The Lancaster Agricultural Research Station is located about five miles west of Lancaster, Wisconsin, near present-day Beetown in Grant County. The station is in the state’s Driftless Area, a region known for its relatively hilly and rugged terrain. Research at the station focuses on finding solutions to the various challenges of farming sustainably in this area, including controlling soil erosion on the steep hillsides.
Current research projects cover soil management, crop production and raising beef with an emphasis on grazing. The station’s 120-head beef cow herd is used to study systems for beef cattle production, including beef nutrition, reproduction, and cow/calf management. The station is also home to a long-term crop rotation study that is one of the oldest in the country, started when the station was founded in 1963.
The station was established on January 3, 1963 when the University purchased the farms owned by Harry and Grace Leibfried and William and Leona Sager. The Lancaster station replaced the Soil and Water Research Station located in La Crosse that was established in 1935 by the Agricultural Research Service of The United States Department of Agriculture. Angus beef cows were brought to the station (from Arlington ARS) in 1965.
The Lancaster station sits on land that was once owned and farmed by Charles Shepard. Shepard was a freed slave and the first settler of Pleasant Ridge, a community of African American farmers founded in the mid-1800s. He fought in the Civil War and died at Vicksburg. During and after the war, more Southern black families made their way into the settlement, which peaked at about 100 residents. In 1873, with their white neighbors, Pleasant Ridge residents built one of the first integrated schools in the nation.
The black population at Pleasant Ridge slowly declined throughout the 20th century until, in February 1959, Ollie Green Lewis, a descendant of the Green and Shepard families and the last black resident, died at Pleasant Ridge. A small cemetery for Pleasant Ridge residents can be found at Lancaster station.