CALS Involvement in Agriculture

As a student on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus, I see signs everywhere supporting and promoting the views of a diverse culture of students and staff. Signs supporting marriage rights and views, signs promoting a broad range of events, and signs asking people to join a vast network of clubs and organizations plaster our campus.

However, it isn’t too often I see signs supporting agriculture.

The students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) are working to change this. During the fall semester, Badger Dairy Club promoted the dairy industry by broadcasting images of Alice in Dairyland along with information about chocolate milk as a recovery drink on TV’s across campus. This spring, students are celebrating agriculture in numerous ways as well. CALS has dedicated a special week in April to celebrate the diversity of agriculture and educate our peers. During CALS Week, numerous events such as CALS Day for Kids, Breakfast on the Farm and Ag Day on Campus will take place.

CALS Week kicks off with the Association of Women in Agriculture’s annual Breakfast on the Farm. Held on April 14 at the Stock Pavilion, the breakfast attracts around 1,000 visitors for a country-style breakfast, entertainment and agriculture education exhibits.

Later in the week, on Tuesday, April 16, Collegiate Farm Bureau and the CALS Student Association are hosting Terry Fleck from the Center for Food Integrity who will be speaking to a diverse group about the importance of open communication between consumers and producers.

CALS Day for Kids, which is held on April 17, hosts multiple elementary-age students at the Stock Pavilion to learn about agriculture. The following week, on April 24, Ag Day on Campus will take place on Library Mall. This high traffic area on campus will house a tractor, educational signs, free food made from products grown in Wisconsin, and many enthusiastic students ready to share their agricultural stories. Each of the events will begin to open doors between farmers and the dinner table.

Volunteers for Ag Day with Bucky. Even Bucky supports Wisconsin agriculture!

Volunteers for Ag Day with Bucky. Even Bucky supports Wisconsin agriculture!

Sharing the importance of technology and innovation in agriculture and our own agricultural stories is a vital part of our job as producers and agriculturists. If we don’t tell our story, somebody else will tell it for us. Often the people who decide to tell OUR story aren’t involved in agriculture and portray agriculture production negatively.

Engage in agricultural education through the planning of an agriculture event, attend one of the multiple breakfasts on the farm, post something educational on a social media site, engage in current social media movements, or simply start a conversation with someone unfamiliar with agriculture. Education is an essential piece in consumer acceptance of agricultural technology.

Students at UW-Madison are excited to take an active role in educating consumers. I hope you will join us in this agriculture education movement.


Agvocating Everyday

This week in Plant Pathology 123, a class I am taking at the UW for biological science credit, we spent some of the lecture watching a clip from the movie Food Inc. I attend this lecture with three of my fellow sisters in the Association of Women in Agriculture. We are all passionate about agriculture and feeding the world. As the videos played we endured Michael Pollan talking about animals being knee deep in manure, the spread of E. Coli on farms and carcasses going to slaughter covered in manure. Taylor, Emily, Jaime and I sat in disbelief, as we have all seen the movie, but we were shocked that it was being shown in this class. We all know that the farms some of us own and others of us have visited, animals are not treated inhumanely and aren’t covered in manure. We were appalled. Instead of just leaving the class frustrated, which we did anyway, Taylor and I decided to take a stance. My good friend Taylor grew up on her family’s 850 cow dairy farm in Watertown, Wisconsin, Rosy Lane Holsteins. Taylor and I sent our professor a lengthy email with resources that share the true story of agriculture. Our email to our professor went as follows:

Dr. Rakatondrafara,

My name is Taylor Holterman and I am in your Plant Pathology 123 class. I would like to share the following information, articles and resources with you because I am from a farming background, and what I saw in the videos shown today and during the guest lecture on Monday were not representative of what I believe agriculture to be.

I was raised on a dairy farm one hour East of Madison near Watertown, Wis. I was active in 4-H for 12 years showing dairy cattle as well as beef and sheep for a few years. I was also an FFA member for five years expanding my knowledge of the industry through a “Supervised Agricultural Experience.” My senior year of high school, I won the Wisconsin State FFA Dairy Entrepreneurship Proficiency for the herd of 18 dairy cattle I own, which are housed on my parent’s farm. My parents started with 70 milking cows and today have 850 as well as two business partners and approximately 20 full-time employees. This type of farm today is classified as a “factory” farm as well as CAFO, however what the video portrayed in class today was nothing like it is on our farm nor other farms I have been on. Everyone I know takes care of their animals to the highest standards; there are no snow-days or holidays on a farm.

On every farm I have been including dairy farms in Georgia, Florida, England, Germany and Bulgaria, as well as on our own, animals are treated humanely and cared for 24/7. I would like to invite you to talk with me more on this subject, as well as view the following resources. First off, I would like to ask you to watch this video of my mom, Daphne Holterman. She was selected last year as a Finalist for the United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance “Faces of Farming and Ranching” Competition. This is the video created by them: Also, in 2009, she was selected as World Dairy Expo’s Dairy Woman of the Year. You can probably tell her passion for agriculture and animals was instilled in me!

Another video and article about my parent’s and our family:

Our farm’s Facebook page: On pages 10-11, my mom is featured here talking about what she does.

Video from a blogger “Dairy Carrie” – her site also has great articles and other resources as well. This video made some news outlets in the agricultural industry and stood out to me.

United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s Food Dialogues – a great conversation about farming and where our food comes from

My friend, Kate Griswold, who is also in Plant Pathology 123 with me saw the videos in class today as well. Kate grew up on her families’ hobby farm just West of Madison, Wisconsin in Black Earth and both her parents work in the dairy industry. She has grown up being involved with 4-H and FFA and showed beef cattle, sheep, hogs and poultry. Although Kate didn’t grow up on a large farm, she has been exposed to a wide range of agricultural production methods and visited a number of farms. Neither Kate or I believe the videos shown in class were representative of agriculture or the way farmers treat their animals.

I would be happy if you shared this with the class because there are definitely two sides to this story. Negative media like ideas from Michael Pollan are only showing one side of the story.

If you have any more questions or would even like to visit our farm, please let me know. I am happy to share all of my knowledge as well as my family’s farm. I love sharing what great things our farm does. As my mom says, “Our farm is open to anyone with an open mind.”

Thank you for your time,


We need to share our stories. Sometimes it is as simple as sending an email with additional resources like we did. People continue to mistrust agriculture because of the things people far removed from the topic say. It is our responsibility to continue to share the truth. Throughout the day today this email has had multiple shares and has plastered many facebook walls. I am sad to say that we haven’t heard back from our professor at this point. I will keep you posted to any feedback she provides us or shares with our class.

The Winning Ticket

Imagine winning the lottery. Not the lottery with millions of dollars, but the lottery of people. Imagine that you have the chance of being reborn into this same world. Of the 7 million people in the world, each person has a one in 7 million chance of being reborn as the same person again. What are the chances you are reborn as a middle class American with enough food to eat, clothing to wear and shelter?

At the beginning of November, I attended the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference where Howard G. Buffet was honored as an AFA Leader in Agriculture Award winner. In his acceptance speech, he reminded each of the delegates that we, as American agriculturists with food, clothing, clean water and shelter, have the winning lottery tickets. We may not be millionaires or billionaires, but we do not have to worry about where we’ll get our next meal. Our worry isn’t on whether or not our water is clean and safe to drink. We don’t need to be burdened looking for clothing to wear or a shelter to protect us from the elements. Just by being born in America, we have won the lottery.

Howard Buffett works to make a difference in the lives of the impoverished. Here he is educating about the importance of agriculture.

Howard Buffett works to make a difference in the lives of the impoverished. Here he is educating about the importance of agriculture.

As we look to the future, farmers have the resources to provide for the growing population. Researchers continue to develop, change and improve agricultural technologies. Ensuring the availability and access to technologies that will assist in providing a sustainable source of food for people around the world will increase the number of people who possess winning tickets.

Each day at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a world renowned research institution, I am surrounded by students and faculty who are conducting research which will continue to enhance agricultural production practices. As I attend lectures and discussions I am able to learn more about technologies on the forefront of development. Technology isn’t some far off concept; innovative ways of production are crafted and explored daily. It is exciting to be part of a generation that will develop technology to continually increase the number of winning tickets people possess.

Individuals around the world deserve the chance at a winning ticket. With innovative technology, farmers in America and around the world will produce food to feed the 9 billion people that will inhabit the earth by 2050. It is the responsibility of each producer to be as efficient as possible to ensure food availability. Although it may not always feel like it, farmers in America have the winning ticket; we can and will continue to impact people throughout America and around the globe. Keep using your winning ticket to benefit your family, community and even our world.

First Memories Create a Burning Passion

As I think back on my life, I have always been involved in agriculture so picking just one memory or my first memory is a challenge. One of my most vivid memories is of Christmas as a young child. My family likes to give each other unique gifts, however the Griswold Family Christmas Eve was quite interesting this year.

The previous summer we had gone on vacation out west and stopped in Custer State Park. In Custer, there are wild donkeys and visitors are directed and asked not to feed the donkeys. However, the animals like to come up to the windows and love eating corn chips and Cheetos. My younger brother, sister and I all fell in love with the donkeys, but never expected to get one on Christmas Eve.

When we came home from church, both of my parents directed us down to the barn, since the light had been left on. We all entered cautiously, but were pushing my mother to go in first. You see, we were in on a secret too. For my Mom’s Christmas present, we had purchased some sheep. When she was a child and showed animals in 4-H, she showed sheep. Once she went to college she sold her sheep. The man who bought her sheep kept her herd registered separately. We were able to purchase some of the decedents from her original herd of sheep. As we pushed my mom into the barn, she pushed us in and my dad followed with a smile on his face. I think he was just excited we all made it and nobody found out about the secrets before they were supposed to! As we entered the barn we saw the sheep and in another pen was our baby donkey. It was an exciting Christmas Eve!

This is Sara, my sister with some of the newest lambs. Even years later we still have decedents of my mothers heard.

This is Sara, my sister with some of the newest lambs. Even years later we still have decedents of my mothers heard.

Later that evening my mom asked my brother, around 4 years old at the time what we should name the donkey. Since we got him for Christmas she suggested we name him something Christmas related. My innocent, little brother quickly spoke up and recommended the name Jesus for the donkey. My parents couldn’t hold in their laughter, but quickly decided that we couldn’t name our ass, Jesus. We later decided on the name King.
King the donkey isn't so little anymore. He still enjoys to be pet and he always loves it when we bring him apples!

King the donkey isn’t so little anymore. He still enjoys to be pet and he always loves it when we bring him apples!

I encourage you to share family memories involving agriculture. These stories don’t have to be extravagant Christmas memories; they can be simple day to day happenings on the farm. The personal stories and connections we share help our consumers connect with us on a personal basis and provide an outlet for them to ask questions. The next time you have a fun picture, story or even quote, I encourage you to blog, tweet, instagram and facebook them. The conversation starts today and doesn’t end until consumers are satisfied!