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The University of Wisconsin-Madison Hancock Agricultural Research Station will celebrate its 100th anniversary on Thursday, July 28 with an expanded set of events during the station’s annual Potato and Vegetable Research Field Day.

14995809599_b45505dba6_kThe public is invited to attend all—or portions—of the festivities, which include presentations on the station’s history, accomplishments and partnerships in the morning and late afternoon, as well as field day research talks during the afternoon. All events are free, and complimentary lunch and dinner meals will be provided.

When it opened in 1916, Hancock station became the university’s fourth UW experimental farm. Establishing the station was part of a university effort—mandated by the state legislature—to create a network of research farms “located on representative soil types that are materially different than that which obtains at the central station in Madison.”

From the very beginning, there was strong community support for the station, with people actively searching for solutions to the unique challenges associated with farming in the Central Sands. At the time, the area’s sandy soil was easily eroded and low in both fertility and water-holding capacity.

“The people around Hancock saw a value in connecting with the university and trying to bring soil fertility and soil conservation research to this area,” says station superintendent Felix Navarro, who helped plan the centennial festivities.

Shortly after the station opened, staff began planting shelter belts, long rows of tall conifers designed to block the wind and prevent soil erosion. At the same time, researchers studied ways to build soil fertility. But it wasn’t until the station installed its first irrigation system in 1947 that the area’s true potential became apparent. Thanks to UW research at the station on irrigation, fertility, harvesting, pest control and more—and the drive and ingenuity of the area’s growers—over half a million acres in the Central Sands are now being farmed, and Wisconsin has become a leader in the production of vegetables for canning, freezing and fresh market.

Today the station has 412 acres and provides support to around 30 university research groups investigating best practices for growing potatoes, snap beans, sweet corn, beets, carrots, onions and other specialty crops.

The station benefits from strong support from agricultural partners, including research and other support from the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA), the Midwest Food Processors Association and others. The station’s Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Storage Research Facility, for instance, was built by the WPVGA and transferred to the university in 2006. The facility is geared toward finding ways to curb losses and improve the quality of stored potatoes.

The station also hosts a community garden involving the efforts of local enthusiasts.

The agenda for July 28 includes:

9:00 am – 12:00 pm: Centennial celebration, part I. Festivities include time to visit with researchers past and present, view research posters, and hear a number of presentations covering 100 years of accomplishments at the station.

12:00 – 1:00 pm: Lunch. A complimentary lunch meal, featuring burgers and brats, will be provided courtesy of the WPVGA.

1:00 – 4:00 pm: Potato and Vegetables Research Field Day. The field day begins with a look at potato storage research 10 years after the dedication of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Storage Research Facility. Field research topics that afternoon will include weed and disease management, soil nutrients, insects, and potato and vegetable breeding.

4:15 – 5 pm: Centennial celebration, part II. The centennial festivities continue with comments from Justin Isherwood, a fifth-generation farmer with Isherwood Farm and award-winning author; Nick George, president of the Midwest Food Processors Association; Tamas Houlihan, executive director of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association; and Kate VandenBosch, dean of the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

5:00 pm: Dinner. A complimentary dinner meal, featuring chicken and ribs, will be provided courtesy of the WPVGA.

The Hancock Agricultural Research Station is located at N3909 County Road V, Hancock, WI 54943. Directions are available online at https://hancock.ars.wisc.edu/. For more information, contact Felix Navarro at (715) 249-5961 or fmnavarro@wisc.edu.

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