Report suggests new vision and structure for CALS sustainable ag programs

A bit over a year ago, CALS undertook an effort to reshape its approach to research, education and outreach related to sustainable agriculture. Phase 1 of that effort entailed 10 listening sessions with off-campus stakeholders and members of the university community. A report released in July, 2009 summarized the ideas that emerged from those conversations. In Phase 2 of the effort, a steering committee used those ideas to craft a vision and structure for a reinvigorated Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (WISA). The steering committee included individuals from both within and outside CALS  and represented a wide range of experience and expertise in agricultural and food systems.

That group has completed its mission.  You can download the Phase 2 report here.

The report spells out a vision for an institute that networks with client groups to “develop and share knowledge that promotes a diverse Wisconsin agricultural and food system that is environmentally sound, socially just, and economically viable.”

The vision calls for programs that…

  • are transdisciplinary and systems-based
  • stimulate innovative, entrepreneurial relationships on campus and beyond
  • engage stakeholders throughout the food system and community
  • employ stakeholder-to-stakeholder networks for outreach
  • offer student learning experiences
  • involve place-based learning and outreach beyond labs and research stations
  • focus on current issues and opportunities and are adaptable to change
  • are based on current strengths but add value beyond them
  • value diversity as a source of strength and resiliency in Wisconsin agriculture

The report proposes a model for WISA. It describes guiding principles — theme-based programs, efficient use of resources, administratively lean, nimble and adaptable, and able to catalyze change rather than fighting for existence. It also suggests the idea of enlisting “weavers” — individuals who are charged with aligning stakeholder needs and opportunities with university resources and expertise.