Discussion on changes to Agriculture and Industry short course continues


Several weeks ago, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at UW-Madison issued a press release explaining that starting in 2023, the Agriculture Short Course and Industry (FISC) will transition from a 16-week residential to on-campus credit experience. , to a more flexible, non-credit format better able to meet the ever-changing needs of Wisconsin’s agribusiness community.

The residential program is scheduled to end this spring when the current class of students receive their certificates.

Three generations

I was curious to know what the reaction of a family consisting of a father, a son and a grandson – each a graduate of a short course – might be to their participation in the training program 136-year-old farmer.

Jim Rickert of Rickert Bros., LLC Dairy Farm near Eldorado says his father, Don, completed the Farm and Industry Short Course in 1951 and followed in his footsteps, graduating program in 1980. Jim's own son, Andrew, is also an alumnus of the program, graduating in 2004.

“Thanks for the email, John,” replied Jim Rickert, who and his family milk 1,100 Holsteins at Rickert Bros. dairy. LLC near Eldorado. “I wanted to let you know how important FISC is to our family and to so many others. It has been a great experience for me and I believe for many students in its long history. This is a program which began in November and ended in March. It has served our industry well for over 130 years. We understand that changes need to be made to the program.”

The program included all agriculture classes and was taught by the same professors as the 4-year diploma program. Most students stayed in dorms during the week and returned home on weekends.

Like father, like son

“My dad, Don, went to school in 1951,” Jim explains. “After graduating, he was offered a job at university, but he declined because he was keen on a career in agriculture.”

Jim graduated from FISC in 1980 and met other students who became lifelong friends.

“Living in the dorms has been a great life experience. It has taught me responsibility and life skills. My son, Andrew, graduated from FISC in 2004. He became the third generation of our family to benefit from this program. He too has made lifelong friends through the program, which has served our industry well for over 130 years.

Thank you Jim, you have a family and a farm to be very proud of.

Amy Penterman owns Dutch Dairy in Thorp, Wisconsin and is president of the Dairy Business Association.  Penterman's eldest son attended FISC.

Disappointed with the changes

Others, like Amy Penterman, who shared her thoughts in the Dairy Business Association’s weekly newsletter, expressed disappointment.

“My name is Amy Penterman, I am a dairy farmer from Thorp, Wisconsin. My husband and I own and operate an 850 cow dairy farm in Clark County. I am also a crop insurance agent and have worked for a home office I am currently president of the Dairy Business Association.

“I was recently disappointed to learn of UW CALS’ decision to make major changes to the short course; changes that could alter the nature and purpose of the course itself. The short course has deep roots and generational ties to agriculture and farming communities.

“Then I learned that this decision was made with little or no input or discussion with the very farming community for which the course was designed to be of benefit. If there are any concerns about the course as currently exists, why not the University seek input from the farming community and consider feedback from farmers?”

Our experience

“I would like to share my personal experience with the Short Course,” Penterman continued. “Our eldest son took the short course in 2018-2019. As a senior in high school, he knew he would be working in agricultural production as soon as he graduated. After researching and talking with professionals in the dairy industry, he decided that the short course would be He knew he would get practical training in agriculture.

“Short Course provides a college setting at a school that is highly regarded for providing a world-class education. Not only did my son receive a valuable education, but he received college credits and was able to network and meet other students in agriculture, future farmers and dairy professionals from across the state.

Short course students visit a flower shop in 2017.

More than animal agriculture

Penterman says his son’s time in Madison not only taught him about animal agriculture, but also gave him access to urban life and a chance to encounter a diverse student body.

“It was very important for my son and I think for all young adults as they discover where their place is in this world. An open-minded person with a diverse life experience is an asset to any organization.

“Throughout my son’s experience, I have been impressed with the number of scholarships available to students on the short course. There are many donors in our state who believe in the program and want to see students succeed. My family was touched to learn of the financial benefits offered at the start of the school. We also appreciate those who continue to give so generously.

“I see fewer and fewer farms in our landscape and that makes it even more critical for students, especially rural students, to have access to an agricultural education; an education that is accredited. The short course currently offers a unique opportunity for ag-spirited students who should be celebrated, not shut down.”

Getting to know each other is an advantage for students of the short course.

top program

Penterman says the Short Course currently offers a top-notch educational program, with accreditation.

“It also provides a one-of-a-kind setting for students who might otherwise never have the chance to attend a school on the Big Ten campus. And, while a two- or four-year degree may not may not be the right choice – at this time, credits earned through the Short Course can be a powerful incentive down the road if the student later decides to pursue one degree or the other.

“As a mother of five, dairy farmer, taxpayer, and engaged citizen of Wisconsin, I urge the University to reconsider its decision to make comprehensive changes to the short course, including to accreditation and components campus life of the program. If invited, The DBA and our members would welcome the opportunity to discuss with University officials and other stakeholders how to improve the course at the to come up.”

Thank you for your time and consideration, Amy Penterman

FCS Listening Session April 12

The University of Wisconsin-Madison (CALS) Agriculture and Industry Short Course Program will host a virtual listening session to gather ideas for future educational programs on Tuesday, April 12, 2022 from 1 p.m. at 14h. The session will be co-sponsored. by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation (WFBF), Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) and CALS.

Doug Reinemann, Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach at CALS, and Jennifer Blazek, Director of the Agriculture and Industry Short Course, will lead a conversation on educational needs within the agriculture industry. All are welcome to join via Zoom, and no additional registration is required. The web link is go.wisc.edu/ListeningSessionFISC. The meeting ID is 968 9014 5809 and the passcode is 650060. Or dial +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago) depending on your location.

For more information, contact Jennifer Blazek at [email protected]

It’s a chance to be heard and to listen even if the decisions have apparently already been made.

John Oncken can be contacted at [email protected]


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