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Wisconsin agriculture is expansive and extremely valuable to all of us. This notion is not news, especially to those who rely on farming for their income and to support their families. We are intimately tied to our landscapes and to the fruits of our labor, whether that means this season’s crops, the health and productivity of the herds, or the health and well-being of our farmers.

In the UW-Extension Institute of Agriculture, we work with producers, professionals and businesses to build stronger, more resilient farms and food systems. We strive to help each farm achieve its unique goals. 

Our team includes campus-based specialists at UW-Madison, UW-Green Bay, UW-Platteville, UW-River Falls, and UW-Stevens Point who conduct cutting-edge research. This research informs Extension’s network of county-based educators on the front lines fielding questions about everything from garden pests to cover crop planting to milking parlor improvements.

The mission of Extension is to “teach, learn, lead and serve, connecting people with the University of Wisconsin, and engaging with them in transforming lives and communities”. You’ll find us everywhere there is agriculture work happening throughout Wisconsin. We’re digging into research and innovating around crops and soils, farm management, animal science and horticulture.

Despite recent reductions in state funding, our campus specialists and our community-based educators continue to provide opportunities that support producers and professionals in improving their farming systems, increasing their profitability and addressing the needs of Wisconsin’s $88 billion agricultural industry.

Our Farm Management Program assists farms of all sizes and types by providing research-based information and decision-making tools designed to improve profitability. We recently partnered with Compeer Financial to offer the Resilient Farms & Families Conference, where nearly 150 farmers and landowners gathered to brainstorm, plan and begin adding additional revenue streams to their farm operations.

The Extension Institute of Agriculture’s Dairy Program Area continues to develop and distribute The Dairy Partner/El Compañero, a bi-monthly newsletter designed for both English and Spanish speaking dairy farm employees. Topics include farm safety, personal health for those who live and work on Wisconsin’s farms and the most current dairy research.  In addition to educational support for poultry, horses, sheep and goat operations, our Livestock Program Area provides technical assistance to beef and dairy farms through feed cost comparison tools and beef quality assurance (BQA) certification trainings.

Our Crops and Soils specialists and educators offer the Soil, Water, & Nutrient Management Meeting series each December. This series informs farmers and their crop consultants about new research in crop management practices.

The UW Discovery Farms then actively engage with farmers across the state to assess the economic and environmental benefits of nutrient management and soil health practices through on-farm research. Additionally, our horticulture team provides plant and pest diagnostic services and green industry training. We work with our state’s fresh produce growers around producing safer fruits and vegetables.

The coming year will bring some exciting change to UW-Extension as we become the Division of Extension within UW-Madison.  We are excited about this return to our historic home at UW-Madison and the potential it brings to tighten connections with the University’s award winning researchers and academic staff.

Extension and our Institute of Agriculture will continue to provide education, resources, and support to our state’s agriculture industry. We will begin to update the Dairy Workers' Training Modules with new information in key areas such as milking, reproduction, herdsmanship, feeding, nutrition, and handling.

We will continue to support farm families and their businesses during these challenging economic times. The Center for Dairy Profitability’s “Farming Your Finances” workshop will return to help farming professionals improve their farm financial management skills. We will host a  “Supporting Farmers During Challenging Times” event to help agribusiness professionals and agency staff feel more confident working with families in distress, and to connect with others in providing support for the farming community.

While I have spent my career in public service around agricultural and environmental issues, I’m still in my first year leading Extension’s Institute of Agriculture. In 2019, I look forward to working more closely with farmers, producers, agricultural organizations, and agriculture professionals in Wisconsin.

We share the goal of ensuring our state’s agriculture industry continues to thrive. Extension’s Institute of Agriculture will always support all those who tend the land and the herds and ensure they have access to research-based, unbiased information. We will work to ensure farmers and producers benefit from all the resources available throughout the UW System. Let’s keep in touch – it’s going to be an exciting year.

To learn more about the workshops and resources UW-Extension Institute of Agriculture provides, please visit: https://ces.uwex.edu/agriculture/

Current and past issues of The Dairy Partner/El Compañero can be found at: https://fyi.uwex.edu/dairypartnerelcompanero/

Walling is the Agriculture Institute Director for the University of Wisconsin - Cooperative Extension

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