UW–Madison receives gift supporting organic agriculture, releases call for proposals

On the heels of the 2018 Harvest of Ideas — a two-day forum designed to explore how the University of Wisconsin–Madison can advance organic agriculture — the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences received a significant gift to support graduate students, outreach and communications in organic agriculture.

CALS is spearheading this initiative, and a group of faculty — the Wisconsin Consortium for Organic Research and Education (WisCORE) — has taken the lead.

“There are a number of people on campus currently working in organics, and it is really exciting to have support to foster collaborations and expand on our efforts,” said Erin Silva, associate professor in plant pathology and an organic extension specialist.

Today, WisCORE released a call for research proposals that will fund UW–Madison graduate students working on projects addressing organic agriculture production and practices. The cohort of up to five graduate students will be supported to conduct sponsored research and education starting in fall 2021.

An informational session on the call for proposals will be held on Monday, March 2, 2020, from 4:30-5 p.m. in Moore Hall, Room 473. Faculty and staff are welcome to attend to ask questions.

The group is also developing a certificate option in organic agriculture for undergraduates. It will cover topics from consumer demand to integrating livestock and everything in between, building on existing courses and expanding offerings.

A number of UW–Madison experts already have great relationships with the organic community, but another part of this initiative is to offer continuing education opportunities, both in the field and in the classroom. Web-based resources, field days, conferences and workshops are among the possibilities.

Two half-time staff positions are being created to help develop the certificate, recruit students, coordinate trainings, internships and fieldwork, create and maintain accessible and innovative resources to enhance education in organic agriculture, and communicate the impact of UW–Madison’s organic research to the agricultural community and beyond.

“UW–Madison has built a strong foundation in this area and I am grateful for the additional opportunities this support provides,” said Julie Dawson, associate professor in horticulture and an urban and regional food system extension specialist.