Welcome to Farm and Industry Short Course – Audio

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

Rumen nutrition lab instructed by Eric Ronk, dairy science, for the Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC). Photos by Sevie Kenyon, UW-Madison CALS

Welcome to Farm and Industry Short Course

Jessie Potterton, Director
Farm and Industry Short Course
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
jessie.potterton@wisc.edu
(608) 263-3918, (608) 262-3127

3:06 – Total Time
0:14 – About Farm and Industry Short Course
0:41 – Short term, long on benefits
1:02 – Variety of classes
1:38 – New classes, more hands-on
2:18 – For more information
2:39 – Students from everywhere
2:56 – Lead out

TRANSCRIPT

Sevie Kenyon: Learning about Farm and Industry Short Course, we’re visiting today with Jessie Potterton, Director of Farm and Industry Short Course, University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and I’m Sevie Kenyon. Jessie, introduce us to the Farm and Industry Short Course.

Jessie Potterton: The Farm and Industry Short Course program has been offered at UW-Madison for over 130 years and it is the first agricultural education program in the college of Ag and Life Sciences. It is a program that is offered from late fall to early spring, intended to help farmers, future farmers, agricultural enthusiasts learn more about the ag industry. Continue reading

Farm & Industry Short Course evolves to serve Wisconsin farmers

Friday, October 28th, 2016

Mason Spencer grew up in Beaver Dam, Wis., with no thought of going into farming. But an experience as a milker for a small-scale dairy sparked his passion for agriculture.

Spencer wanted to learn more about the agriculture industry without immersing himself in a four-year undergraduate degree. That’s when he discovered the Farm & Industry Short Course at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

weed lab 5

Students get up close and personal with local weeds during a lab at the Farm and Industry Short Course. Photo: Sevie Kenyon/UW-Madison CALS

“I needed a broad education on everything related to farming, which is exactly what the Short Course does,” Spencer says. “It gives you everything you need to know to take back to your farm and apply it there.”

In only 16 weeks, the Farm & Industry Short Course teaches students to operate their own farms, run an agricultural business, or work in the agribusiness sector. They can tailor the curriculum to their needs, choosing from dozens of classes in soils, crops, dairy, meat animals, agricultural engineering, farm business planning, agribusiness, human relations, and communications.

“Short Course alumni are in high demand,” says director Jessie Potterton. “They use their skills as farmhands, herdsmen, managers, milkers, feeders, farm technicians, and crop assistants, among others.”

The Short Course is timed to the Midwest’s non-growing season, November through March. That was long enough for Spencer to master the art of repairing machinery and implements.

“Just from the courses I took, I can look at a piece of machinery that I’ve never taken apart before and know how to fix it,” he says. “That ultimately saves the family farm money.”

Lindsey Rettenmund of Black Earth, Wis., studied dairy farm management in the Short Course so she could help out on her own family farm. She plans to return for a second year to learn more about soil and crop management.

FISC Milk Source

Students in a UW–Madison Farm & Industry Short Course learn about the operations inside a dairy barn. Photo: Sevie Kenyon/UW-Madison CALS

“In the next five to 10 years I hope to purchase a farm and start my own dairy farming operation,” Rettenmund says. “I would like to be able to produce my own crops and feed my animals. So it’s great that the Farm & Industry Short Course offers a wide variety of knowledge to help me succeed.”

The program’s fame has spread beyond state borders. Preston Brown, who works on a 1,400-cow dairy farm in Texas, thought nothing of making the 16-hour drive to Madison.

“I came to visit the school and fell in love with it and everything that was going on,” Brown says. “I knew that if I came here I’d get what I wanted out of it.”

On top of his coursework, Mason Spencer enjoyed being part of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Participants in the Farm & Industry Short Course have the same access to campus facilities as a four-year student.

Spencer also appreciated the sense of fellowship he found in the program. The people he met have become part of his professional network.

“You can learn as much talking to other students as you do in the classroom,” he says. “We all have the same goal: to help provide food for the nation.”

This story was originally published on the UW-Madison News site.

Craig Dueholm: A Farm and Industry Short Course success story

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016
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Craig Dueholm

When Craig Dueholm went off to UW–Madison to attend the Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC) program, it wasn’t simply to learn more about dairy farming.

“I wanted to get away from the farm and see something different,” he says, “so that I could decide whether or not I wanted to return to the farm.”

Dueholm did return to the farm and Polk County after earning UW–Madison FISC certificates in 1998 and 1999. He used his time at the university wisely, taking classes in everything from the reproduction of farm animals to combating insect pests, a class taught by Phillip Pellitteri.

“I learned a lot more than I ever thought I would in that class,” he says.

In addition to working hard in his courses, Dueholm got involved in dairy judging in his first year at UW–Madison. He also traveled to California to study dairy operations in that state. While he was out there, he was able to experience some of the culture and see things such as Muir Woods.

“I took advantage of the time I had at the UW,” he says. “I stayed involved and I stayed on campus most weekends. I also had friends in the four-year programs.”

In his work on his dairy farm in northwest Wisconsin, Dueholm also takes full advantage of what’s available to him. He and his brother Carl — who represent the fourth generation of their family to operate a dairy farm on their land — take advantage of modern technology to improve their operation.

Examples include adopting the total mixed ration (TMR) system and advances in facility design.

“We’ve built facilities that allow us to get tasks done more efficiently,” Dueholm says. “It’s made things easier for us and our employees.”

The Dueholm brothers, he says, are not alone in their commitment to using best practices. “There are a lot of really progressive dairies in Polk County.”

Dueholm’s message to young people who are considering a dairy farming career is to do their homework. And, he adds, the most important thing is: “Learn from your mistakes.” And there’s no better place to learn — with or without mistakes — than at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

For more information about the UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course, visit: http://fisc.cals.wisc.edu/.

This profile is part of the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association’s Boundless Together series of stories.

Alumnus Jeff Merritt shows the power of Farm and Industry Short Course

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016
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Jeff Merritt

For more than 130 years, young men and women have been coming to UW-Madison to take the Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC) at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. FISC is a series of lectures and hands-on classes that give young farmers an opportunity to further their careers and learn some of the essentials of agriculture from some of the top instructors in the country.

Jeff Merritt took FISC in 1974. One of his neighbors suggested to him that he get off the farm and pursue an education. Merritt did not want to be off the farm for too long, so he opted to enroll in FISC. It was a decision he did not regret.

“Professors like Dr. Neal Jorgenson and Dr. Dave Wieckert were great teachers,” says Merritt, “and I took my education very seriously.”

Merritt went on to own his own dairy farm and became an important figure in his area’s agricultural community. He served as president of the Dunn County Holstein Breeders and founded the Dunn County Dairy Promotion Committee.

“Twenty-two years later, the committee is still going strong,” he says. “I’m really proud to see that others have joined and have passed on their passion for dairy farming.”

One of the committee’s most important tasks is promoting the annual Dunn County dairy breakfast, which is held at a different farm each year.

“After all these years, we’ve got it down to a routine now,” says Merritt.

Over the years since he took FISC at UW-Madison, Merritt hasn’t had a lot of contact with the university. However, when the need arose, he was always able to get the help he needed through UW-Extension professionals such as agricultural agent Keith Sommerfeld.

The Merritt family was very active in the local 4-H program, showing dairy cattle, beef cattle, and hogs at the county fair for 18 years. He sold his dairy herd in 2014, but still farms crops and beef cattle.

Merritt has advice for young people who are thinking about going into the dairy business.

“If this is what you’re passionate about — if you really want to do this — find a farmer you can work with,” he says, “and then go to a dairy husbandry class or take the Short Course. Then, find yourself a farm to work with. Give it a year or two. Start out small. Keep adding to your herd.”

“Markets go up and down,” Merritt adds. “You’ve got to go where your heart is.”

For more information about the UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course, visit: http://fisc.cals.wisc.edu/.

This profile is part of the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association’s Boundless Together series of stories.

OGRAIN/MOSES organic grain field day series

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

High demand for organic livestock feed and food-grade grain along with continued double-digit growth in the organic marketplace are creating opportunities for more farmers to grow organic—opportunities that are even more appealing in light of the current low prices for commodity grains. 

To help farmers learn about growing organic grain, the Organic Grain Resources and Information Network (OGRAIN) and the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) are offering four field days this summer covering the tools, activities and inputs needed for successful organic grain production. The field days are set for July 7, July 28, August 11 and September 15. Additional event details are below.  

“Whether you’re a conventional producer interested in exploring the transition to organic grain production, a livestock or produce farmer curious about adding grain to your system, or a new farmer wanting to start with organic grain, you’ll find what you’re looking for in these field days,” says Anders Gurda, associate researcher in the UW-Madison/UW-Extension Organic and Sustainable Cropping Systems Lab and program coordinator for OGRAIN. 

Each field day will feature invited speakers including farmers, researchers, agency personnel and industry representatives. They will all include an engaging farm tour, as well as plenty of unstructured time for discussion and networking. 

The field days will collectively cover many agronomic aspects of organic food- and feed-grade corn, soybean and small grain production. Depending on the field day, attendees will also learn about marketing opportunities, organic transition and certification, Whole Farm Revenue Protection crop insurance and enterprise budgeting.  

Significant barriers prevent many producers from making the leap to organic grain production. “Farmers are concerned about yields in organic systems, the organic transition process, and the skills and knowledge necessary for managing a successful organic grain operation,” explains Harriet Behar, organic specialist with MOSES. 

“Farmers can avoid the roller coaster of commodity prices from year to year by growing and selling organic grain, with the added bonus of producing the crops in an environmentally responsible manner. These field days will be time well-spent for all attendees,” says Gurda.

Field days are available to anyone with an interest in learning more about organic grain production. However, the events emphasize the needs of beginning farmers who have been farming for fewer than 10 years. 

The field day series is made possible by a grant from the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. OGRAIN is a collaborative effort of the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, the UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course, the UW-Madison/UW-Extension Organic and Sustainable Cropping Systems lab and MOSES. 

OGRAIN/MOSES organic grain field day calendar:

Organic Small Grains Production, Milling, and Marketing
July 7, 2016 (10-3pm)
Dolan Farms, Dodgeville, WI and Lonesome Stone Milling, Lone Rock, WI

Managing Risk in Organic Production
July 28, 2016 (9-4pm)
Goldmine Farms, Pana, IL

An Organic Grain Toolbox: Weed control, crop rotations, cover crops, soil health, human health, and enterprise budgeting
August 11, 2016 (9-4pm)
Cooksville Community Center/Doudlah Farms, Evansville, WI

Managing Organic Crops on a Large Scale
September 15, 2016 (1-4pm)
Fairview Farm, Cottonwood, MN

For more information about the field days and to register, visit mosesorganic.org or call (715) 778-5775. Some field days require pre-registration and/or a fee for a lunch.

For more information about OGRAIN and its programs, contact Anders Gurda, agurda@wisc.edu, (612) 868-1208. 

Ride to Farm seeks cyclists, pledges for UW beginning farmer school

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

Cyclists will ride through the rolling hills of Green County on Saturday, June 4 to support the next generation of dairy and livestock farmers.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers (WSBDF) is currently accepting registrations and pledges for its 13th annual Ride to Farm fundraiser. Cyclists can opt for a hilly 100K ride (about 62 miles) or a less hilly, half-day route of approximately 30 miles. The event starts and finishes at New Glarus Woods State Park, located at W5508 CTH NN, New Glarus, Wisconsin.

“We hold this event to raise funds for scholarships and general program activities and to raise awareness of the importance of supporting the next generation of innovative farmers,” says Dick Cates, co-director of the WSBDF. “We are grateful for contributions of any amount.”

Riders will receive an inspiring send-off at 8:30 a.m. by Dan Smith, DATCP Agricultural Development Division Administrator, retired dairy farmer and farm-life writer and poet. When the ride is over, the 68th Alice in Dairyland, Teyanna Loether—on her final day of her year as Alice—will present awards to the top fundraisers during a short ceremony.

Individual riders and teams can sign up, solicit donations and track pledges at ridetofarm.dojiggy.com. Supporters can go to the same site to pledge riders or make contributions directly to the WSBDF.

This year, some participants are dedicating their ride to the Ram and Jeremy Seibel Scholarship. Jeremy Seibel, a recent graduate of the Farm and Industry Short Course program, and his father, Ram, died in a farm accident last July. Family and friends established this scholarship in their name.

To participate, each rider must raise at least $75. Teams that collect the most pledges will receive traveling trophies. Prizes for top individual fundraisers include 52 free Organic Valley products for a year, dinner for two at L’Etoile restaurant, gift certificates to Erik’s Bike Shop, a pair of tickets to American Players Theater, a Ride to Farm jersey, and the book, VOICES from the Heart of the Land, by WSBDF co-director Dick Cates.

The route includes rest breaks on two area farms where riders can sample locally produced cheese and other treats provided by farm families. The morning stop is at the Truttmann Family Farm, a fifth generation dairy that turns its milk into Swiss cheese. Dan Truttmann is one of the co-founders of WSBDF and farms just outside of New Glarus, Wisconsin. In the afternoon, riders will rest at the Paris Family Farm, a small grazing dairy transitioning to organic. Bert Paris is another co-founder of the WBSDF and farms in Belleville, Wisconsin.

The ride will culminate with an awards ceremony followed by snacks and refreshment at the shelter in New Glarus Woods State Park.

The Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers, which emphasizes managed grazing, provides aspiring farmers with classroom instruction, on-farm internships, business planning and mentoring. Students from across the state are able to participate in the program via distance education sites. The WSBDF program is a partnership between the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and the Farm and Industry Short Course, both programs of the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

2016 Ride to Farm sponsors include: American Transmission Co., Badgerland Financial, Culver’s Restaurants, Organic Valley Farmer-Owned, Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association, Wisconsin Farmers Union and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

For more information about Ride to Farm, contact Nadia Alber at nalber@wisc.edu or (608) 265-6437, or visit ridetofarm.dojiggy.com.

The short course experience – Audio

Friday, March 25th, 2016

The Farm and Industry Short Course Experience

Josie Schreiner, Student
C/O Jessie Potterton, Director
Farm and Industry Short Course
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
jessie.potterton@wisc.edu
(608) 263-3918, (608) 262-3127

3:03 – Total Time
0:13 – Meet student Josie Schreiner
0:36 – Why short course
0:56 – Chance to open eyes
1:12 – Becoming a family
1:28 – Finding a future
1:54 – Favors the dairy business
2:03 – Helpful professors
2:29 – A learning challenge
2:38 – Living in Madison
2:53 – Lead out

TRANSCRIPT

 

Sevie Kenyon – Taking a look at the Farm and Industry Short Course experience, we’re visiting today with Josie Schreiner, Farm and Industry Short Course student, University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and I’m Sevie Kenyon. Josie, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Josie Schreiner – I’m from Jefferson, WI. My family owns an auction company and a few of my uncles are dairy farmers so I grew up working on the farm, but necessarily didn’t grow up on a dairy farm. I got a job in high school working on a farm feeding calves and I really enjoyed that last few years and that’s one of my passions is the calves. Continue reading

Ride to Farm seeks cyclists, pledges for UW beginning farmer school

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Cyclists will ride through the rolling hills of Iowa County on Saturday, June 6 to support the next generation of dairy and livestock farmers.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers (WSBDF) is currently accepting registrations and pledges for its 12th annual Ride to Farm fundraiser. Cyclists can opt for a hilly 100K ride (about 62 miles) or a less hilly, 52-mile route. Shorter morning and afternoon rides are also options. The event starts and finishes at Botham Vineyards & Winery, located at 8180 Langberry Road, Barneveld, Wis.

ride to farm“We hold this event to raise funds for scholarships and general program activities and to raise awareness of the importance of supporting the next generation of innovative farmers,” says Dick Cates, director of the WSBDF. “We are grateful for contributions of any amount.”

Riders will receive a rousing send-off at 8:30 a.m. from UW-Madison alumna Louise Hemstead, Chief Operating Officer of Organic Valley. When the ride is over, Alice in Dairyland will present awards to the top fundraisers during a short ceremony.

Individual riders and teams can sign up, solicit donations and track pledges at ridetofarm.dojiggy.com. Supporters can go to the same site to pledge riders or make contributions directly to the WSBDF.

Each rider must raise at least $75. Teams that collect the most pledges will receive traveling trophies. Prizes for top individual fundraisers include a 2015 Trek road bike, 52 free Organic Valley products for a year, a pair of tickets to American Players Theater and a Ride to Farm jersey.

The route includes rest breaks on two area farms where riders can sample locally produced cheese, milk and other treats provided by farm families and the River Valley FFA. The morning stop is at the Heisner Family Farm, an Organic Valley dairy run by Cyrus Heisner, a WSBDF graduate, his brother Adam Heisner and their families. In the afternoon, riders will rest at Anne Topham’s small goat dairy farm near Ridgeway.

The ride will culminate with an awards ceremony followed by light refreshments and a wine tasting at Botham Vineyards & Winery.

The Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers, which emphasizes managed grazing, provides aspiring farmers with classroom instruction, on-farm internships, business planning and mentoring. Students from across the state are able to participate in the program via distance education sites. The WSBDF program is a partnership between the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and the Farm and Industry Short Course, both programs of the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

2015 Ride to Farm sponsors include: American Transmission Co., Badgerland Financial, Culver’s, Organic Valley, Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association, Wisconsin Farmers Union and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

For more information about Ride to Farm, contact Nadia Alber at nalber@wisc.edu or (608) 265-6437, or visit ridetofarm.dojiggy.com.

UW-Madison helps train aspiring farmers enrolled in ‘the MBA of dairy’

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Considering the average age of a Wisconsin farmer is upwards of 56 years old and the state has been losing around 500 dairy farms per year in recent years, experts say it’s important to prepare young people to step into farm roles to help keep the state’s $88 billion agricultural economy strong into the future.

mba of dairy cropBut making the transition into dairy farming is complicated, and aspiring farmers often don’t have the capital — or the experience — to take over an established operation.

The Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA) program is working to address the issue by providing support for young people interested in becoming dairy farmers. Started in 2010, the first-of-its-kind program is administered by the Wisconsin-based non-profit GrassWorks, Inc., with the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a key partner.

Earlier this month, DGA received $750,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The funding will enable organizers to improve and expand the program in Wisconsin, as well as explore the possibility of rolling it out to other dairy states.

“It’s a meat-and-potatoes program that really takes people up to the level where they can own and operate their own dairy,” says DGA director Joe Tomandl. “It’s the MBA of dairy.”

DGA participants complete 4,000 hours of paid training over two years, most of it alongside experienced dairy farmers, and work their way up from apprentices to Journey Dairy Graziers and Master Dairy Graziers. While the majority of hours are spent in on-the-job training, there’s also a significant requirement for related instruction. That’s where UW-Madison comes in.

As part of the program, apprentices attend a seminar about pasture-based dairy and livestock through the UW-Madison School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers (WSBDF), which is co-sponsored by the university’s Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and the Farm and Industry Short Course. The seminar involves a 32-hour commitment, which is generally fulfilled in a distance education setting.

“We believe in the Wisconsin Idea and want to make sure our classes are accessible to people who want more education, but preferably close to where they live and work,” says Nadia Alber, an outreach coordinator for WSBDF, who helps organize the seminar and also serves on the DGA board.

In 2009, GrassWorks, Inc. turned to WSBDF director Dick Cates for guidance and access to well-respected educational curriculum to help get the DGA up and running, and the WSBDF team has been involved ever since.

“We were just this little non-profit with this very small budget trying to compete for a big federal grant,” says Tomandl. “For us, it was important to have UW as a strategic partner.”

As part of the most recent round of funding, DGA’s UW-Madison partners will lead an effort to quantify the broader impacts of the program.

“They have already proven that participants are moving along to their own farms after the apprenticeship, so they have an established track record that way,” says Alber. “This new study will look at some of the program’s other impacts, including economic, environmental and social.”

The DGA program is a formal apprenticeship program approved by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development — Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards.

For more information about the program, visit: http://www.dairygrazingapprenticeship.org/.

Farm and Industry Short Course invites alumni back to campus

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

FISC

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC) invites alumni back to the Madison campus on Saturday, June 7.

“We are excited to welcome our alumni back to campus for a great program, insider tours of some campus facilities and the opportunity to network with each other,” says Jessie Potterton, FISC Interim Director. “Campus has changed quite a bit in recent years and we look forward to highlighting some of those changes.”

Guests will gather at DeJope Hall (near the Lakeshore Path) beginning at 10 a.m. The program begins at 11 a.m. and will feature CALS Dean Kate VandenBosch, Wisconsin Agricultural and Life Sciences Alumni Association (WALSAA) Board President Bryan Renk, FISC alumnus Bob Behnke, current FISC students and of course, Bucky Badger and members of the UW Marching Band.

After a delicious lunch, guests can choose one of four campus tours: The state-of-the-art D.C. Smith Greenhouse, the newly renovated Dairy Cattle Center, behind-the-scenes at Camp Randall Stadium, or a look at Jorns and Humphrey Halls, the FISC dormitories. Tours begin at 2 p.m. Guests are also invited to stick around for an additional tour of the CALS campus at 3 p.m.

Information can be found at http://fisc.cals.wisc.edu/alumni/reunion. Early registration is encouraged to secure a spot in the optional tours. Tickets cost $25 in advance or $30 at the door (check or credit card only). DeJope Hall is located at 640 Elm Dr. Parking is free in lots 43, 57, 58, and 62. For a map of campus, visit http://map.wisc.edu.

FISC is the longest running agricultural education program in the state. The program was established on the Madison campus in 1885, predating the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences by four years. The first session ran for 12 weeks and was taught by four professors. Today’s program runs 16 weeks with dozens of instructors teaching more than 55 courses.

For more information contact FISC at 608-263-3918 or email: fisc@cals.wisc.edu.