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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


Announcing the 2019 Market Farm Madness Champion!

Hoophouse is your 2019 Market Farm Madness champion! They withstood high winds, late snow storms and controversy over cost share payments to win the tournament. more

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CIAS Mini-Grants Support Graduate Student Research in Sustainable Agriculture

The Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) invites graduate students to apply for our summer mini-grant award program. These awards provide up to $2,500 for graduate student research aligned with the work of CIAS. The application window for summer 2020 funding has closed. Click here to download the 2020 call for proposals.

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. These funds also help students develop support networks for their work, linking energetic, entrepreneurial students with faculty, staff and farmers. With the results of their initial research and the networks they develop, students are in a much better position to successfully apply for major research awards.

The CIAS mini-grant program is made possible by a grant from the Single Step Foundation. We warmly thank the Single Step Foundation for their support of UW-Madison student research in sustainable agriculture.

If you would like to help students begin their journey toward future leadership in sustainable agriculture and food systems by supporting the CIAS mini-grant program, please contact Michel Wattiaux, CIAS Interim Director: 608-263-3493, Donate now

Mini-grant project summaries: 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 |

Summer 2019 CIAS mini-grant awards

Soil and water phosphorus under alternative grazing management in Wisconsin
Student researcher: Brooke Bembeneck
Faculty advisor: Randy Jackson, Agronomy
Livestock grazing is a practice often promoted for its environmental benefits. Grazing livestock on perennial forages reduce soil disturbance and adds carbon to the soil, while reducing the transport of water and nutrients across the land. This project aims to improve understanding of how management intensities of perennial grass pastures affects ecosystem functions that underpin critical ecosystem services.

Spring Rose Growers Cooperative: Lessons from a food system co-op that’s pushing the envelope
Student researcher: Corey Blant
Faculty advisor: Michael Bell, Community and Environmental Sociology
The Spring Rose Growers Cooperative (SRGC), a farmers’ co-op based in Verona, is a unique agricultural cooperative in a region where co-ops are omnipresent. It has provided socially disadvantaged producers in the Madison area with a range of services since 2011. This participatory project seeks to engage current and past SRGC stakeholders in a process that explores the evolution of the co-op over the last eight years, the obstacles and opportunities the co-op has faced, and lessons learned along the way.

Quantifying nitrate in irrigation water across the Wisconsin Central Sands
Student researcher: Tracy Campbell
Faculty advisor: Chris Kucharik, Agronomy
Groundwater quality is a major concern in the Central Sands of Wisconsin. As a large vegetable-producing region with significant nitrogen inputs on sandy soil, the area is prone to nitrate leaching to groundwater. This project aims to increase the understanding of both spatial and temporal variability of nitrate levels found in groundwater across the Central Sands. The goal is to provide farmers with information to properly credit nitrate found in irrigation water in their nitrogen management plans. By doing so, farmers may save money on fertilizer while reducing nitrate leaching.

Interseeding red clover in cultivated Kernza to reduce weed pressure and achieve complete perennial cover
Student researcher: Jeremie Favre
Faculty advisor: Valentin Picasso, Agronomy
Farmers in Wisconsin are interested in growing the perennial grain Kernza intermediate wheatgrass. Kernza growers regularly struggle to manage weeds during establishment, particularly on organic farms. One solution consists in planting the crop with a wide row spacing and cultivating the inter-row space. This project aims to investigate whether red clover can be established in a growing Kernza stand after the last spring cultivation and effectively suppress weeds before and after grain harvest.

Promoting resiliency: Haitian farmers use indigenous farm management practices to strengthen their farms and communities
Student researcher: Brittany Isidore
Faculty advisors: Michael Bell, Community and Environmental Sociology; Randy Jackson, Agronomy
Farmers in developing countries increasingly rely on innovative, adaptive strategies in response to a changing climate and limited resources. In Haiti, farmers are responding to climate change by adapting indigenous practices to modern-day agricultural production. This participatory research project aims to identify how the use of indigenous farming practices in the St Raphael Haitian farming community promotes resiliency on farms and in the community, and has the potential to inform agricultural extension abroad.

Cultivating more than good food? Socio-economic sustainability in certified organic vegetable production
Student researcher: Sarah Janes Ugoretz
Faculty advisor: Michael Bell, Community and Environmental Sociology
While the environmental benefits of organic vegetable production are widely recognized, the social and economic aspects remain under-explored. Labor plays an especially important role in this steadily-expanding industry, and while it is a common assumption, national organic standards don’t require farmers to establish and uphold specific criteria for fair labor standards. This project explores how certified organic vegetable farmers in Wisconsin are currently supporting and might enhance socio-economic sustainability for themselves and their employees.

The inundation situation: How rural communities respond to flooding through mitigation
Student researcher: Nicole Karwowski
Faculty advisor: Corbett Grainger, Agricultural and Applied Economics
Flooding is the costliest natural disaster in the state of Wisconsin. Millions of dollars are spent rebuilding roads and homes, and insuring property and crops. Flood mitigation projects such as home buyouts, home elevation services, agricultural flood plain easements and wetland restorations are common flood mitigation projects. Analyzing these programs allow us to better understand how farmers and homeowners can reduce future flooding costs and improve land and water quality.

Evaluating grazing for conservation and habitat management in Wisconsin
Student researcher: Greta Landis
Faculty advisor: Randy Jackson, Agronomy
Evaluation is often an afterthought in conservation agriculture, but developing an evaluation plan can improve communication and documentation, and identify sources of conflict in agroecosystems. Building on an ongoing collaboration with public agencies and livestock producers, this work will develop a set of evaluation criteria that conservation biologists and cattle graziers can use to assess grazing for grassland habitat management.

Agroecological assessment of biodegradable mulch films as a cultural control for spotted-wing drosophila in raspberry
Student researcher: Hanna McIntosh
Faculty advisors: Christelle Guedot, Entomology; Amaya Atucha, Horticulture
This project will assess biodegradable mulch films as a potential cultural control for spotted-wing drosophila in raspberry, and will also evaluate impacts on raspberry production, fruit quality and soil health.

New farmer pathways: Increasing coordination among beginner farmer programs
Student researcher: Rachel Schindler
Faculty advisor: Julie Dawson, Horticulture
This project will increase communication and coordination among Wisconsin beginning farmer programs focused on sustainable agriculture by completing an in-depth inventory of existing programs, establishing a system for sharing instructional resources, and describing the current landscape of programming and the existing gaps and barriers.

Survey of LGBT sustainable farmers in the Midwest
Student researcher: Jaclyn Wypler
Faculty advisor: Jane Collins, Community and Environmental Sociology
Farming organizations use surveys of farmers to design programs to support historically marginalized practitioners. However, major surveys lack questions pertaining to LGBT identities and experiences. This project will conduct the first survey tailored to LGBT sustainable farmers and their experiences. This data can translate into reducing heteropatriarchy and increasing LGBT equity in local food systems.

Summer 2018 CIAS mini-grant awards

Agroforestry in the Kickapoo Valley: Non-economic motivation and narratives
Student researcher: Barbara Decre
Faculty advisors: Michael Bell, Community and Environmental Sociology; Steve Ventura, Soil Science
This research investigates the non-economic motivations for the adoption of agroforestry practices in the Kickapoo Valley of Wisconsin, and the narratives and discourses associated with these alternative agricultural practices. This project aims at identifying the role of history, culture, community and landscape in the development of agroforestry, and ways to better communicate around those practices.

The ubiquitous unseen: Leveraging mycorrhizae for prairie agriculture
Student researcher: Alden Dirks
Faculty advisor: Randy Jackson, Agronomy
Switchgrass, a perennial warm-season grass and biofuel feedstock crop, relies on soil-dwelling fungi called arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) for nutrient acquisition. This project aims to characterize the community composition of AMF associated with switchgrass across various agroecosystems and management strategies in Wisconsin. It will then relate AMF community composition to switchgrass quantity and quality to better understand the relative contributions of different AMF species to productive, low-input prairie agriculture.

Increasing access to farmland through conservation easements
Student researcher: Alex Kazer
Faculty advisor: Adena Rissman, Forest and Wildlife Ecology
Conservation easements (CEs) are an increasingly popular tool for conservation on private land that are also emerging as a novel strategy to increase land access for beginning farmers. This study will examine the ways in which land trusts are using CEs to bring new farmers onto the land in Wisconsin, and analyze how the terms of the easement document affect land transfers.

The history of traditional medicinals and urban foraging for community wellness
Student researcher: Thi Le
Faculty advisors: Eve Emshwiller, Botany; Monica White, Community and Environmental Sociology
D-town farm is a seven-acre community-based organic farm in Detroit, MI that serves as a farming collective for the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN). One of their newer development programs is focused on educational farming and foraging of edible, medicinal, and other African-American culturally-significant plants. This research will inform and create a medicinal plant education curriculum with attention to identification, history, planting, foraging and uses of various plants found within the farm.

Sustainable food system law and policy
Student researcher: Isaac Leslie
Faculty advisor: Jane Collins, Community and Environmental Sociology
Alternatives to conventional agriculture have taken different forms, such as globally-traded certified organic and local agro-ecological production. Law and policy affect the relative growth of alternatives, and the U.S. Farm Bill’s sustainable agriculture programs are set to expire in September 2018. In this time of heightened Farm Bill debate, this project will support interviews with sustainable agriculture policy advocates to capture how they frame policy possibilities and constraints for promoting various conceptions of alternative food systems.

Rustbelt revitalization and the social context of soil contamination
Student researcher: Caroline Lierl
Faculty advisor: Steve Ventura, Soil Science
The ubiquity of legacy pollutants throughout the urban soils of the Rustbelt poses significant barriers for community-led urban agriculture and grassroots gardening initiatives. This research will strengthen understanding of the challenges and opportunities for adapting localized urban planning policies and environmental regulations that best support small-scale, resident-led landscape reclamation and grassroots urban agriculture projects in Milwaukee, Chicago and Detroit.

Improving pollinator plantings by understanding how they interact with local landscapes
Student researcher: Erin Lowe
Faculty advisors: Claudio Gratton and Russell Groves, Entomology
Pollinator plantings are patches of flowers planted to provide pollinators with nutritional resources. Establishing these plantings on-farm is a common strategy for countering bee declines and attracting more bees to pollinate crops. However, the effectiveness of pollinator plantings has been inconsistent. This project will focus on developing strategies to improve the effectiveness of pollinator plantings in terms of increasing wild bee abundance, richness and nesting success while enhancing crop yields.

I’m all ears: Interviewing Midwest farmers about their perceptions of on-farm diversity
Student researcher: Cathleen McCluskey
Faculty advisor: Bill Tracy, Agronomy
Better understanding how Midwestern corn growers perceive and manage on-farm diversity on their farms can provide important insights into how the genetic diversity of field corn planted in the U.S. is managed and perceived. This mini-grant supports interviews about on-farm diversity with corn growers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, and will inform a broader, qualitative survey of Midwestern corn growers and seed dealers.

Epiphytes and farmers’ choices: Finding keys to botanical conservation in coffee agroecosystems
Student researcher: Jeannine Richards
Faculty advisor: Don Waller, Botany
Modern, intensified coffee production around the world has led to the removal and simplification of the shade tree community within coffee farms. Changes in tree cover and diversity affect the capacity of farms to support biodiverse epiphytes such as orchids and bromeliads. This project supports interviews with smallholder farmers in Nicaragua and ecological research on their farms to enhance understanding of both the drivers behind farmers’ management decisions and how these decisions impact the ecological diversity of epiphytes on farms producing coffee.

Finance, landscapes and livelihoods: Oil palm crops in Magdalena Medio, Colombia
Student researcher: Angela Serrano
Faculty advisor: Jane Collins, Community and Environmental Sociology
This project explores the incorporation of smallholder farmers into global supply chains. Focusing on a case study of oil palm grower associations in Magdalena Medio, Colombia, it investigates the efforts of private companies, NGOs and the national government to incorporate smallholders as suppliers of palm oil fruit. Considering the paths that farmers are able to follow after the process of incorporation, this project will provide a better understanding of how global market pressures transform social and ecological relations at the local level, and shape livelihood opportunities for smallholders.

Summer 2017 CIAS mini-grant awards

On-farm breeding and selection of choclo
Student researcher: Jamie Bugel
Faculty advisor: Bill Tracy, Agronomy
Modern vegetable corn varieties are bred for sweetness, leaving a gap in the market for savory varieties. Bugel is studying the potential for a savory Chilean corn variety—choclo—to diversify the flavor and vigor of vegetable corn varieties. This mini-grant will support on-farm trials of choclo, and will increase understanding of the agronomic and market viability of choclo on small and larger-scale organic farms.

Allied Community Cooperative
Student researcher: Dantrell Cotton
Faculty advisors: Monica White, Community and Environmental Sociology; Steve Ventura, Soil Science; Alfonso Morales, Urban and Regional Planning
In the U.S., 13 percent of households are considered food insecure. The Allied Drive neighborhood in Madison is particularly vulnerable in this regard, as this predominately low-income community of color has no grocery store. As a result, residents are left to rely on party stores and gas stations for food or must travel outside the community to access food. The Allied Community Co-op (ACC) are currently developing a neighborhood food cooperative in an effort to build community food security. Cotton will conduct key-informant interviews with ACC leader, and focus groups with neighborhood residents on food accessibility and affordability, as well as their interest in supporting the developing food cooperative.

Traditional foods and food sovereignty among Native communities
Student researcher: Becca Dower
Faculty advisor: Patty Loew, Life Sciences Communication
Dower is working with the Intertribal Agriculture Council on their tribally-supported agriculture program, which will distribute Native American-grown foods to Native American communities. Her participatory research will help determine the best distribution points for these foods, so the greater community can best access them.

Spray boom mounted deployment of mating disruption systems in cranberries
Student researcher: Natalie Eisner
Faculty advisors: Brian Luck, Biological Systems Engineering; Shawn Steffan, Entomology
The use of insecticides to control pests in cranberries also causes mortality in beneficial insects, such as pollinators, that are necessary for good crop yields and natural pest control. Mating disruption with pheromones is a viable alternative to insecticides that has been shown to reduce pest populations in cranberry marshes. Eisner will conduct on-farm testing of a boom-mounted pheromone application system, to facilitate grower adoption of this technology.

Conservation grazing on DNR grasslands
Student researcher: Jacob Grace
Faculty advisor: Mark Renz, Agronomy
Grasslands are one of our most threatened ecosystems and one of the most expensive for land managers to maintain. Interest has been growing in the Midwest about the possibility of using livestock to maintain grassland habitat quality while promoting local, sustainable agriculture in the process. Grace will create a video that documents the use of private cattle grazing for habitat management on DNR grasslands, and explains the process of conservation grazing.

Spatiotemporal floral resources and bumble bee abundance in WI cranberry agroecosystems
Student researcher: Jeremy Hemberger
Faculty advisor: Claudio Gratton, Entomology
In Wisconsin, declining bumble bee populations are of concern to the commercial apple orchards and cranberry marshes that depend on them for crop pollination. We lack knowledge of the distribution of floral resources for bumble bees in agroecosystems, in terms of both location and timing of bloom. Hemberger will conduct floral surveys in Central Wisconsin as a first step in spatiotemporal modeling of floral resources for bumble bees.

Apprenticeship program for organic vegetable growers
Student researchers: Laura Jessee and Alex Steussy-Williams
Faculty advisor: Julie Dawson, Horticulture
While there are many short-term training opportunities for beginning farmers, few combine hands-on and formal coursework in a structured manner. To address this need, UW-Madison, UW-Extension and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development are developing a formal apprenticeship program for diversified and organic vegetable growers. Jessee and Steussy-Williams will work with agricultural educators and farmers in Wisconsin to create a coordinated curriculum for this program.

Bolstering the potential of perennial grain: Kernza
Student researcher: Marisa Lanker
Faculty advisor: Michael Bell, Community and Environmental Sociology; Valentin Picasso, Agronomy
Kernza is an intermediate wheatgrass that shows potential as a perennial grain and forage crop. While field trials of Kernza are underway at various universities, virtually no research has studied the experiences and perceptions of Kernza growers in the U.S. Lanker’s research will identify farmers’ actual and perceived results and challenges in growing this novel crop, promoting its production by bringing farmers’ voices to the process.

LAND Project: Livestock management and agroforestry
Student researchers: Leah Potter-Weight and Jules Reynolds
Faculty advisor: Michael Bell, Community and Environmental Sociology
The LAND Project is supporting agroecological development in the South African village of Mmangweni. This research will examine how local belief systems, values and customs impact the development of livestock practices such as managed grazing, and perennial agroforestry systems, in this community.

Ag water use in the Central Sands
Student researcher: Andrew Schreiber
Faculty advisor: Thomas Rutherford and Corbett Grainger, Agricultural Economics
In recent decades, groundwater use in agricultural production has increased while water levels in lakes and streams have fallen. Schreiber’s research will consider the costs of water allocation restrictions—both mandated and market-based—for agricultural use, and the societal benefits of such restrictions. This project is aligned with understanding the importance of groundwater to local and regional food systems.

Accessing agricultural land
Student researcher: Lauren Suerth
Faculty advisor: Alfonso Morales, Urban and Regional Planning
Land is an essential component of agricultural production, and land access involves complex relationships between people, property, and policy. Through interviews with stakeholders and observations of public meetings, Suerth’s research will describe the processes associated with renting, purchasing, and transferring agricultural land, and how those relate to different social, political, and financial institutions.

Evaluation of new downy mildew resistant lines for sustainable cucumber production
Student researcher: Yuhui Wang
Faculty advisor: Yiqun Weng, Horticulture
In 2004, a new strain of downy mildew emerged in the U.S., threatening both greenhouse and field cucumber production. No resistant varieties or hybrids are commercially available, but researchers at UW-Madison are working to develop resistant pickling and English cucumbers. Wang’s research will evaluate downy mildew resistance in these varieties, and perform replicated field and greenhouse trials to evaluate its commercial potential.

Summer 2016 CIAS mini-grant awards

Cranberry pest biocontrol: Ecology of odonates in commercial production
Student researcher: Maria Chavez
Faculty Advisor: Shawn Steffan, Entomology
Chavez’s research examined the potential for on-site predators—specifically dragonflies and damselflies—to control arthropod pests that can wreak havoc in cranberry bogs. She surveyed the abundance and diversity of dragonflies and damselflies on eight commercial cranberry marshes in Vilas, Portage, Price and Oneida counties, and examined the extent to which these beneficial insects are eating cranberry pests. This research will enhance the sustainability of commercial cranberry production through increased understanding of the role of damselflies and dragonflies in both biological pest control and as an indicator of the ecological health of cranberry marshes.

Food systems racial equity assessment in action
Student researcher: Lexa Dundore
Faculty advisor: Alfonso Morales, Urban and Regional Planning
How does systemic racism impact food systems? Dundore worked with community leaders and farmers of color in South Madison to test a Food Systems Racial Equity Assesment Tool. Her participatory action research will create a framework for analysis and problem solving regarding South Madison food environment issues while also providing evaluative feedback on the assessment tool.

Consumer-engaged participatory plant breeding model comparison and beet flavor breeding
Student researcher: Solveig Hansen
Faculty advisor: Irwin Goldman, Horticulture
Participatory plant breeding is a cost-effective strategy for creating marketable cultivars that provide production qualities desired in organic farming: disease resistance, weed competitiveness and resilience. Additionally, this approach to breeding facilitates selection for qualitative traits, like distinctive flavor, desired by organic consumers. Hanson compared two different participatory plant breeding models—on both a farm and research station—to evaluate their cost efficiency and effectiveness while developing novel, locally adapted, flavor-identified beet cultivars suited for organic production.

Integrating hydrogeological and permaculture design science for sustainable irrigated agricultural and water use in the Central Sands of Wisconsin
Student researcher: Maribeth Kniffin
Faculty advisors: Ken Genskow, Urban and Regional Planning; Ken Bradbury, WI Geological and Natural History Survey
High capacity groundwater pumping for irrigated agriculture in the Central Sands region of Wisconsin has reduced long-term average groundwater and surface water levels. Kniffin’s research integrated hydrogeological and permaculture design science to develop best management practices for agricultural and water resources at Long Lake in Plainfield, WI. Additionally, this study provided a process to engage local growers in data collection and discussion about local hydrogeology and limits on water use, which could inform the development a locally-relevant, market-based system.

Evaluating the effect of WICST cropping systems on active soil C and N pools
Student researcher: Kavya Krishnan
Faculty advisor: Matt Ruark, Soil Science
Diverse crop rotations can potentially enhance the sustainability of agricultural systems and provide ecosystem services such as erosion prevention, nitrogen fixation, nutrient scavenging and weed suppression. Krishnan’s research looked at the seasonal dynamics of carbon and nitrogen cycling in six different cropping systems in the long-term Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial (WICST). The data collected from this research will hopefully result in improved agricultural management strategies that match soil nitrogen supply to crop nitrogen needs.

How do consumers identify local produce in the grocery store?
Student researcher: Anne Nardi
Faculty advisor: Bret Shaw, Life Sciences Communication
Consumer demand for local food has increased over the last ten years. Despite growth in farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture (CSA), most people buy the majority of their food at grocery stores, and about 4 out of 10 consumers find it challenging to find local produce at the store. In order to measure and understand how Wisconsin consumers identify local produce in grocery stores, Nardi interviewed household shoppers around Madison to better understand their local food preferences and familiarity, how they identify local produce at the supermarket, and the effectiveness of grocery store local produce labels.

Conservation of botanical diversity in shade coffee agroecosystems
Student researcher: Jeannine Richards
Faculty advisor: Don Waller, Botany
Shade-grown coffee supports environmental biodiversity including birds, amphibians, insects and epiphytic plants, such as orchids and bromeliads, which grow harmlessly on other plants. Richards’s research examined variables, including tree species and proximity to intact forest, impacting epiphyte colonization on shade trees in Nicaraguan coffee farms. Her research will increase understanding of the potential for agricultural land in the tropics to support both botanical conservation and farmer livelihoods.

Assessing existing infrastructure for scaling up food systems
Student researcher: Marlie Wilson
Faculty advisor: Alfonso Morales, Urban and Regional Planning
A major barrier to hospitals, schools, nursing homes and other institutions sourcing local food is the real or perceived lack of aggregation, processing and distribution infrastructure that will provide local products at high volumes. In an effort to scale up local and regional food systems to serve institutional markets, Wilson assessed this infrastructure across Wisconsin using a geographical information system (GIS). Her work will help identify locations where there are opportunities for the development of new local food infrastructure, and shed some initial light on where there may be the most need, traction, and financing for new projects

Summer 2015 CIAS mini-grant awards

Mitigating climate change through cultivating cooperative values among organic dairy farmers
Student researcher: Kathryn Anderson
Faculty Advisor: Daniel Kleinman, Community and Environmental Sociology
Anderson’s participatory research explores how Organic Valley uses its cooperative business structure in combination with a deliberate and multifaceted outreach and engagement program to create values that support stewardship practices above and beyond the National Organic Standards. To measure and understand the influence of Organic Valley’s business structure and outreach program, Anderson interviewed Organic Valley staff and a sample of farmers supplying milk to the Organic Valley cooperative as well as a comparison sample of farmers supplying milk to publicly traded corporations. The interviews explored cultural ideology and values regarding community spirit and conservation, and how these are manifested in business and technical management decisions.

Healthy farm to school meals: Empowering children and families as change agents in urban schools
Student researcher: Claire Berezowitz
Faculty advisor: Jennifer Gaddis, School of Human Ecology
There is tremendous potential for children and families to collectively demand that a larger proportion of the federal funding for school meals support farm to school initiatives. The primary objective of this project is to empower children and families in urban school districts as leaders of school food reform efforts. This project uses peer-to-peer storytelling as a tool for inspiring children and families to reclaim school food systems. This research project will lay the foundation for a dissertation that will explore the role of children, families and school employees as change agents for farm to school.

Perennial bioenergy cropping systems and pollinator habitat: Understanding the impact of pollinator conservation borders on native pollinator communities
Student researcher: Kiley Friedrich
Faculty advisor: Claudo Gratton, Entomology
As the world’s energy resources become perpetually stressed, industries are looking to improve options for alternative fuels. One of these alternatives is cellulosic biofuel from annually harvested crops, such as switchgrass. However, changing the landscape to accommodate switchgrass production for biofuel can dramatically impact plant and insect communities, including pollinators. Friedrich’s research is examining how planting pollinator habitat borders in conjunction with biofuel crops can impact pollinator communities.

Assessment of woodlands grazing intensity in the Kickapoo Valley
Student researcher: Nicolas Galleguillos
Faculty advisor: Steve Ventura, Soil Science
Galleguillos’s research addresses forestry management in grazed woodlands in the Kickapoo Valley. This project will provide information for landowners that could increase the economic performance of their livestock operations without degrading biodiversity and soil quality in farm woodlots. Appropriate management of grazed woodlands, including silvopasturing and agroforestry techniques, can protect soil while providing forage and shelter for livestock. Off-site benefits include water quality improvements, increased landscape-scale biodiversity, and more wildlife habitat.

Development of best management practices for innovative agroforestry systems
Student researcher: Keefe Keeley
Faculty advisor: Steve Ventura, Soil Science
Keeley is developing a resource for beginning farmers to help them maintain diverse agroforestry plantings such as hazelnuts, chestnuts, currants, apples and other perennial crops. Diverse agroforestry systems simultaneously provide environmental benefits and food crops. Keeley interviewed farmers with experience in agroforestry to document what they have learned about maintaining young plantings, and what they wish they had known when starting out. The information developed through this participatory research will be disseminated to beginning farmers at on-farm field days, farm conferences and social media.

Urban “ecological markets” in Turkey: Enrolling underprivileged consumers and producers
Student researcher: Kerem Morgul
Faculty advisor: Michael Bell, Community and Environmental Sociology
Most studies of alternative food networks focus on Europe and North America. Turkey provides a useful comparative case, with about 21 percent of its working population employed in agriculture and an average farm size of about 15 acres. Ecological markets established in urban centers promote the production and consumption of organic products. Through participatory research that will focus on two markets in Istanbul, which is largely secular, and one market in an Islamic stronghold in Anatolia, Morgul aims to identify and propose solutions to the factors that limit the involvement of economically and culturally underprivileged consumers and producers in the ecological markets in Turkey.

Wild rice and climate change: A case study
Student researcher: Diana Peterson
Faculty Advisor: Eve Emshwiller, Botany
Wisconsin’s wild rice stands are disappearing at an alarming rate each year due to changes in water depth, invasive species and development. Peterson interviewed tribal elders from the Ojibwe, Menominee and Ho-Chunk nations to gather Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) about the challenges facing wild rice, due to climate change and other environmental factors. Her goals for this research include identifying new spaces for wild rice growth and generating interest in traditional harvest practices with the younger generation.

The bio-economics of a predator-prey system: An analysis of optimal wolf management
Student researcher: Jennifer Raynor
Faculty advisor: Corbett Grainger, Agricultural and Applied Economics
The recent expansion of the gray wolf into rural areas of Wisconsin is creating conflicts and challenges. Although wolves sometimes harm livestock, such as cattle and sheep, wolves also have the potential to control an even bigger source of wildlife damage—white-tailed deer. Through bio-economic modeling, numerical simulations, and econometric analysis, Raynor’s research is addressing the following questions: What are the true economic costs of wolves and deer in Wisconsin? Do wolves affect the economic losses caused by deer?

Fish consumption advisory awareness in Madison, Wisconsin: Assessing message clarity among high-consumption minority angling groups
Student researcher: Andrew Stevens
Faculty advisor: Nancy Wong, School of Human Ecology
Stevens interviewed anglers at popular fishing areas along Madison’s lakeshores to assess their fish consumption. Many fish species in Madison’s lakes—notably bass, carp, catfish, pike and walleye—accumulate high levels of mercury and PCBs. These contaminants can cause neurological, developmental and cognitive impairment in developing fetuses, infants and children. Minority and subsistence anglers are at higher risk of mercury and PCB contamination from fish consumption due to their lack of knowledge of fish advisories coupled with higher consumption of fish harvested from Madison lakes. This research will provide recommendations for better informing at-risk groups about how to eat fish safely.

Summer 2014 CIAS mini-grant awards

Wildflower and Edible Perennial Planting
Student researcher: Marc Amante
Faculty advisor: Sara Patterson, Horticulture
Mark Amante is establishing a one-acre demonstration of perennial polyculture of native plants, with an emphasis on edible woody plants as well as wildlife-attracting flowers and herbs, in a portion of Youker Park, Waterloo, WI. This demonstration plot will be used for elementary, secondary and citizen education about the value of native perennials. Mark is working on his Master’s degree in Horticulture and Agroecology.

Raised bed hoophouses
Student researcher: Mike Geiger
Faculty advisor: Sara Patterson, Horticulture
Hoophouses are an important tool for extending the growing season for local vegetables and fruits, especially in northern climates. Mike Geiger will construct four raised-bed hoophouses for demonstration and education: two at the Flambeau Community Growing Center in Park Falls, WI and two at the Eagle Heights garden on the UW-Madison campus. Mike is working on his Master’s degree in the Department of Horticulture.

Tomato variety trials for flavor, quality and agronomic performance
Student researcher: Kitt Healy
Faculty advisor: Julie Dawson, Horticulture
Kitt Healy is conducting organic field trials investigating tomato varieties for optimal economic and environmental sustainability at the West Madison Research Station and on six participating farms, in both hoop house and field settings. Kitt is pursuing her Master’s degree in Horticulture and Agroecology.

Effect of planting additional, non-crop floral resources on pollinator dependent crop production
Student researcher: Jeremy Hemberger
Faculty advisor: Claudio Gratton, Entomology
While adding flowers to the agricultural landscape can benefit pollinators, growers worry that flowers might discourage crop pollination and provide habitat for crop pests. Jeremy Hemberger’s research aims to determine whether the addition of non-crop flowers increases crop production through increased pollination. Jeremy is working on his Master’s degree in Entomology.

Adaptation to climate change in the Blue Nile Headwaters of Ethiopia
Student researcher: Julie Perng
Faculty advisor: Laura Schechter, Agricultural and Applied Economics
Julie Perng is part of an interdisciplinary team looking into climate change impacts, opportunities and risks in the Blue Nile Headwaters region of Ethiopia. This summer, she will conduct a pilot survey of Ethiopian farmers about their climate knowledge and technology needs for adapting to changing weather. Julie is pursuing her PhD in Agricultural and Applied Economics.

GMO exposure consequences for metabolic function
Student researcher: Ebru Selen
Faculty advisor: Warren Porter, Zoology
Does an organic diet promote a healthier metabolism, rich in antioxidant metabolites and “good” fat composition, in dairy cows? Ebru Selen will analyze the fatty acid compositions of milk and serum from dairy cows fed organic feed and genetically modified feed, as well as cows converting from organic to genetically modified feed. Ebru Selen is working on his PhD in Zoology.

Evaluating open-pollinated sweet corn seed production
Student researcher: Adrienne Shelton
Faculty advisor: Bill Tracy, Agronomy
For the past five years, Adrienne Shelton and Bill Tracy have worked with a team of seed breeders and organic farmers to breed an open-pollinated sweet corn variety adapted for organic farms. Adirenne will use her CIAS mini-grant to prepare this variety for commercialization by working with a grower to evaluate and produce stock seed. Adrienne is pursuing her PhD in the Nelson Institute’s Environment and Resources Program.

Research on impact of climate change resilience in Cameroon
Student researcher: Sarah Sommerkamp
Faculty advisor: Don Waller, Botany
Sarah Sommerkamp will research traditional versus organic fertilizer practices at a model forest site in Cameroon. She will work with the African Model Forest Network, which seeks to reduce deforestation through sustainable agricultural practices while meeting the needs of indigenous populations in a changing climate. Sarah is working on a Master’s of French Studies in International Development.

Small bugs, big gains? Exploring the potential for microlivestock farming to improve food security and health in Zambia
Student researcher: Valerie Stull
Faculty advisor: Jonathan Patz, Global Health Institute
Valerie Stull is researching the potential for in-home mealworm farming to sustainably improve food security and health in rural Zambia. She will use her mini-grant to collect baseline data on the potential for rural women’s cooperatives to raise and sell mealworms to boost protein intake and household income. Valerie is working on her PhD with the Nelson Institute.

Urban sprawl and agricultural lands: Measuring consumer preferences for varying types of open space
Student researcher: Phillip Warsaw
Faculty advisor: Michael Bell, Community and Environmental Sociology
Phillip Warsaw is researching the value U.S. households place on various kinds of open space, including single home parcels, shared open space, forest preserves and agricultural land. His work will inform Smart Growth policy development and farmland preservation efforts. Phillip is pursuing a PhD in Economics and a Master’s in Agroecology.

Identifying potato varieties with increased levels of mature plant resistance against Potato virus Y in organic seed potato production
Student researcher: Chen Zhang
Faculty advisor: Russ Groves, Entomology
Potato virus Y is the main disease of concern in Wisconsin’s seed potato industry. Due to a shortage of certified seed potatoes for organic production, organic farmers may use seed potatoes carrying this virus, resulting in significant yield reductions. Chen will evaluate selected Yukon Gold and Dark Red Norland varieties for natural resistance to this pathogen. She is earning her Master’s in Plant Pathology and Biometry.

Summer 2013 CIAS mini-grant awards

Farm to school evaluation: School-based outcomes
Student researcher: Claire Berezowitz
Faculty advisor: Dale Scholler, Nutritional Sciences
With support from a CIAS mini-grant, Claire Berezowitz laid the groundwork for evaluating farm to school programs in Wisconsin. Claire is pursuing her PhD in Educational Psychology.

Environmental health and justice issues on the Bad River Reservation
Student researcher: Jessie Conaway
Faculty advisor: Patty Loew, Life Sciences Communication
Jessie Conaway received a CIAS mini-grant to support her summer research on the Bad River Reservation. She spent six weeks immersed in this Ojibwe community, working with youth on watershed and cultural mapping. This work will provide a foundation for a cultural mapping website and atlas that reflect the perspectives of young people on the reservation. Jessie is a PhD student in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

Mob grazing and Canada thistle control
Student researcher: Anders Gurda
Faculty advisor: Mark Renz, Agronomy
Graduate student Anders Gurda received a CIAS mini-grant to interview farmers who use mob grazing. This spring, watch for his video chronicling his three state, 1,500 mile road trip and the insights he gained from the farmers. This project was part of Anders’s master’s degree research on the use of mob grazing to control Canada thistle in pasture.

Labor issues in Driftless Region fruit and vegetable production
Student researcher: Jacki Hartley
Faculty advisor: Jane Collins, Community and Environmental Sociology
Jacki Hartley received a CIAS mini-grant to support her research on farm labor in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area. With a focus on vegetable farms producing for local markets, Jacki is exploring how labor relations in agriculture are being affected by the re-emergence of local and regional food systems. She is pursuing her PhD in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology.

Goats as a tool for oak savannah restoration
Student researcher: Cherrie Nolden
Faculty advisor: John Harrington, Landscape Ecology
Cherrie Nolden received a CIAS mini-grant to support her research on controlling invasive plant species with goats in a managed grazing system. She spent her summer collecting data on goat browsing at the Yellowstone Lake Wildlife Area in Blanchardville. Cherrie is pursuing her Master’s degree in the Agroecology Program.

Landscape effects on spotted wing drosophila infestation in raspberries
Student researcher: Emma Pelton
Faculty advisor: Claudio Gratton, Entomology
Emma Pelton received a CIAS mini-grant for her research on how the landscape affects spotted wing drosophila infestations on raspberry farms. Spotted wing drosophila is a fruit fly that is damaging crops and profits on farms in at least 24 Wisconsin counties. Emma’s work resulted in grower recommendations on trap placement, fruit sampling, management, variety choices and on-farm landscape risk factors. Emma is a Master’s degree student in the Agroecology Program.

Creating growing space and an outdoor classroom in Southwest Madison
Student researcher: J. Ashleigh Ross
Faculty advisor: Randy Stoecker, Community and Environmental Sociology
With support from a CIAS mini-grant, Ashleigh Ross built “front yard gardens” with young people in Madison’s Meadowood neighborhood. They installed raised bed gardens at Porchlight apartments, which provides transitional housing to homeless Madison residents. Neighbors are encouraged to harvest fresh vegetables from the plots. Ashleigh is a PhD student in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

Medicinal herb production for the Spring Rose Growers Cooperative
Student researcher: Madeline Schatzberg
Faculty advisor: Corbett Grainger, Agricultural and Applied Economics
CIAS mini-grant recipient Madeline Schatzberg spent her summer doing market research on medicinal herbs. She worked with the Spring Rose Growers Cooperative, a multi-cultural co-op based out of the Farley Center. Madeline is earning her Master’s degree in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.