As CALS outreach program manager, Heather Gayton eager to make difference in rural communities

Heather Gayton recently started a position in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences created to serve rural communities and businesses through continuing education and research programs.

Gayton is the first outreach program manager in the college’s Office of Extension and Outreach. She is responsible for launching new educational offerings targeting farmers and agribusinesses through short courses, as well as coordinating research efforts through the USDA-funded Rural Partnership Institute at UW–Madison.

“I see this position as a way to be a part of the solution in addressing opportunity gaps in rural communities,” says Gayton. “I am excited to align talented, professional instructors at UW–Madison with farmers and other rural businesses to amplify learning outcomes that will ripple through thriving communities.”

Gayton grew up in Batavia, Wis., in Sheboygan County, majored in education at UW-Stevens Point and earned a master’s degree in education at UW-Whitewater. In 2019, she started ZanBria Artisan Farms, a niche market farm in Friendship, Wis., while working as a public-school teacher. 

“I just completed my tenth year in the K-12 public education sector before making the full transition to adult education,” she says. “The last three years, I have been building the foundation for state-wide conservation networking initiatives around various agricultural and conservation topics.”

This includes work as a Farmer Advocate for Conservation through the Nature Conservancy and the lead farmer in the “Farmers of the Roche-Cri” producer-led watershed group.

Doug Reinemann, associate dean for extension and outreach, says, “Heather brings energy, enthusiasm and important perspectives gathered from her strong agricultural network to this new role. We believe there are many ways UW–Madison instructors can assist our rural businesses, from organic practices to managing electrical systems, and we look forward to serving rural Wisconsin with these new offerings.”

Gayton has an office on the UW–Madison campus and expects to develop and offer educational programs throughout the state. This fall, two ongoing UW–Madison FISC training courses will be offered, Spanish for Dairy and the Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program. Gayton can be reached at

Contact: Heather Gayton,; Doug Reinemann,