UW-Platteville Richland ag possibilities discussed

By UW-Platteville

RICHLAND CENTER, Wis. – Representatives from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and University of Wisconsin-Richland met on March 2 to explore new possibilities in agricultural education once the collaborative integration between the two campuses begins.

On July 1, two-year colleges UW-Richland and UW-Baraboo/Sauk County become branch campuses of UW-Platteville in a plan announced in November by UW System President Ray Cross.

BILSA faculty“UW-Richland is strategically positioned in the agriculture field, and we have a strong agricultural program,” said Dr. Wayne Weber, dean of UW-Platteville’s College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture. “We see the potential in agriculture. The overall vision is looking at an associate degree or associate degree in applied agriculture. We have two main goals. One, we’re going to establish a clear direction towards a four-year UW-Platteville Bachelor of Science. Two, for the students who do not wish to pursue the bachelor’s degree, we want to make sure they develop a skill set that will provide immediate value to the agriculture industry.”

Faculty and administrators all expressed optimism over the joint ventures, which could make use of the 430-acre Pioneer Farm outside of Platteville and the 192-acre UW-Richland Smart Farm outside of Richland Center.

“We’re only an hour away but the landscape is different, the setup is different,” said Dr. Charles Steiner, director of the Pioneer Farm. “There are some different dynamics that we could take advantage of.”

“Pioneer Farm is a large living and learning laboratory that provides students extensive hands-on experiential learning and research opportunities,” Weber added. “With the expansion of agricultural programs at UW-Richland, we hope to leverage this (Smart Farm), too.”

UW-Platteville offers seven agriculture majors: agribusiness, ag education, animal science, dairy science, environmental horticulture, reclamation and environmental conservation, and soil and crop science. UW-Richland Smart Farm (named after Joseph and Mae Smart) recently underwent $250,000 in improvements by the Richland County Campus Foundation.

Officials from both campuses emphasized that the meeting was a good step in exploring what each agriculture program features and the possibilities the collaborative approach could offer.

“This is like a first date,” joked Dr. Mike Compton, professor in the UW-Platteville School of Agriculture. “We are just getting to know each other today.”

Greg Zimmerman, the acting campus administrator for UW-Richland, said he liked the proposals of collaboration. “When I first heard you (Weber) talk about this at the steering committee, I was pretty excited. We think there is a lot of potential here.”

“There’s a big community here who are interested in agriculture,” echoed UW-Richland Biology Professor Dr. Aziz Siddiqui. “We can bring those people here. I hope we have a pretty good response.”

Among ideas discussed were short-course programs offered at the Richland Center campus that would be open to both UW-Platteville and UW-Richland students, establishing goat herds in Richland Center, increased participation in the 18 UW-Platteville student organizations such as the Soil and Crops Team, the Dairy Judging Team and more.

“One thing we really pride ourselves on is introducing our students to applied research,” UW Colleges Regional Executive Officer and Dean Dr. Charles Clark said. “This would be another opportunity.”

UW Extension Agricultural Agent Adam Hady said attracting more students to agriculture programs would benefit more than just the campuses’ enrollments.

“We’re not going to compete with the urban centers for nightlife or things like that, but where we can help rejuvenate Southwest Wisconsin is through agriculture expansion,” he said.

Dr. Brandon Fetterly, associate professor of chemistry and acting associate dean for academic affairs at UW-Richland and UW-Baraboo/Sauk County, agreed that the success of these programs would enhance the agriculture reputation of the region.

“Word of mouth is better than a million-dollar marketing program if you have success,” he said.

Dr Rami Reddy, director of UW-Platteville’s School of Agriculture, added “by listening to all the stakeholders we like to build the curriculum for the associates by taking into consideration the unique nature and needs at UW-Richland. Very strong local agricultural industries are a great plus for this campus. We certainly will seek input from the industry and local stakeholders while developing the curriculum.”

More meetings will be scheduled to maximize the new collaborative opportunities between the institutions.

Written by: Paul Erickson, Director, Communications, 608-342-1194, pr@uwplatt.edu