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Farm and Industry Short Course students visit a greenhouse at Natural Beauty, a wholesale floral operation in Denmark, Wis., as part of the inaugural Agricultural Experience Tour in November 2017. An anonymous $50,000 gift will fund the tour for four more years. FISC Photo
Farm and Industry Short Course students visit a greenhouse at Natural Beauty, a wholesale floral operation in Denmark, Wis., as part of the inaugural Agricultural Experience Tour in November 2017. An anonymous $50,000 gift will fund the tour for four more years. FISC Photo

Since 1886, the Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC) has been drawing students to the UW–Madison campus for certificate-level education as they pursue careers in the agricultural industry. Now, thanks to donor support, they can go off campus for an experience as diverse as their career prospects.

From a goat’s milk creamery to a wholesale flower grower, the stops along the inaugural Agricultural Experience Tour in November 2017 went far beyond the typical Wisconsin farm. The two-day bus trip rolled through the northeast quadrant of the state, allowing students to connect with each other, instructors, and FISC alumni now involved in successful businesses.

“We wanted to provide them with a shared experience to show the diversity of agriculture that exists within our state’s borders,” says Cindy Fendrick, FISC’s assistant director. “We hoped they would begin to see how their short course education will serve them in their agricultural career paths.”

William Zeimet FISC’18 of Cottage Grove, Wisconsin, who was a first-year student during the tour, had never seen a rotary milking parlor until the tour stopped at Pagel’s Ponderosa, a 5,000-plus cow dairy operation in Kewaunee. Interested in becoming a dairy farmer, he found inspiration at Kampy Holsteins in the village of Brandon, meeting alumni Darren FISC’15 and Derek FISC’15 Kamphuis, who used their education to expand their family’s farm.

“The cool thing was that the business plan they used to do the farm expansion, they put it together while in school here,” says Zeimet. “It’s a class that I could take next year. They were able to take what they learned home to the farm and apply it.”

LaClare Family Creamery in Malone was memorable for Joe Powalisz FISC’18 of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Students learned about the increasing demand for goat’s milk cheeses and yogurts from the award-winning creamery and niche events, such as goat yoga. Powalisz was also impressed by the agritourism offerings for school groups and the public at Meuer Farm in Chilton.

“I think there’s actually a market out there for ag education — not just in a classroom but on-site,” says Powalisz. “It’s important that people know where their food comes from.”

Students also visited Natural Beauty, a wholesale floral operation in the village of Denmark that produces millions of plants annually; Knigge Farms, a dairy with a robotic milking system in Omro; and Pollack-Vu Dairy in Ripon.

The tour was made possible by an anonymous $50,000 donation intended to provide diverse, out-of-classroom experiences for five years at no additional cost to the students. The 2018 tour, which will be in the north-central and Central Sands regions, is scheduled for November 3–4.

“I would just say thank you [to the donor] from the bottom of my heart, because it was an amazing trip, and I wouldn’t have gotten an opportunity like that if it hadn’t been for them,” says Cricket Cushman FISC’18 of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. “Just being able to see what else there is out there beyond my ‘back 40,’ I find that so amazing.”

WOULD YOU LIKE TO HELP PROVIDE FUTURE FARM TOURS FOR SHORT COURSE STUDENTS?

Visit supportuw.org/giveto/ExperienceTour to make a gift to the Short Course Agricultural Experience Tour Fund. Thank you for your support!