McCown will step down as WISA director

Brent McCown, the founding director of the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (WISA), has announced that he is returning full-time to teaching and research, effective March 1.

McCown, a professor of horticulture, was instrumental in launching the institute, which was formed in 2007 to coordinate the work of several programs within CALS and UW-Extension that focus on sustainability and natural resources management. Prior to leading WISA, he served as director of the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, where he oversaw a broad program of research and outreach on sustainable agricultural systems, including efforts to promote organic agriculture, local food production and distribution, and integrated farming systems. He maintained a leadership and principal investigator role in CIAS.

“Brent is widely regarded as a creative thinker on the issues of sustainability in agriculture, and he has brought forward many compelling new ideas for how we can serve these communities,” says Dean Molly Jahn. “The good news is that we’re not losing him—he will continue to be a a valuable resource in his role as a teacher and researcher.”

McCown’s research on genetic improvements in woody crops such as ornamentals and cranberries has made him an asset to state farmers. He recently won a Service to Industry Award from the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association, the highest award the group provides to individuals or groups who have made important contributions to the state’s number-one fruit crop. By returning to the faculty, McCown says he will be able to devote more time to this line of research and also explore possibilities for new entrepreneurial crops such as grapes and hazelnuts. He also plans to explore new course initiatives on sustainable food systems and integrated agriculture.

Jahn says that McCown’s position with WISA will not immediately be refilled, but she underscores that the college will remain committed to research and outreach on sustainable agricultural systems. She says the college will initiate a broad and diverse conversation, both internally and externally, to develop a long-term vision for sustainability sciences at CALS.

“We will be engaging leaders in organic agriculture, local food systems and other areas essential to building a sustainable agriculture system and entertaining some new ideas about how the college’s resources should be structured to meet those needs,” she says.