History of UWP agricultural teams

November 8, 2002

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PLATTEVILLE-With 10 national championships in soil judging, seven national titles in crop judging, three national championships in dairy judging against major universities and a handful of other achievements held by various intercollegiate agricultural teams, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville has a winning tradition in the School of Agriculture.

Intercollegiate agriculture teams began at UWP in the late 1960s. UWP professor Roger Higgs, in conjunction with the Agronomy Soil Conservation Club, formed the soils team, the first intercollegiate agricultural team in spring 1967.

"The first intercollegiate agricultural team began as an extracurricular, volunteer activity of the Agronomy Soil Conservation Club," Higgs said. "We wanted our students to have the opportunity to compete and learn skills under competitive situations. We saw things in our students that led us to believe our students could compete favorably anytime, anywhere, with anyone. We needed to find an arena for that potential which intercollegiate agricultural competitions provided."

The dairy team was started the following fall, in 1967, by former professor Bill Hoffman and is now coached by Professor Michael Mee. The dairy team first competed in the Dairy Congress in Waterloo, Iowa. The Dairy Club helps sponsor the Dairy Team. Higgs said competing on an intercollegiate agricultural team provided students with an opportunity to broaden their perspectives.

"As faculty, we felt back then, and still do somewhat today, that our students had not traveled much outside of southwest Wisconsin," Higgs said. "Participating on an intercollegiate agriculture team enables students to travel and meet new people, broadening their horizons as well as strengthening their knowledge of agriculture and society. In fact, on May 18-25, 13 members of the soils team visited the Netherlands and studied soil and agriculture."

As interests and popularity of the first agricultural teams took off, other teams formed. In the fall of 1970, Higgs and the Agronomy Soil Conservation Club started the first crops team. The crops team first competed in the Chicago Collegiate Crops Contest at the Chicago Board of Trade building.

In 1972, the meat and livestock evaluation team was formed by former professor Duane Wachholz and is now coached by Professor Bob Nusbaum. Also included in the livestock judging is the livestock judging team and the animal quadrathalon team, coached by Alicia Prill-Adams in conjunction with the Block and Bridle Club.

The teams have been funded through the years by the Segregated University Fee Allocation Commission (SUFAC), club treasuries, the industry and alumni. In 1980, former professor Ray Duewer formed the flower judging team, which has been coached by horticulture Professor Michael Compton for the past six years. From 1984 until 2000, UWP also had a weed science team coached by Higgs, however, despite the team's success of winning four regional championships, the team has been disbanded.

Students travel throughout the United States participating in the various collegiate agricultural team competitions. Each competition has a national set of rules and guidelines approved by the coaches one year prior to the contest. Over the years, the rules and regulations have evolved considerably, Higgs said.

"There's been a tremendous evolution in what students do in the technical contests," Higgs said. "For example, in the collegiate soils competitions, students now have to provide an estimate of the sand and clay percentages for soil horizons they describe, in addition to providing a complete, modern soil taxonomy and soil geology description. These requirements are much different than when I competed in college."

In addition to providing students with scholarship opportunities, learning to think under pressure, reinforcing agricultural skills learned in the classroom and broadening students' horizons, participating on a collegiate agricultural team often benefits students later in life such as career opportunities.

"I've heard from a number of our agriculture alumni who said once their company heard they participated with intercollegiate agricultural teams, they ended up teaching the rest of his or her department about that area of agriculture," Higgs said. "These students really become a wonderful resource for their companies or agencies."

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