Wisconsin School for Beginning Market Growers

Date: January 11-13, 2019
Location: UW-Madison campus

Wisconsin Cut Flower Growers School

Date: February 16-17, 2019
Location: UW-Madison campus

more events


The Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers: Keeping the Dream of Farming Alive

As older farmers retire, fewer young farmers are stepping in to take their place. The number of beginning farmers dropped 20 percent in the last five-year census period, and the average US farmer now tops 58 years of age. more

CIAS Mini-Grants Support Graduate Student Research in Sustainable Agriculture

CIAS supports innovative graduate student research addressing the challenges faced by small- and medium-sized farms and food businesses. Awarded annually, our competitive mini-grants aid students as they initiate their research in sustainable agriculture and food systems. more

Adamski, Rick

Citizens Advisory Council Chair
Rick farms with his wife, Valerie Dantoin, on a 160-acre organic dairy in Shawano County. The farm has been owned and operated by the Adamski family since about 1900. Managed grazing has been the foundation of this farm since 1987. Conservation, efficiency and renewable resources, including a 35 kW wind turbine, are the guiding principles for this farm. Rick has served on several committees with Organic Valley. He is a member of Wisconsin Farmers Union. Determined to help the next generation of grass-based dairy farmers, Rick and Valerie have hosted several interns from the School for Beginning Dairy Farmers, including a current milk share agreement with one of the school’s graduates.

Alber, Nadia

Outreach specialist, Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers
(608) 265-6437

Albrecht, Ken

Department of Agronomy

Arriaga, Francisco

Department of Soil Science

Atucha, Amaya

Department of Horticulture

Becker, Kat

Kat owns and operates Cattail Organics farm, which grows and markets fresh vegetables and mushrooms through both wholesale channels and CSA. Kat holds an M.S. in Rural Sociology from UW-Madison.

Bell, Michael

CIAS Director
Department of Community and Environmental Sociology
(608) 262-5201

Bennett, Sandy

Phone: 608-262-9928

Bland, Bill

Department of Soil Science

Carusi, Cris

Associate Director of Communications
Phone: (608) 262-8018

Casler, Mike

Department of Agronomy

Cates, Dick

Emeritus staff

Clark, Laurie Beth

Department of Art

Collins, Jane

Department of Community and Environmental Sociology

Combs, Dave

Department of Dairy Science

Cornelius, Dan

Dan Cornelius, a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, provides technical assistance to American Indian Tribes and Native producers. He also grows Indigenous corn, beans, and squash, as well as harvesting wild rice and ranching in his free time.

Cramer, Kathy

Department of Political Science
Director, Morgridge Center for Public Service

Dawson, Julie

Department of Horticulture

Day Farnsworth, Lindsey

Postdoctoral researcher, urban agriculture and food systems
(608) 890-2433

Dennis, Sam

Department of Landscape Architecture

Diercks, Andy

Andy is a fourth generation potato grower in Coloma, located 60 miles north of Madison. With his father, Steve they operate Coloma Farms, Inc., a 2,700 acre potato and grain farm. Both are very active within the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) and serve on several committees related to marketing, research, and government relations. Coloma Farms and the WPVGA work pro-actively with researchers and leadership within the UW system to address issues in the vegetable industry. Andy received a BS from UW-Madison in Agricultural Engineering and currently serves on the DATCP board.

Emshwiller, Eve

Department of Botany

Eslinger, Mark

After 36 years in dairy farming, Mark Eslinger retired in 2015. He is helping a new family transition onto his farm, which was in Mark’s family for 100 years. An advocate for managed grazing, Mark used “What would nature do?” as the guiding principle for operating¬ his farm. He transitioned his farm to organic in 1986, before most people knew what organic food was, and he was at the meeting in Viroqua where the idea for Organic Valley came up. He has served on several committees with Organic Valley and served as a Master Grazier for the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship Program.

Fischbach, Jason

Associate staff, perennial crops
Bayfield County Cooperative Extension
(715) 373-6104

Gaddis, Jennifer

School of Human Ecology

Galbraith, Greg and Wendy

Greg and Wendy Galbraith have farmed in eastern Marathon County since 1991. They began implementing rotational grazing as a means to feed their dairy herd almost immediately, and have been spring seasonally calving for the majority of those years. They are beginning their final year of transitioning to organic production. Their son David has completed the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship program and plans to eventually take over the farm.

Gehl, Andy

Andy is a 4th generation food manufacturer. Established in 1896, Gehl Guernsey Farms (Gehl Foods) evolved from a regional dairy to a national aseptic manufacturer and co-packer with $250 million in annual sales. Andy gave up the position of president in 2011 to focus on healthier opportunities. Andy’s new company, Contract Comestibles, is focused on small batch manufacturing of sauces and dressings. Contract Comestibles is certified FDA, USDA and organic and regularly works with farmers and entrepreneurs looking to expand into the retail trade. Andy remains on the board of Gehl Foods in addition to holding a seat on the Leadership Council for Food and Beverage Wisconsin.

Genskow, Ken

Department of Urban and Regional Planning

Gibbs, Holly

Department of Geography

Goldman, Irwin

Department of Horticulture

Goodrich-Blair, Heidi

Department of Bacteriology

Grainger, Corbett

Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

Gratton, Claudio

Department of Entomology

Groves, Russell

Department of Entomology

Guedot, Christelle

Department of Entomology

Harrington, John

Department of Landscape Architecture

Hedrich, Clara

Clara has taught high school agriculture for 39 years. Her family started milking dairy goats and shipping milk in 1996, and has since built a vertically integrated agricultural enterprise. Four of her five children work in this family business. In addition to milking 800 dairy goats, they run a creamery where about 35 different varieties of cheese and yogurt are prepared on site, a retail store with locally sourced products, and a café featuring locally sourced food prepared in house. They are gearing up to bottle their milk in house. Additionally, they sell caramels made from the butter and cream, goat meat, and hand soap, liquid soap and lotion made with their goat milk.

Hendrickson, John

Program manager, fresh market vegetables and food systems
Coordinator, Wisconsin School for Beginning Market Growers
(608) 265-3704

Herald, Vanessa

Farm to School, Farm to Institution, Farm to Early Care and Education
(608) 263-6064

Hintz, Clare

Clare farms in northern Wisconsin, near the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. She runs a winter CSA featuring fresh greens and storage crops, plus treats like apple butter and apple cider. She specializes in perennial fruits and nuts as well, and she has a small market garden featuring heirloom vegetable varieties. She also raises laying hens. She manages her farm following permaculture principles and organic standards.

Holman, Chris

Chris and his partner, Maria Davis, own and operate Nami Moon Farms outside of Stevens Point. The 41-acre farm focuses on pasture-raised poultry and hogs, chicken and duck eggs, and annual vegetables. Recent sustainability efforts on the farm include planting more perennial fruits and vegetables, and working toward the long-term goal of producing most of the feed for the farm’s animals. The farm also dabbles in bees, mushrooms and silviculture. Chris and Maria are lifetime members of the Wisconsin Farmers Union. As a veteran, Chris has worked closely with the Farmer Veteran Coalition. He has also consulted for Farm Credit, been appointed to programs and committees run by National Farmers Union, and served on USDA’s Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers. Chris has a M.A. in Geography from the University of Oregon, and he taught Arabic and Middle Eastern Geography for 15 years before quitting to farm full-time.

Jackson, Randy

Department of Agronomy

Kiehnau, Kevin

Kevin started dairy farming in 1979, doubled the size of the farm in 1985, made the switch to rotational grazing in 1992, certified organic in 1994 and started shipping organic milk in 1995. In 2005 he sold the dairy herd and started to raise organic beef, cash crop and work for CROPP Co-op (Organic Valley) part time. Kevin took a full time position with CROPP in 2008 and sold the farm in 2012 after becoming a division manager for the co-op. Kevin has served on the Board of Directors for Equity Livestock and the Dairy Executive Committee for Organic Valley, and has served on many other committees with in those organizations. Kevin is currently on the advisory committee for the organic program at NWTC Green Bay. He believes that helping organic farmers become better managers and helping young people become farmers are two ways we can protect the rural infrastructure and the environment, and put people back on the land.

Kucharik, Chris

Department of Agronomy

Kuehnhold, Joel

Joel Kuehnhold owns Lonely Oak Farm near Milladore, WI. His highly diversified farm is in the process of becoming certified organic. Over 100 head of sheep and a small herd of beef animals are rotationally grazed on 80 acres. His operation includes feeder pigs, 300 laying hens and two acres of vegetables. The farm’s unique location within a wildlife area encourages management techniques that work in harmony with nature. Joel has built an on-farm certified kitchen where produce from the vegetable fields is processed and sold under the farm’s label. Joel is also the agricultural education instructor at Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids, where he emphasizes the importance of practicing sustainability in agriculture. His classes have been nationally recognized for their involvement in farm to school initiatives.

Lloyd, Sarah

Sarah Lloyd and her husband, Nels Nelson, farm with Nels’s family at their dairy just outside the Wisconsin Dells. Sarah manages the Wisconsin Dells Farmers’ Market and is the board treasurer of the Wormfarm Institute, a Reedsburg-based non-profit working at the intersections of art and agriculture. Sarah works off-farm and is the Special Projects and Regional Membership Coordinator for the Wisconsin Farmers’ Union. In this position, she organizes the biennial Midwest CSA Conference and has assisted with the launch of the farmer-led Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative. Sarah has a PhD in Community and Environmental Sociology from UW-Madison and teaches the Rural Social and Economic Issues course in the UW Farm and Industry Short Course.

Loew, Patty

Department of Life Sciences Communication

Lukszys, Peter

Wisconsin School of Business

Mayerfeld, Diane

Associate staff, Wisconsin SARE
(608) 262-8188

Maynard, Kelly

Associate outreach specialist, food systems
(608) 262-9751

McCown, Brent

Department of Horticulture

McIntyre, Peter

Department of Zoology

McNair, Ruth

(608) 265-6479

Meine, Curt

Forest and Wildlife Ecology

Miller, Michelle

Associate Director of Programs
Food systems, eco fruit
(608) 262-7135

Morales, Alfonso

Department of Urban and Regional Planning

Naughton, Lisa

Department of Geography

Nienhuis, Jim

Department of Horticulture

Odessa Piper will receive Honorary Degree from UW-Madison

Odessa Piper, former chef-proprietor of Madison’s L’Etoile Restaurant, is one of five activists who will receive honorary degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Friday, May 12.

Piper has distinguished herself as a tireless champion of sustainability in American agriculture and cooking. Using food to address fundamental questions of what our responsibilities are to each other and to the planet, Piper opened L’Etoile in 1976. From the beginning, she committed it to expanding the possibilities for eating fare prepared from local resources. Her menus evolved to merge culinary and ecological goals by relying on the region’s abundance and diversity throughout the year, including winter in the Snow Belt.

She also has had a substantial impact on the training of chefs. Because of her advocacy, more culinary schools include on-farm internships as part of their formal training programs. She has worked with innovative farmers to develop a plan for a school of organic farming and cooking so that the next generation of farmers and cooks can bring more wholesome and locally raised foods to all members of society.

Together, all of the honorary degree recipients have set a standard of excellence in civil and environmental engineering, agriculture to alleviate hunger among Africa’s poor, agronomy, sustainability and the culinary arts, and disability issues All five attended UW-Madison. The other recipients are Oscar C. Boldt, Florence Chenoweth, William L. Ogren and Robert Z. Segalman.

The university will bestow its honorary degrees during the ceremony on Friday, May 12, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Kohl Center. In all, five ceremonies will be held through Sunday, May 14.

Honorary degree candidates receive no financial stipend from the university. UW-Madison academic departments recommend candidates for honorary degrees to the 28-member Committee on Honorary Degrees. Upon recommendation of the committee, nominees are presented to the UW-Madison chancellor, UW System Board of Regents and the UW-Madison Faculty Senate for final approval.


Author: Barbara Wolff, University Communications

Read Odessa’s commencement address

Odessa Piper: Spring 2006 Commencement Address

Greetings. Thank you, Chancellor [John D.] Wiley. That was a lovely introduction that you said about me, but when I started out, my path was not so clear. I know that all of you have great dreams. I am here today to tell you what I have learned about getting to make those dreams real, and I can sum it up in five words and some change: To get there, be here and remember the little stuff.

I was, am, essentially a high school dropout and an “unwed mother,” so to speak. I was blessed with practical New England parents who gardened and foraged, because that is what practical New England parents did. Around 1968, I escaped from what would have been my final year of high school to a Luddite communal farm in New Hampshire. There I slept under an old four-poster bed under a tarp out in a buckwheat field and applied myself to learning how to grow and put by pretty much everything we ate.

Between 1970 and 1976, in what would have been my college years, I cooked at a from-scratch restaurant on State Street called the Ovens of Brittany. Julia Child”s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was my bible. This was a job that also linked me to a farm in Rolling Ground, Wisconsin. That farm was attempting, long before its time, to supply organic meats and produce to the restaurant on State Street.

My curriculum included waiting on tables and line cooking; foraging wild plums, hickory nuts and morels in the woods; hand-milking four cows on the farm and—give or take—a couple of goats that came in and out of the picture. It was a very comprehensive course load.

Then, in 1976 when the long party that was the ’60s had, by most accounts, ended, I was “knocked up” with a restaurant. This was a rude awakening to discover that my “beautiful baby” was actually a restaurant, which was also actually a business.

My opening business partner and I effortlessly racked up over $70,000 of debt. Most of it we owed to various companies that were supplying us. Then, almost nine months to the day that we opened, I reluctantly assumed my partner’s portion of the debt as an alternative to bankruptcy. At 24, I became the sole owner of L”Etoile restaurant.

I was over my head. I didn’t know to create a budget, much less fix a broken one. The big-firm accountant that my lawyer nervously brought in to shore up my reputation with the bank had an impossible task—something equivalent to parking a World War II battleship in a space reserved for a Toyota Prius.

The back-to-the-land movement of the ’60s had not unfolded yet, with its vibrant sustainable agriculture contained within its dreams, and the gifts from the revelations and the lessons of the civil rights movement and women’s liberation and the protest of the war in Vietnam had not fully integrated into society.

Even though this accountant and lawyer charged me hefty fees to finance their learning curve, frankly there were very few businesses and business resources or professionals out there with the experience already in place to midwife these new ways of thinking.

Little did I know that a lot of other creative small businesses and artisan farmers were out there, too, floundering in the same waters. I would like to give a name to our sturdy little vessel. I want to call it the “‘Small is Beautiful,'” and bear witness that for all of us, what we had to do was create the instruction manual as we went along. Sometimes I thought it was like planting the seedlings to grow the forest, to harvest the trees, to make the wood to create the rudder, to sail through an ocean of uncertainty and chance while learning how to sail.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This farm and restaurant where I matriculated in the early ’70s were both owned by an eccentric entrepreneurial visionary named JoAnna Guthrie. JoAnna loved the artisans of the soil and considered cooking an honorable profession. This mentor, who was both brilliant and flawed, has now passed on, but she foresaw our culture’s return to the pleasures of the table and the little arts of eating, cooking and cultivating.

This is a gift from cultures that we all can share and enjoy.

JoAnna demonstrated that vision and mission actually can be the same thing. She showed me that when the way gets hard to discern through all the noise, it is just the sound of vision “touching down.”

I want to come back to that little problem of the $70,000 debt that I owed by 1977. One day I got the dreaded call from my fish company’s accounts receivable man. For those of you too young to remember anything before sushi, fresh fish in the ’70s simply meant that it was defrosted before they loaded your order.

He told me that he was driving over to Madison on the next day from Milwaukee to meet with me regarding the thousands of dollars that I owed him. When he arrived, I fixed him a cup of coffee and tried to hide the green stains that had persisted on my hands from something I had been doing in the kitchen.

He explained the cashier’s check required now for twice-weekly deliveries, and then he sat back and said, “So how are you going to pay down the rest?”

As his words sunk in, I realized how completely alone I was feeling. Fighting down the panic, I quickly said, “$200 on account.” He said soberly, “I cannot accept that.”

I said, “$250?”


While I continued to fiddle with the green stain on my hands, I whispered, “$300?” Silence. Then I dared to glance up, and what I saw were his gnarly hands folded on the table and, looking up, his face.

“Try going the other direction,” he said.

“$150?” His eyes twinkled.

“Still unacceptable.”


“I don”t think so.”

Well, he got me down to $50 a week to start. Suffice to say, his faith in the power in my little steps and in the human scale of things is what got me through.

In case some of you are wondering about the current status of L”Etoile and your reservations tonight, you can relax. I paid off all the debts, ran it for another 28 years, assembling a network of over 100 local farms to supply us. The new proprietors, Tory and Traci Miller, are a young brother and sister team that I handpicked and turned the restaurant over to last year. As I speak, they are preparing to serve L’Etoile’s 29th generation of graduates and their families.

Rising up with this young team is the next generation of young farmers, and together they are creating a cuisine that draws through our region, including the winter months, throughout the year, and they are providing an important and delicious working model for the rest of the country. This, by the way, is the Wisconsin Idea in action—these partnerships and the extraordinary support that we have received from the university.

Up until about 60 years ago, everyone ate locally. How could so much change so quickly? Futurists tell us that cultural change that used to take a millennium to occur now cycles through in something like 14 years. In 10 years from now, you are going to do something that has not even been thought of yet. These are very heady times in the American crossroads of culture and science.

John Updike said, “The world keeps ending, but new people who don”t know that keep showing up as if the fun has just started.”

So where do we actually start? Well, I want to come back to my five words: Start from where you are. To get there, to your dreams, be here with who you are now. Draw from that. You can apply this to any predicament that you are in. I promise.

Hey, if all you can afford to eat is fast food, you can still eat it slowly. And don”t discount the big solutions that can emerge out of small acts of faith in an idea. In my life, I have witnessed the decline and rebirth of entire farming communities in Wisconsin. By the ’70s so many small farms were losing their hold in an ever-industrializing agriculture. Conventional farming practices were sending too much of Wisconsin”s best topsoil down the troubled Kickapoo River. And yet the same region now has one of the highest concentrations of vibrant, vital small family farms—organic farms, sustainable farms—in the country and is rebuilding its communities through a new urban/rural partnership.

I predict that the good farmers, the citizens and the partners, and educators at the University of Wisconsin and all educators of this state of Wisconsin will lead the country in the coming decades by demonstrating regionally reliant alternatives for our food systems to the current oil-dependent food distribution system that we have. And I believe that this good state and this partnership in the Wisconsin Idea are going to do much, much more.

My point is this: Pay attention to the little steps. They all count. And if you possibly can, get lost. Explore, experiment—trust your own small acts of vision. Uncertainty is a wonderful place to start looking for the truth. You would be surprised how many parents in this auditorium are not in the careers they studied for in college. But to not alarm my university hosts, please be assured that everything that you are taught and that you learn counts.

So there were some jobs that you were tempted to leave off your resume. Remember the lemonade stand? But I have good news for you. You have already been hired for the best job out there, and that is to be you. This is your job. Take charge of that and all the other decisions and choices fall in line. Your teachers will show up everywhere—in this fine university and in places least expected, like my accounts receivable man and his faith in my ability to take those first little steps.

I want to send you out into the world, into your life and your future, with this prayer and blessing for you—that you are the next teacher. You are the teacher that is on the way.

Thank you very much.

Odessa Piper has distinguished herself as a tireless advocate for sustainability in the food and agricultural system and in her professional field of culinary arts. The success of her restaurant was due in large part to its seasonal menus and the local sourcing that is her distinctive hallmark.

Oosterwyk, Johanna

Associate staff, Horticulture
(608) 262-3844

Paine, Laura

Laura Paine and her husband raise grass-fed beef on their 82-acre farm near Columbus, WI. Laura is an agriculture educator, having held a number of grazing education, research and market development positions in Wisconsin over the last 20+ years. She spent eight years as Grazing and Organic Agriculture Specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, assisting producers in developing and marketing organic and grass-fed products. She has also done grazing research and education at the University of Wisconsin and worked for seven years as an Extension agent. She worked for Southwest Badger RC&D as a grazing broker, bringing together non-farming landowners with livestock producers for pasture leasing partnerships. Laura currently serves as Program Director for the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship, a beginning farmer training program that provides a career pathway to dairy farm ownership.

Patterson, Sara

Department of Horticulture

Patz, Jonathan

Global Health Institute

Peterson, Michael

Department of Art

Picasso-Risso, Valentin

Department of Agronomy

Porter, Pam

Research program manager

Porter, Warren

Department of Zoology

Reinemann, Doug

Department of Biological Systems Engineering

Renz, Mark


Rissman, Adena

Forest and Wildlife Ecology

Ruark, Matt

Department of Soil Science

Sanford, Gregg

Research Scientist, Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial

Schaefer, Dan

Department of Animal Science

Schechter, Laura

Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

Schultz, Tony

Tony owns Stoney Acres Farm, a third-generation, 120-acre, highly diversified USDA certified organic operation located in Marathon County. He runs a CSA operation and market garden, produces maple syrup, and rotationally grazes and direct markets beef, pasture raised pork and pastured chicken. Tony holds a B.S. in Education from UW-Madison.

Shaw, Bret

Department of Life Sciences Communication

Silva, Erin

Department of Plant Pathology

Smith, Daniel

Daniel directs all activities of the Cooperative Network’s two-state operations, working closely with cooperative directors, managers and employees. Prior to joining Cooperative Network, he served as the Agricultural Development Division Administrator at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Daniel also led Midwestern BioAg as the Chief Executive Officer and was a dairy producer for 30 years on his home farm in Freeport, Ill. Smith, a graduate of UW-Madison, resides in Arena, Wis. with his wife of 38 years, Cheryl.

Steffan, Shawn

Department of Entomology

Stoecker, Randy

Department of Community and Environmental Sociology

Stoltenberg, Dave

Department of Agronomy

Stute, Jim

Jim Stute is the Research Program Director at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI). He earned his Master and Doctorate degrees in Agronomy from UW-Madison, with minors in soil science and botany. He formerly served as a crop and soils educator with UW Extension and an agronomist at MFAI. In his current position, Dr. Stute oversees innovative research that crosses the boundaries between conventional and organic agricultural practices, along with biodynamic agricultural production methods.

Thompson, Craig

Wisconsin School of Business

Tracy, Bill

Department of Agronomy

Turnquist, Alan

Associate staff, Agroecology and
GreenHouse Residential Learning Community

Ventura, Steve

Department of Soil Science

Waller, Don

Department of Botany

Warsaw, Phil

Honorary Associate/Fellow
(608) 263-2989

Weng, Yiqun

Department of Horticulture

White, Monica

Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies

Whitman, Thea

Department of Soil Science

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