What is an agronomist? UW students explain in slick new video

Each year more than 14,000 agronomy-related jobs are posted with an estimated growth rate of 6.5 percent, yet only 2,800 new agronomy students graduate annually to fill these positions. Agronomy-related jobs are often high-tech and play an important role in addressing the challenge of how to feed a rapidly increasing global population.

A video developed to create awareness among high school and college students about these jobs answers the question – What is an Agronomist? In the video, Adam Gaspar, a graduate student in agronomy at UW-Madison, explains an agronomist’s daily role in agriculture, the abundant career opportunities currently available, and how science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) support the job of an agronomist in the rapidly changing world of agriculture.

Gaspar said agronomists help farmers on a daily basis solve different challenges they face in their field by being at the forefront of connecting farmers with new technologies and production practices that are developed using high tech tools and instruments.

A screen shot from the video.

Gaspar (left) in a screen shot from the video.

“I don’t go in the field without an iPad and Internet access,” he says in the video. “We have automated drones and satellites capturing images from above while different sensors measure soil conditions from the ground to make every day fun and exciting to be an agronomist.”

Gaspar is currently working with Shawn Conley, a UW-Madison agronomy professor and UW-Extension soybean and small grains specialist, to develop different management practices that soybean growers throughout the Midwest can use to increase yield and production in an economically and environmentally sustainable fashion.

What is an Agronomist? can be viewed online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uAv03brCd4. The video was developed for distribution through the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and STEM Food and Agriculture.


This Thursday: CALS scientists featured in WPT’s Supper Clubs 101

Supper Clubs 101,” a program airing on Wisconsin Public Television at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 23, will showcase the history and culture of these special eateries, as well as the research behind our favorite supper club foods. The show was inspired by the CALS-hosted Science of Supper Clubs event at last year’s Wisconsin Science Festival and is a joint venture with University Communications. The program will feature several CALS faculty including scientists from Bucky’s Butchery, the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research and the Department of Food Science.

New curators at two UW-Madison gardens aim to engage visitors

Ben Futa, Allen Centennial Gardens Director

Two of campus’ public gardens recently welcomed new curators. Ben Futa comes to the Allen Centennial Gardens from, most recently, Fernwood Botanical Garden in Michigan. In addition to his public garden experience, Futa brings a passion for people and public programming.

“One thing I’m really focused on is making this the campus garden, not just the Department of Horticulture’s garden,” he says, “so I’m looking for ways to connect with other departments across the entire campus and Madison communities in ways that they can engage with this space and make it their own.”

We’re excited to see what Futa will bring to horticulture, CALS, campus and the Madison community.

David Stevens, Longenecker Gardens Curator

At the southern end of campus, the Longenecker Horticultural Gardens in the UW-Madison Arboretum hired David Stevens as only the third curator since the establishment of the gardens in 1935. Prior to his role, Stevens was a forest genetics research specialist in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology.

Both Longenecker and Allen Centennial gardens are open to the public and support the university’s teaching, research and outreach mission. Stevens and Futa welcome visitors to explore and learn among the plants.

Read the UW-Madison news release about the new curators for more information.

CSI: UW-Madison – The Dean VandenBosch edition

While it wasn’t the most interactive volunteer experience Dean Kate VandenBosch has ever had, it was an important one for a group of high school students visiting campus this summer.

Over the course of an hour this Monday, VandenBosch “played dead” while more than 100 ninth graders in the university’s PEOPLE Program visited her office, which had been set up to look like a crime scene for a CSI-style science activity.

The cause of death? An apparent poisoning. Now, with the clues found at the scene, the students are working to crack the case.

“When I started this program 18 years ago, I decided to teach these kids chemistry, but they didn’t enjoy going to the lab and doing chemical analysis just for the sake of it,” says Majid Sarmadi, a professor of design studies in the School of Human Ecology, who helped establish the PEOPLE Program. “So I created this CSI activity. Now the students have a specific problem to solve and they get really excited about [the lab work].”

The PEOPLE Program brings middle school and high school students from underrepresented backgrounds to the UW-Madison campus during the summer. The curriculum is designed to help prepare them for their upcoming college experiences—hopefully at UW-Madison.

Now as a former “victim” in this activity, VandenBosch joins an elite group of university administrators who have played this role.

Dean Kate VandenBosch gets instructions from Majid Sarmadi before the event starts.

Dean Kate VandenBosch gets some instructions from Majid Sarmadi before the activity starts.

“We generally kill off a dean or a provost or a chancellor, someone in a high-profile position,” says Sarmadi. “It shows that the university is willing to go out of its way to help [the students] learn. That’s an important message.” Past victims include former UW Provost Paul DeLuca, UW Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell, UW Foundation President Mike Knetter and UW Police Chief Susan Riseling.

While VandenBosch’s part only took one hour, the PEOPLE Program students have a lot of work ahead of them to do to determine the culprit. When they visited her office, the students discovered more than a handful of clues around the room. For the rest of the week, they’ll be analyzing them in the lab, performing all sorts of tests: poison analysis, pen analysis, lipstick analysis, DNA analysis, fabric analysis, plastic analysis and more. On Friday they’ll hold a mock trial to sentence the perpetrator, with PEOPLE Program students playing the roles of judge, jury members, expert witnesses and more.

“So not only do they learn to do the lab work and look at the results, they also think about how all of these things fit together and how to construct an argument and present a case,” says Sarmadi, who notes that this CSI activity has been adopted by schools in California and other states.

$2M endowed chair will support organic plant breeding at CALS


CALS is a leader in organic agriculture innovation. Agronomist Bill Tracy (in blue shirt) and graduate student Adrienne Shelton (at right) helped develop a new variety of sweet corn named “Who Gets Kissed?” specifically for organic farming systems. This photos shows them assessing sweet corn traits at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station. Photo by Wolfgang Hoffmann.

A $1 million combined gift from two national organic brands – plus an additional $1 million in matching funds — will establish the Clif Bar and Organic Valley Chair in Plant Breeding for Organic Agriculture at the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. It is the first of five organic research chairs that Clif Bar hopes to create at land-grant universities across the nation.

“We are grateful for this generous endowment that recognizes our contributions in this area and will help us continue to contribute to a diverse agricultural future,” says Richard Straub, CALS senior associate dean.

Clif Bar & Company and Organic Valley both donated $500,000 to establish the endowment. The gift also received a “Morgridge Match,” doubling its value to $2 million. In fall 2014, UW-Madison alumni John and Tashia Morgridge promised $100 million to match new gifts toward endowed professorships at the university. Their donation is the largest-ever gift by a single donor to the UW-Madison.

Both funders noted the college’s leadership in organic agricultural innovation when establishing the fund. The college is also home to the nation’s largest public plant breeding program.

The named chair will be awarded to a CALS faculty member dedicated to developing new crop varieties for organic farming systems. The professor will be selected by CALS Dean Kate VandenBosch in conjunction with CALS faculty serving on the Research Advisory Committee. The recipient will hold the position for a seven-year term, at which point a new chair will be selected. A call for nominations will be issued later this summer.

Clif Bar & Company, based in Emeryville, California, makes organic food and drinks with a focus on sports nutrition. Clif Bar products include CLIF Bar energy bars, LUNA nutrition bars and CLIF Kid energy bars. Wisconsin-based Organic Valley is the largest cooperative of organic farmers in the U.S. Organic Valley produces a variety of organic foods, including organic milk, soy, cheese, butter, eggs and produce.

Both organizations have existing partnerships with UW-Madison. Clif Bar provides funding for graduate students and post-docs in the Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics program. Organic Valley supports a variety of programs in the college, including the Center for Dairy Research, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, the School for Beginning Dairy Farmers and organic cropping systems research.

The original Clif Bar announcement about the endowed chair is available online at http://clifbar.com/newsroom/clif-bar-spearheads-10-million-investment-to-fund-five-endowed-chairs-focused-on-organic-agricultural-research.

Maps for all: Making Wisconsin’s historic landscape information more accessible

Scientists are in possession of treasure trove of information about Wisconsin’s historic landscape. This rich data set, which gives a broad snapshot of the state’s terrain – including trees, vegetation, soils and wetlands – before extensive human settlement, is derived from surveyors’ notes taken between 1830 and 1866, when the U.S. Government Land Office surveyed and mapped the area that would become Wisconsin.

This information was digitized in the 1990s and has been used for a variety of purposes over the years by forest ecologists, wildlife biologists, ecosystem restoration practitioners, planners, historians and others. But it’s tough to parse.

“This data set is available on the DNR data site, but we often need to respond to and assist users. It could be used by so many more people if it were more easily accessible online,” says forest and wildlife ecology professor David Mladenoff, who led the original, multi-year effort to digitize the surveyors’ notes and get the data online.

Now, with the support of a mini-grant from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment, Mladenoff is spearheading a collaborative effort to make the database more user-friendly. The focus of the small, one-year project is to gather feedback from current and potential database users at community forums.

“Our project will gather information from workshops around the state on what citizens, agencies, researchers, consultants and others need to make more and easier use of the data,” says Mladenoff. “Then, armed with this information, we can seek funding to design and implement a user-friendly web site.”

Howard Veregin, the state’s cartographer, is a strategic partner in the project, with connections to many around the state who need good land information. The University of Wisconsin Digital Collections, which is helping to store and archive the data, is another.

Mladenoff is excited for the day when this “second phase” of the project will finally be completed. “This information will have many uses once it’s easily available to the entire state,” he says.

For more information about the project and the dates of upcoming forums, visit: www.sco.wisc.edu/glo.

Plant Prowess: CALS scientists at the vanguard of plant sciences research

It may look jury-rigged, but it’s cutting-edge science.

In a back room in the university’s Seeds Building, researchers scan ears of corn—three at a time—on a flatbed scanner, the kind you’d find at any office supply store. After running the ears through a shelling machine, they image the de-kerneled cobs on a second scanner.

The resulting image files—up to 40 gigabytes’ worth per day—are then run through a custom-made software program that outputs an array of yield-related data for each individual ear. Ultimately, the scientists hope to link this type of information—along with lots of other descriptive data about how the plants grow and what they look like—back to the genes that govern those physical traits. It’s part of a massive national effort to deliver on the promise of the corn genome, which was sequenced back in 2009, and help speed the plant breeding process for this widely grown crop.

“When it comes to crop improvement, the genotype is more or less useless without attaching it to performance,” explains Bill Tracy, professor and chair of the Department of Agronomy. “The big thing is phenotyping—getting an accurate and useful description of the organism—and connecting that information back to specific genes. It’s the biggest thing in our area of plant sciences right now, and we as a college are playing a big role in that.”

No surprise there. Since the college’s founding, plant scientists at CALS have been tackling some of the biggest issues of their day. Established in 1889 to help fulfill the University of Wisconsin’s land grant mission, the college focused on supporting the state’s fledgling farmers, helping them figure out how to grow crops and make a living at it. At the same time, this practical assistance almost always included a more basic research component, as researchers sought to understand the underlying biology, chemistry and physics of agricultural problems.

That approach continues to this day, with CALS plant scientists working to address the ever-evolving agricultural and natural resource challenges facing the state, the nation and the world. Taken together, this group constitutes a research powerhouse, with members based in almost half of the college’s departments, including agronomy, bacteriology, biochemistry, entomology, forest and wildlife ecology, genetics, horticulture, plant pathology and soil science.

“One of our big strengths here is that we span the complete breadth of the plant sciences,” notes Rick Lindroth, associate dean for research at CALS and a professor of entomology. “We have expertise across the full spectrum—from laboratory to field, from molecules to ecosystems.”

This puts the college in the exciting position of tackling some of the most complex and important issues of our time, including those on the applied science front, the basic science front—and at the exciting new interface where the two approaches are starting to intersect, such as the corn phenotyping project.

“The tools of genomics, informatics and computation are creating unprecedented opportunities to investigate and improve plants for humans, livestock and the natural world,” says Lindroth. “With our historic strength in both basic and applied plant sciences, the college is well positioned to help lead the nation at this scientific frontier.”

Continue reading this story on the Grow website

Nick Smith, CALS’ new enologist, will aid Wisconsin’s wine and cider industry


Nick Smith, new wine and cider outreach specialist in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, with the fermentation set-up in place at his lab in Babcock Hall. Photo by Kelly April Tyrrell, UW-Madison.

Wisconsin is known for fermentation, like its cheese, craft beer and pickles. But it’s also been working to add even more to that blossoming list: wine and cider. The Badger State’s 110 wineries and commercial cider makers now have a new resource to help them compete: Nick Smith.

Since he started at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in March as the first wine and cider outreach specialist, based in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Smith has been traveling the state, knocking on doors and meeting Wisconsin’s wine and cider makers.

Wine grapes can be difficult to grow in Wisconsin, since most varieties prefer warmer climates, but after years researching wine and working with growers in Minnesota, Smith is confident there is a market for it here, too, given the state’s legacy of fermented products, bustling tourism industry and agricultural diversity.

Smith is confident there is a market for wine grapes here, given the state’s legacy of fermented products, bustling tourism industry and agricultural diversity.

Smith is also interested in trying to help producers realize profits in cider, where it can be hard to compete with large cider-makers who sell product for the price of craft beer.

“It’s a relatively rapidly growing industry, especially for cider, which is one of the fastest growing market segments in terms of percentage growth year-after-year,” he says.

One way that Wisconsin cider-makers can stand out is by using traditional, less-well-known apples for cider production, he says. It can be risky, because many of these apples are now rare and thus, expensive.

“There is a whole line of cider-specific apples out there, which have a lot of tannins and other bitter compounds that give more complexity overall to the cider, with different acidity and sugars,” Smith says. “It’s a matter of finding those varieties and convincing growers to grow them. But, there’s no one magic apple.”

Smith has blazed a meandering trail to his current position. He was a 19-year-old undergraduate at the University of Minnesota the day he caught the wine and beer bug, but not in the way you might expect.

The business management major, who didn’t drink, was making a delivery for one of his campus jobs when he noticed a certain shop across the street.

“There was a homebrew shop right there on campus — I think it was owned by a retired microbiology professor,” he says. “I thought: ‘What is that?’ and instantly, I was hit. It never occurred to me before that you could homebrew.”

The craft beer industry was just heating up at that time, and there was something about beer and wine that fascinated him, so after finishing his first degree in 2002, he re-enrolled as a food and fermentation science major.

Wisconsin is fertile terroir: roughly 10 new wineries, 10 new breweries and 10 new distilleries pop up in the state each year.

He began researching institutions in the United States where he could learn more about beer and winemaking as an exchange student — in much the same way an international exchange student looks for the best place to study a language — and he found a program at Oregon State that would let him spend a year studying the trade.

From there, Smith interned at a winery in a tiny town in California, aptly named Hopland, before becoming a chemist for a well-known commercial winemaker in California.

But the draw back to the Midwest remained strong and, in his words, he “slingshotted” to the University of Minnesota for a job as a research winemaker, where he spent eight years preparing small batches of wine for tasting analysis based on the selections of grape breeders. He also earned his master’s degree in food science.

Just prior to coming to UW-Madison, he was working as a winemaker in Rochester, Minnesota, but the opportunity to build something from the vineyard (and orchard) up in Wisconsin was too good to turn down.

Since his arrival, Smith has participated in several workshops hosted by the wine industry and is gathering input and information about the needs of wine-and-cider makers in Wisconsin. Many, he says, are new to commercial production and are looking for advice and help in scaling up from homebrew or commercial small-batch operations.

Smith, who is funded by state and industry grants, is also working with the Wisconsin Winery Association to develop educational outreach tracks for conferences, find speakers and develop short courses for industry, much like the Center for Dairy Research, which he says serves as a good model for developing outreach and viticulture partnerships.

Smith says there is a surprising amount of misinformation out there when it comes to making fermented beverages, such as wine, cider and beer, but there’s also a whole lot of science.

“You’ve got everything from the microbiology — the fermentation process — all the way down to the wine chemistry aspects and how sulfur and other flavors work together,” he says. “There’s the sensory science, trying to get everything to balance out and get the products you want. Plus, you have the whole agriculture side to it.”

In July, Smith will host what he hopes will be a three-part series for industry on sparkling wine production, which he expects to be a profitable segment of the market in Wisconsin.

Smith is also trying to get a fermentation lab bubbling in Babcock Hall, where he currently shares space with ice cream and other frozen dessert researchers. He may also take students interested in wine-and-cider-making for an independent study course, similar to a beer-brewing course recently led by Jim Steele, head of the fermented foods and beverages program in the Department of Food Science. The idea is also to begin offering undergraduate certificates in fermented foods and beverages by fall 2016.

Smith hopes the revenue generated from workshops will fund additional research on how grape growing affects flavor and aroma development. Wisconsin is, after all, fertile terroir: roughly 10 new wineries, 10 new breweries and 10 new distilleries pop up in the state each year.

“It’s a growing industry, and it’s going to grow without us,” he says. “We might as well be a part of it.”

This story was originally published on the UW-Madison News website here

Startup founded by animal sciences’ Mark Cook offers antibiotic alternative to animal producers

A University of Wisconsin-Madison animal scientist has developed an antibiotic-free method to protect animals raised for food against common infections.

The innovation comes as growing public concern about antibiotic resistance has induced McDonald’s, Tyson Foods and other industry giants to announce major cuts in antibiotic use in meat production. About 80 percent of antibiotics in the United States are used by farmers, because they both protect against disease and accelerate weight gain in many farm animals.

The overuse of antibiotics in agriculture and medicine has created a public health crisis of drug-resistant infections, such as multidrug resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and “flesh-eating bacteria.”

“You really can’t control the bugs forever; they will always evolve a way to defeat your drugs,” says Mark Cook, a professor of animal sciences and entrepreneur.

Cook’s current work focuses on a fundamental immune “off-switch” called Interleukin 10 or IL-10, manipulated by bacteria and many other pathogens to defeat the immune system during infection. He and animal sciences associate researcher Jordan Sand have learned to disable this switch inside the intestine, the site of major farm animal infections such as the diarrheal disease coccidiosis.

Mark Cook

Mark Cook

Cook vaccinates laying hens to create antibodies to IL-10. The hens put the antibody in eggs that are then sprayed on the feed of the animals he wants to protect. The antibody neutralizes the IL-10 off-switch in those animals, allowing their immune systems to better fight disease.

In experiments with 300,000 chickens, those that ate the antibody-bearing material were fully protected against coccidiosis.

Smaller tests with larger animals also show promise. Dan Schaefer, a professor of animal science, and his graduate research assistant, Mitch Schaefer, halved the rate of bovine respiratory disease in beef steers by feeding them the IL-10 antibody for 14 days.

“That’s a very enticing early result,” Dan Schaefer says. “Bovine respiratory disease is the number one health risk for feeder cattle coming into a confinement situation.” He is planning a larger trial in collaboration with colleagues at other universities.

In a test in newborn dairy calves, Sheila McGuirk, a professor of medical sciences at the School of Veterinary Medicine, found less than half as much respiratory disease among calves that ate the antibody for 10 days compared to those that did not. The treated calves also showed less shedding of Cryptosporidium parvum, a protozoa that causes diarrhea, although the trend was not statistically significant.

“These diseases cause long-term reproduction, production and growth impairments in livestock,” says McGuirk. “The affected animals are suboptimal in health, performance and profitability. To have something affordable, safe and nonantibiotic that controls these very important diseases is absolutely awesome. We are eager to study this further.”

In the past few years, scientists have learned that a large group of pathogens — including bacteria, single- and multicelled parasites, protozoa, even certain viruses — make a chemical called macrophage migratory inhibition factor, or MIF, which activates the IL-10 mechanism to shut down the host animal’s immune system. “This apparently arose deep in the evolutionary past, and it’s wholesale piracy of the immune system,” says Sand.

“People have manipulated the immune system for decades, but we are doing it in the gut. Nobody has done that before,” Cook says.

Cook and Sand, who have been working on the IL-10 system since 2011, are forming Ab E Discovery LLC to commercialize their research. One of the four patents they have filed through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has just been granted, and WARF has awarded a $100,000 Accelerator Program grant to the inventors to pursue the antibiotic-replacement technology.

Cook previously founded Isomark LLC, which is developing a technology for early detection of infection in human breath.

The benefits of reducing farm usage of antibiotics should extend to workers’ families and the wider population. Significantly more people working in conventional chicken farms carry multidrug-resistant pathogens than those who work in antibiotic-free farms, Sand notes.

A nonantibiotic method to prevent pathogens from shutting down the immune system seems far less conducive to resistance than the current routine feeding of antibiotics, Cook says. “We are not focused on the pathogens. We are focused on what they are trying to do to the immune system. We are getting encouraging data from dairy and beef. We have conducted experiments involving 300,000 chickens in commercial farms, half receiving the product. We know it works. The market is interested, and now it’s a matter of making a product.”

Pasture partnership supports organic dairy farmers across Wisconsin

Not all pastures are created equal. Some have a diverse mix of grasses and legumes. Others can be dominated by a single grass species or overrun with weeds.

In an effort to help improve the health of pastures owned by dairy farmers across Wisconsin and beyond, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have established a partnership with Organic Valley, the nation’s largest organic farming cooperative, to study how to make pastures as productive, nutritious and sustainable as possible.

The project was sparked by changes made in 2010 to federal regulations governing organic dairy operations, which put more emphasis on the role of pasture in the dairy cow diet.

Erin Silva

Erin Silva. Banner photo: Grazing dairy cows at Organic Valley sponsored pasture walk. Photo courtesy of Anders Gurda.

“The regulation states that at least 30 percent of the animals’ dry matter intake during the grazing season has to come from pasture. That was a significant shift for some farmers,” says Erin Silva, UW-Madison assistant professor of plant pathology and UW-Extension organic production systems specialist.

The new rules are particularly relevant to Wisconsin. The state ranks first in the nation for the number of organic dairy farms. It is also the home of Organic Valley, headquartered in La Farge, which generated over $1 billion in sales last year and has more than 640 farmer-members in the state and another 1,160 across the nation.

“Because we as a co-op are about 80 percent dairy producers, we are very pasture-centric,” says Logan Peterman, farm resource manager for Organic Valley. “So the new regulations gave us a big incentive to improve pasture productivity per acre.”

To help address this need, Peterman reached out to Silva, head of the university’s Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Program. In that role, Silva leads an ever-expanding research and outreach program that includes vegetables, row crops and pastures.

“Pasture is a whole new world for me,” she says, “but dairy is such an important part of the organic industry in the state — in terms of economic value and impact — that it makes sense I would get pulled into this area.”

In response to Peterman’s request, Silva assembled a large, multidisciplinary team of UW-Madison experts with experience in dairy grazing, agronomy, weeds, plant diseases, soil fertility and more to help develop a research plan. In a 2012 gathering that Silva dubbed the “organic pasture summit,” the UW team met with Peterman and some of his Organic Valley colleagues to discuss approaches and make sure the results would be helpful to farmers.

“It’s great to be connected to an industry partner to make sure where we’re going is relevant,” notes Silva.

The group decided to start by conducting a survey to get a current snapshot of pasture health on Organic Valley farms, since the baseline information would be valuable to the university and the cooperative alike. With funding from the Ceres Trust, Silva’s team surveyed 20 Organic Valley farms recruited with Peterman’s help. While the numbers are still in the process of being crunched, some preliminary trends have already emerged.

pasture walk

A public pasture walk sponsored by Organic Valley. Photo courtesy of Anders Gurda.

“We found there was a significant degree of diversity with respect to pasture quality, as well as soil quality, on these farms,” says Silva. “The results highlight the importance of soil testing and managing the pasture soil fertility appropriately,” something that can be as easy as adding a soil fertility amendment or increasing the diversity of pasture plants growing in a field.

The findings have also revealed some expected and some unexpected connections between various pasture management practices and pasture health, says Peterman, “whereas in the past, we only had anecdotal information from farmers.”

The results will soon be used by Peterman and Organic Valley field advisors to help the cooperative’s dairy farmers get more out of their pastures in a sustainable way, with the goal of helping to improve the productivity of their dairy operations — and their bottom lines.

“Now, when my team is out visiting farms, we can make assessments on the spot,” says Peterman. “Change is hard, and benchmarks are a good way to help farmers discern whether improving their pasture is worth their time and effort.”

The benefits of this work will extend to organic dairy producers across the state and beyond, through Silva’s various extension activities. “The issues that Organic Valley farmers face are similar, if not identical, to those faced by other farmers across Wisconsin and the upper Midwest,” she says. “So the best management practices that come from this work will apply quite broadly.”