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Now, More Than Ever…

Posted January 2009

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For 20 years, CIAS has put the Wisconsin Idea to work. What does the future hold?

Now, more than ever, we need…

…university research done in partnership with farmers and citizens.

Since the beginning, the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems has worked with its Citizens Advisory Council and networks of farmers to create a sustainable future for Wisconsin agricutlure. Our council members, most of whom farm, work with staff to identify research and outreach needs and review our results.

…economically sustainable farms.

We’ve created enterprise budgets to help farmers manage profitable businesses. We’ve researched the economics of dairy grazing, pastured poultry and other livestock, fresh market vegetables and diversified cash grain systems.

…“green” production practices.

Our Eco-Fruit project provides growers with consulting, networking and technology to reduce pesticide use. In the project’s first five years, growers reduced pesticide risk by 55% and increased their reliance on IPM strategies by 35%.

CIAS compiles data on the status of organic agriculture in Wisconsin and coordinates organic research on campus. The number of organic research projects at UW-Madison doubled between 2003 and 2008.

We broke ground on topics that are hot today including grazing, energy use in the food system and switchgrass as a renewable fuel. Now we are looking at bioenergy alternatives that are good for farms, communities and the environment.

…new farmers.

Our Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers, now in its 14th year, emphasizes pasture-based livestock production. More than 270 students have received training through this school. About 80% of the school’s graduates are farming, and more than half of those farming are using managed grazing. Since 1998, over 400 vegetable growers have completed our School for Beginning Market Growers, which emphasizes organic and sustainable practices.

…small and mid-scale agriculture.

CIAS work on direct marketing has helped family farms capture more of the food dollar. Now we are working to keep mid-size farms and businesses profitable through innovative approaches for producing, processing and distributing food in our region.

…opportunities for students to learn about sustainable agriculture.

Our farm-to-school work has linked sustainable farmers and chefs with public school classrooms, and classrooms with farms. As a result of our work, UW-Madison was one of the first public universities to serve local and organic food in its dining halls. Thousands of educators across the United States use our Toward a Sustainable Agriculture curriculum in their high school classrooms.

With financial support from CIAS, the FH King Students of Sustainable Agriculture established a student garden at UW-Madison that provides hands-on experience with growing and marketing produce. University students interested in systems-based, sustainable agriculture research come to CIAS for mentoring and support from our faculty associates and staff.

…sustainable, local food and specialty products.

Our work has increased the availability of sustainably grown food from Wisconsin farms. We led the first nationwide survey of Community Supported Agriculture farms. We provide web and print communications support for the nonprofit groups that create Wisconsin’s Farm Fresh Atlases. This kind of support for grassroots groups ensures that groundbreaking work done at UW-Madison will benefit Wisconsin’s farmers and eaters for years to come.

Now, more than ever, we need sustainable agriculture research and outreach that integrates social, environmental and economic knowledge. In the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, CIAS is helping to lead the way toward this future.

In 1989, farmers, farm and environmental groups, researchers, educators and other citizens joined forces to start the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems in the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Twenty years later, CIAS is recognized as one of eight national campus leaders in sustainable agriculture. We’ve worked across the state to put the Wisconsin Idea to work. Our projects continue to reflect priorities expressed by farmers and citizens. Learn more about our history and future: www.cias.wisc.edu