David Arndt, Farm and Industry Short Course
For David Arndt, Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC) is a family affair. His father attended FISC in 1948 and strongly encouraged his son to go, too. “It was one of the best decisions of my life,” Arndt says. “It got me away from home and started me on a road to being much more independent and inquisitive. I had grown up in a rural community and most of my experiences were in a 100-mile radius of Janesville. It improved my leadership skills, my public speaking skills and my learning skills.” Today Arndt owns and runs Arndt Farms along with two brothers, two nephews and his youngest son. They raise 2,700 acres of crops including corn, seed corn, soybeans, sweet corn, peas, green beans, peppermint and alfalfa and feed 1,600 beef cattle per year. “Crop production is what makes me tick,” says Arndt. “I try to give each acre exactly what it needs when it needs it. One of my greatest joys is watching water fall on our irrigated crops. It gives me much pleasure to know that I can give them what Mother Nature sometimes cannot.”
Brian Brown, Farm and Industry Short Course
Brian Brown and his wife Yogi own and operate Sunburst Dairy in Belle-ville. Sunburst is often cited as a model of successful growth. Sixteen years ago the couple gave up their old stanchion barn and expanded to a freestall barn and parlor, a move that allowed them to double their herd to 300 cows and hire employees. Six years ago they added a second barn and grew to 500 cows. “I’m involved in overall management of every aspect of the dairy, but most of my focus is on animal nutrition, genetic selection, herd health and reproduction, and crop production,” says Brown. Beyond the farm, Brown serves as chairman of the board of directors at Accelerated Genetics and as a dairy leader for the local 4-H club. For Brown, the Farm and Industry Short Course tradition encompasses three generations—both his father and his son Cory, who now works with him at Sunburst, are FISC alumni. Brown says the course provides a lifelong value. “The professors pushed us to challenge ourselves and go after new opportunities,” says Brown. “To this day, 30 years later, I am still using what I learned in short course. It is useful, practical knowledge. Short course is a program that will benefit future generations in agriculture.”
Samantha Starich Frei, Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers
Samantha Frei is a self-described “city girl” from Madison who found her passion in farming through 4-H club, where she learned to show dairy cattle, and by working on dairy farms during summers while in high school. She originally planned to go into veterinary medicine, but an encounter at World Dairy Expo changed her mind. “It wasn’t until I was standing in front of the UW–Madison FISC booth and the School of Veterinary Medicine booth that I considered going through short course instead of a full bachelor’s degree plus vet school,” she says. That was in 2007. Frei enrolled in short course and never looked back, taking classes in crop management, soil science, dairy herd health, dairy reproduction, food processing and grass-based dairy business. She met her husband, Don, shortly after graduating, and together they transitioned his family’s 30-cow, 180-acre conventional dairy farm in Argyle to an organic dairy, Morning Dew Dairy. They currently farm 500 acres and milk 60 cows.
Karen Kelley, Ice Cream Short Courses
Karen Kelley had long loved ice cream and she’d long loved dairy farming, her profession for more than two dozen years. But she first brought the two together in 2010, the year she launched Kelley Country Creamery right on her family’s 200-acre dairy farm in Fond du Lac. Her creativity shines in a list of more than 200 flavors ranging from traditional to adventurous (examples of the latter: Acai Blueberry, Chai Tea and Jalapeño). Thanks to short courses in the Babcock Hall dairy plant, Kelley did not have to make the business leap alone. Two ice cream courses—Ice Cream Makers Short Course and Batch Freezer Workshop—helped her learn the art of “cream-smithing,” as she calls it, and offered her a start in networking with other ice cream professionals. She went on to attend regional and national ice cream conferences and seminars and became a member of the National Ice Cream Retailers Association and the Great Lakes Ice Cream Association. After some four years of research and development she was ready to launch her business, which she now runs with the support of her husband and five children.
Justin Powell, BS’06 Dairy Science, Farm and Industry Short Course
Justin Powell, DVM is the herd veterinarian for River Valley Dairy in Tremont, Ill., and the owner of Twin River Veterinary Service, where he focuses on embryo transfer work and in vitro fertilization. He was moved to enter this specialized field because of a lifelong love of cows and, as an undergrad, dairy cattle genetics. Powell grew up and remains active on his family’s Holstein farm in central Illinois. Powell attended short course prior to earning his four-year degree in dairy science. “It allowed me to make some important connections. I met people who really helped me when I came back for the four-year program,” he says. Between those enrollments he worked on a 300-cow dairy in Wisconsin. “It was a good experience to work on a farm that was different from the one I’d grown up on,” he says. In his free time Powell enjoys boating, fishing and showing cows.
John Vosters, Farm and Industry Short Course
John Vosters is co-owner of Milk Source LLC, which operates a number of dairies in Wisconsin as well as a calf farm and heifer-raising facility. Milk Source’s roots date back to 1965, when Voster’s parents started a small dairy farm near Kaukauna. In 1999 Vosters partnered with Jim Ostrom and Todd Willer, also veteran family farmers, to form Milk Source. They moved into large-scale farming as a way to escape the 24/7 duties of a traditional farmer and divide labor among a workforce that could be offered insurance and paid time off. In his role as livestock director, fostering that workforce has been one of Vosters’ biggest pleasures. “The biggest driver for our success is the development and growth of our managers,” he says. “They’ve been with us from three to 20 years. Many of them started as a milker, feeder or in maternity and have grown with us. We need to invest both personal and professional time in our employees in all levels of management. An engaged employee is an extremely valuable asset.”
Ilan Weiss, Resident Course in Confectionery Technology (“Candy School”)
Ilan Weiss is a senior food scientist with SunOpta in Edina, Minn., where he conducts research and development on roasted snacks: sunflower seeds, soybeans and corn. That includes coming up with new products and processes. “Several of our snack items go into the school feeding program,” says Weiss. “This makes me feel good because our snacks are filled with protein, fiber and healthy fats. That really sets our products apart from other options in school programs.” Why go to candy school? “I wanted to better understand what options we have for making different snacks. I was looking to see what concepts could be used in our product line.” Not only was the course a great refresher in carbohydrate chemistry, says Weiss, but he was able to make important contacts in many different industry sectors.
Matt and Sarah Winnie, Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers
When Matt Winnie arrived on the CALS campus some 10 years ago for his short course, he was hoping to broaden and deepen his skills in dairy farming, not necessarily find a wife. He ended up doing both. On the second day he fell into conversation with Sarah Knorn, who’d grown up on Green Valley Farm, which had been founded by her great-grandparents near Rib Lake. Winnie admits it was love at first sight: “Right away I felt a connection with her. We seemed to hit it off, and I guess she kept me ever since.” Romance seems to be an added benefit for other short course participants as well—the Winnies can name two more couples who met that way. The course, Winnie said, helped him build a business plan for a dairy operation, which he had long wanted to establish. As for Sarah Winnie, since childhood she’d wanted a farm of her own. In 2008 the couple purchased Green Valley from Sarah’s parents, becoming the fourth-generation owners. Modernization efforts since then include adding another silo, putting comfort tie stalls in the barn and building a milking parlor. They’ve gone from 64 to 110 cows and doubled the number of acres farmed. And they’re growing their family as well. Matt and Sarah have two boys and two girls—and another baby is due this winter.
About In the Field
These alumni represent the depth and breadth of alumni accomplishments. Selections are made by Grow staff and are intended to reflect a sample of alumni stories. It is not a ranking or a comprehensive list. To read more about CALS alumni, go to www.cals.wisc.edu/alumni/.