In the Field: Alumni who serve the state through UW-Extension Cooperative Extension
Aerica Bjurstrom BS’00
“My programming changes depending on what farmers are asking for—or if I see a need for something new before they ask,” says Aerica Bjurstrom, an agricultural agent focusing on dairy and livestock production and management in Kewaunee County. Bjurstrom, whose CALS degree is in animal science, works with dairy producers in such areas as production practices, farm safety and dairy forages. She also facilitates her county’s Master Gardener Volunteer and horticulture programs, which include working with three community gardens. “There’s always something new and exciting to work on,” says Bjurstrom. She’s especially happy to be serving as the executive secretary for Farm Technology Days, which will be held in Kewaunee County—for the first time ever—in 2017. “Now I’m working with even more amazing people with a passion for agriculture,” she says.
Amber Canto BS’07
As a poverty and food security specialist, Amber Canto supports county educators and state-level partners dedicated to improving access to healthy food for Wisconsinites with limited incomes. Her CALS degree is in dietetics. She also holds a master’s in public health from the University of North Carolina and is finishing her Ph.D. in the UW–Madison Department of Population Health. Prior to joining UW–Extension, Canto worked as a nutrition consultant with UNICEF in the Dominican Republic, where she coordinated infant and young child feeding interventions on the Dominican–Haitian border. She was introduced to the Dominican Republic as CALS student. “One of my most memorable experiences was a summer study abroad there,” she says. “I met my future husband and solidified my desire to address nutritional disparities and apply a local-global framework to my career.”
Eric Cooley BS’98 MS’05
Eric Cooley serves as co-director of Discovery Farms®, a UW–Extension-based program with the mission of determining, through on-farm and other research, the economic and environmental effects of various agricultural practices on a range of Wisconsin farms representing the state’s diverse soil types, physical and water characteristics, and livestock and cropping systems. His own work focuses on natural resource issues in eastern Wisconsin, with an emphasis on surface water runoff and tile drainage. On a daily basis he coordinates and implements water quality research, collects and disseminates data, and develops educational materials based on Discovery Farms’ research. “I enjoy utilizing science and research to address modern-day challenges and increase the efficiency of agricultural systems,” says Cooley, whose CALS degrees are in soil science. “The best part of my job is working with farmers, who are natural problem-solvers.”
Hannah Gerbitz BS’13
Hannah Gerbitz launched her working life with AgrAbility, a federal program that in Wisconsin partners with UW–Extension to help people keep working in production agriculture while living with a farm injury, disability or other limitation. Gerbitz completed an internship with AgrAbility as an undergraduate and, after earning a degree in dairy science and life sciences communication, soon began working for the organization as an outreach specialist, overseeing efforts to broaden and enhance public awareness of the program. “My favorite part of my job is seeing our services come full circle and benefiting the farmers that we work hard to serve,” says Gerbitz, who grew up on a small dairy farm.
Dan Hill MA’88
Dan Hill serves as a local government specialist at UW–Extension’s Local Government Center (LGC), whose mission is to provide leadership and coordination to UW–Extension educational programs that support local government—serving more than 5,000 locally elected and appointed county, city, village and municipal officials around the state—as well as expand the knowledge base for local government education. Hill’s areas of expertise include open meetings, open records, elections, parliamentary procedure and public policy education. He educates LGC constituents about these matters in a number of ways. “For example, I am frequently invited to speak with groups of local officials about the Wisconsin open meetings law and their responsibility to comply with it,” Hill says. He also serves half-time as Secretary of the Faculty and Staff at UW–Extension. Hill’s CALS degree is in agricultural economics.
Brian Hudelson MS’89 PhD’90
As director of the Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic, Hudelson serves the state from his base on the UW–Madison campus. “My primary job is to identify plant diseases and provide my clients with diagnoses and information on disease control,” he says. His clients include agribusinesses, home gardeners and plant health consultants (for example, crop scouts and arborists). Hudelson does his share of teaching—he’s a co-instructor in several plant pathology courses and teaches plant disease diagnostics to graduate students each summer—and “tons of outreach,” he says, encompassing 60–80 talks each year as well as producing fact sheets and appearing frequently on Larry Meiller’s “Garden Talk” on Wisconsin Public Radio. “I love the variety of what I get to do and that I’m always learning new things, even after 17 years,” Hudelson says.
Lisa Johnson BS’88 MS’99
Who helps our gardens grow? Lisa Johnson, who as a horticulture educator in Dane County offers information, advice, hands-on training and other resources to the general public and numerous other audiences including the commercial green industry (arborists, landscapers and garden centers), community gardens, the Master Gardener Volunteer program, the Dane County Tree Board, the City of Madison, and nonprofits Centro Hispano and Community GroundWorks. Her talks and presentations, newspaper columns, and appearances on Larry Meiller’s “Garden Talk” on Wisconsin Public Radio keep her very much in the public eye. Her education at CALS—where she earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and a master’s degree in life sciences communication—optimally prepared her for this particular mix of work, she says.
Charles S. Law BS’79
Chuck Law serves as director of UW–Extension’s Local Government Center (LGC), whose mission is to provide leadership and coordination to UW System educational programs that support local government—serving more than 5,000 locally elected and appointed county, city, village and municipal officials around the state—as well as expand the knowledge base for local government education. Law also serves as a community planning and design specialist, supporting county-based UW–Extension colleagues who work with local officials on a range of community planning challenges, including downtown redevelopment and rural building preservation. Law, who holds a CALS degree in landscape architecture and a Ph.D. in renewable natural resource studies from the University of Arizona, is considered the state’s leading expert on Business Improvement District (BID) creation and administration. He also serves as one of the founders and coordinators of the nationally recognized Wisconsin Barn Preservation Program.
Patricia Malone MS’87
As a community development educator in Trempealeau County, Pat Malone’s primary focus is building the organizational capacity of individuals, businesses, community organizations and local governments to address a range of issues, from water quality and strategic planning to industrial sand mining. She pursues that work by providing education about the issues, facilitation and applied research. Malone, whose degree is in agricultural economics, still loves her job after 27 years. “It’s never the same day, and I get to learn constantly and reinvent myself on a regular basis,” she says. “When I started, I was the ‘Bag Lady’ of the county working on solid waste and recycling. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to focus on criminal justice issues, groundwater quality, long-term care reform, and, most recently, industrial sand mining. It’s a grand opportunity to be a lifelong learner.”
Karl Martin BS’91
Karl Martin serves as state director for the Community, Natural Resource and Economic Development (CNRED) program, which involves some 50 county-based faculty, 30 UW–Extension specialists, and 30 integrated faculty and academic staff at UW–Madison, UW–Stevens Point, UW–River Falls, UW–Superior, UW–Green Bay and Iowa State University. CNRED’s purview spans a wide range of community development issues, including: downtown revitalization, local government training, energy efficiency, broadband and e-commerce, land use planning, and business development and expansion. The program also includes natural resource issues such as watershed management, invasive species, well testing, lake management and monitoring, and forest and wildlife management—areas that speak more specifically to Martin’s own scholarship (his CALS degree is in wildlife ecology, and he holds master’s and Ph.D. degrees in wildlife and forest science from Oregon State University). The best part of his job? “Interacting with a diversity of colleagues who epitomize the Wisconsin Idea in the work they do every day,” he says.
Ken Schroeder BS’93 MS’96 PhD’00
Ken Schroeder serves as the agricultural agent for Portage County, specializing in commercial vegetable production. He pursues that work in a variety of ways, from one-on-one consulting to group education and field tours. He conducts on-farm, applied research in cooperation with area vegetable growers, and his current projects focus on improving the sustainability of vegetable production on irrigated land in Central Wisconsin. His statewide work includes serving on the UW–Extension Fresh Market and Commercial Vegetable Team, on the education committee of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) and on the Central Wisconsin Groundwater Task Force. “My favorite part of my job is helping people. I enjoy working with farmers, agribusinesses and home gardeners, providing educational programing and resources where they live and work,” says Schroeder, who holds degrees in horticulture and in plant breeding and plant genetics.This article was posted in Fall 2015, In the Field, Working Life and tagged Aerica Bjurstrom, Alumni, Amber Canto, Brian Hudelson, Charles S. Law, Cooperative Extension, Dan Hill, Eric Cooley, Grow Fall 2015, Hannah Gerbitz, In the Field, Karl Martin, Ken Schroeder, Patricia Malone, UW Extension, Working Life.