview with author Ruth Conniff about Milked on Wisconsin Public Radio's Central Time.

The Progressive

Read an excerpt from Milked in The Progressive that shares the story of writer Wendell Berry and his daughter, Mary, and the fight for the survival of the family farm.

Washington Monthly

Read a review of Ruth Conniff’s Milked in the Washington Monthly.

Goodreads Reviews