The information below has been supplied by dairy marketers and other industry organizations. It has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hoard's Dairyman.
The University of Wisconsin System’s oldest training program in the agricultural sector, the Farm and Industry Short Course, will be returning in fall 2023 with the traditional 16-week residential program hosted by UW-River Falls on their campus in collaboration with UW-Madison and UW-Platteville. UW-Madison will also continue its longstanding commitment to farmer education, now offering an expanded array of different types of flexible training options to meet the needs of today’s agricultural industry.
The Farm and Industry Short Course began on the UW-Madison campus in 1885 as a way for scientists to share their findings with farmers during the dormant winter season so new practices could be applied in the following growing season.
The program has gone through many changes over the past 137 years. Meanwhile, agricultural programming has grown significantly at two UW System campuses: UW-River Falls and UW-Platteville. All three campuses currently offer active agricultural education and applied research programs, with multiple experimental farms serving as living laboratories and hands-on classrooms.
The Farm and Industry Short Course was last offered at UW-Madison in the 2021-22 academic year. The program will return for the 2023-24 academic year, offered at UW-River Falls. Input has been sought from farmers, alumni and other dairy industry representatives who confirmed the need for a training program that is hands-on, credit-bearing, taught by world-class faculty, and driven by the discoveries made by Wisconsin’s agricultural scientists.
“The expertise of faculty and professors teaching the specific courses opens your eyes to a range of possibilities you may not have considered,” said dairy farmer Paul Lippert of Grass Ridge Farm, a Farm and Industry Short Course graduate. “Living and learning with others who are as passionate as you is a significant benefit of the residential short course program. The camaraderie and relationships I built as a student have stayed with me throughout my career.”
The UW-River Falls College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science (CAFES) ― well known nationally for outstanding education in a broad range of agricultural fields with expertise in dairy science, animal science, plant and earth sciences, ag business, ag engineering, and food science ― is positioned to meet the needs articulated by these dairy industry leaders.
“UW-River Falls is excited to develop a residential program to train today’s and tomorrow’s agricultural workforce, in a perfect complement to our other student-centered, hands-on educational offerings,” said Dean Olson, interim dean of CAFES. “The Farm and Industry Short Course has provided valuable instruction and networking opportunities for decades of students, and we are ready to host the next generation of farm owners, managers and service providers. While at UWRF, short course participants will both benefit from our partnership with UW-Platteville and UW-Madison and will find mentors, develop networks and create friendships on campus that will serve them their entire careers.”
The Farm and Industry Short Course at UW-River Falls will include an opportunity for students to participate in additional educational programs at UW-Platteville and UW-Madison.
“We have long understood the value of the Farm and Industry Short Course to the state’s agriculture industry. UW-Platteville is excited to partner on this new collaborative vision for the Short Course hosted by UW-River Falls. Short Course students will benefit from unique features of each campus during the full program, such as the automatic milking systems in use at the Platteville campus,” said Charles Steiner, interim dean of the UW-Platteville College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture. “The Dairy Innovation Hub has helped our campuses reinforce our partnership in research; now we are reinforcing it in the training and professional development area as well with expanded offerings to meet the diverse needs of today’s workforce.”
“As the historical home for the Farm and Industry Short Course, we are very pleased to partner with our sister campuses to expand the overall training opportunities for Wisconsin farmers,” said Glenda Gillaspy, dean of the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “Much has changed about farming and the world since the first Short Course students came to Madison. Today, by working together, we can serve more people and better leverage the unique features of each campus.”
The Farm and Industry Short Course at UW-River Falls will start October 30 and run through March 15, 2024. The inaugural class will be limited to a cohort of 24 students. A special tuition and housing rate will be offered to the 24 students that make up this inaugural class and interested students should plan to apply before June 1.
Students will live in the UWRF residence halls and earn academic credits from UWRF, experiencing the supportive environment of a welcoming campus community where lifelong relationships and lasting mentorships are created. Classes will be taught by UWRF faculty during the first semester (eight-week period). During the winter term (more commonly known as J-Term), programming is envisioned as a collaborative effort between UWRF, UW-Platteville and UW-Madison to expose participants to unique characteristics of each campus. Students would then take classes for the first half of the spring 2024 semester at UWRF. A total of 20-24 transcriptable credits would be earned by the students in the first year, credits that may be applied to a degree program at UWRF or elsewhere.
Students will have the opportunity to take courses for one or two years. The first year will focus on the critical, fundamental aspects of dairy farm operations with heavy emphasis on managing the animal. The second year will continue to focus on animal management with additional emphasis on managing operations of the whole farm.
Continuing its century-long tradition of farmer education, UW-Madison is expanding its offerings of Short Course programs. Their growing array of short courses for working professionals will include flexible training programs with digital badges certifying mastery of specific skills and content aimed at helping specific agricultural sectors learn about new technologies and management practices. For example:
- UW-Madison: Ag Forward, Jan. 16-19, 2024 – A flexible five-day, in-person intensive professional development training for farmers, farm managers, ag professionals, and other current practitioners interested in applying the latest research findings in agricultural production and/or management. Dairy is the topic for the 2024 program.
- UW-Madison: Turfgrass Apprenticeship Program, Nov. 2023-Feb. 2024 – A 12-week, in-person educational boot camp for professionals in the turfgrass industry, followed by a field-based apprenticeship at a golf course, athletic complex, or other turf facility.
- UW-Madison: Spanish for the Dairy Industry, February and September each year – A two-class online series for dairy farm owners, managers, employees and other ag professionals who interact with Spanish-speaking personnel. Participants can grow their Spanish language skills while learning important technical vocabulary for communicating in Spanish on a dairy farm or in the dairy industry. Each class is four-weeks long, offering level 1 and level 2 language instruction.
UW-Madison plans to develop additional courses for those interested in professional development and skills-building in specific areas of agricultural production, food processing and distribution, and natural resource management. These courses may include organic agriculture, agricultural business management and conservation planning.
For more information about the UW-Madison offerings, visit https://fisc.cals.wisc.edu/