Wisconsin Idea Endowment funds CALS projects on local food and science outreach

CALS faculty and staff are involved in three of the recently announced 2008 Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment grants. The projects were selected from more than 100 proposals submitted for 2008. One of the CALS projects focuses on locally produced food, while the two others are science outreach efforts. The Wisconsin Idea Endowment was established to provide opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to share the university’s knowledge and resources throughout the world, and to return knowledge from throughout the world to the university.

Funding for Wisconsin Idea projects range from $5,000-$100,000, depending on their length and scope. Each project requires a community co-sponsor.The endowment will fund these CALS project in 2008:

Local and Regional Food Distribution

Project Leader: Brent McCown Professor, Horticulture and Director, and Michelle Miller, Associate Director, Institute for Sustainable Agriculture. Duration: Two Years

The critical role local food systems play in the vitality of Wisconsin’s communities has become one of the most important issues facing the state today. Building a viable local and regional food distribution system provides small and midsize farms with an opportunity for a sustainable livelihood and has the potential to reinvigorate Wisconsin’s rural communities, preserve working farmland and supply Wisconsin residents with healthy food. Existing local food projects, however, have tended to focus on niche markets and localized efforts. In light of the soaring popularity of local foods, it is time to move from the specialty, boutique market to the mainstream.

The Agricultural Innovation Center has received inquiries from a number of large distributors for restaurants and retail stores that are interested in carrying more locally sourced food. This locally grown product does exist. However, there is no existing infrastructure to aggregate this product and move it to market.

In order to create the necessary infrastructure, the Center for Integrated Agricultural Studies (CIAS) proposes to work with farmers interested in supplying a wholesale market to develop the organizational and business capacity to meet the high-volume demand of distributors. The work of this initiative focuses on identifying appropriate interested distributors and growers, assessing market opportunities, assisting farmer/producer

K-12 School Partnership

Project Leaders: Julie Underwood (262-6137), Dean, School of Education and David Nelson (263-6879), Professor, Biochemistry and Director, Center for Biology Education. Duration: Three Years

This project will work across campus to increase our infrastructure and capacity to conduct effective science outreach programs for teachers, youth and interested individuals. Effort will be made to link K-12 educators and scientists in building effective and scholarly science outreach and K-12 partnerships, and to better determine the effectives of our extensive array of science outreach efforts.

The Microbe Place: Learning Science through Small Things

Project Leaders: Jo Handelsman (263-8783), Professor, Bacteriology. Duration: One Year

Microbe Place: Learning Science through Small Things will develop museum exhibits that will attract the public to visit the UW-Madison campus and will teach people, young and old, about the wonderful world of microorganisms. This proposal takes advantage of new space in the Microbial Sciences Building set aside for an interactive science museum and outreach center. This project provides funds to create a leafcutter ant exhibit that will illustrate the world of microbiology.