UWP Pioneer Farm provides students with educational opportunities beyond the classroom

September 17, 2002

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2002_09_17.jpgPLATTEVILLE-Established in 1958 with the purchase of 320 acres of land from George and Mary Andrew and 80 acres from Carlton and Kathleen Andrew, the Pioneer Farm continues to grow in size and opportunities for students.

The farm, now 430 acres thanks to a recent donation of 30 acres from Bob Clare of Clare Banks, serves as a classroom and laboratory for students enrolled in agriculture at UWP. Hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students participate in research projects and attend classes and laboratories at the farm each semester.

"The Pioneer Farm serves as a nexus or bridge between theory and application," said Tom Hunt, director of the Pioneer Farm Research Initiative and director of reclamation for the School of Agriculture. "The training, demonstration and research students participate in at the farm prepare them for all kinds of opportunities later in life."

Graduate students at the Pioneer Farm participate in research of rotational grazing, riparian pasturing and sampling of manure, milk, forage and stream water. Studying the mass balance of farming - the quality of the forage, what's in the manure, what goes into the animals and comes out of the animals, what nutrients stay on the land and what nutrients leave the land - is a primary objective of the farm.

A number of faculty members, both in the School of Agriculture and from other fields of study, utilize the Pioneer Farm to provide experiential learning for students. Assessments of vegetation and habitat along the stream, as well as in-stream assessments and stream bank erosion, are studied at the farm.

Students also test their competency using the Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographic Information System (GIS). Biology students have taken wildlife censuses at the farm, engineering students have designed trails at the farm and landscape horticulture classes have designed gardens to beautify the farm's green space.

"We have a lot of student involvement at the farm, but we're always looking to increase that involvement," Hunt said. "We're looking to team up with every department on campus and are especially interested in exploring new relationships and projects."

While students benefit from the hands-on experiences provided at the farm, UWP gains national and international exposure as a forerunner in agricultural research and technology.

"The Pioneer Farm creates great visibility to the University, drawing attention to very important regulatory, technical, economical and social issues facing Wisconsin and America's dairyland today," Hunt said. "We're involved in everything from animal ethics to food safety to environmental protection."

Not only do students and the University stand to benefit from the Pioneer Farm, but producers gain insight into environmentally sound and cost-effective methods of farming. As best management practices for farming are researched and developed at the Pioneer Farm, we all gain the comfort and security of knowing our air is clean to breathe, our water is safe to fish and swim in and our land is capable of producing food.

"Economically and socially healthy farms equal healthy communities," Hunt said.

Tours of the Pioneer Farm will be held Friday, Oct. 4, and Saturday, Oct. 5, in conjunction with the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the degree in agriculture. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house will be held at the new greenhouse facility, located on Southwest Road, west of the Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium, also in celebration of the anniversary.

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