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Posted November 2006

The UW-Madison”s School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers has received its biggest contribution ever—a gift of $50,000 pledged by FCS Financial Services, a farmer-owned financial services cooperative based in Wausau.

The gift will support increased programming and initiatives, such as distance education classrooms, internships and mentoring, for this one-of-a-kind program for beginning and transitioning farmers.

Program directors Dick Cates and Jennifer Taylor note that FCS Financial Services and the FCS Wisconsin Board were early supporters of the WSBDF. In addition to the current gift, they have made pledges totaling more than $20,000 since the program began.

“”This pledge is a powerful statement of support for the next generation of agricultural entrepreneurs and for the rural communities of north-central Wisconsin,”” said WSBDF director Dick Cates.

FCS Financial Services, which has offices in Wausau, Antigo, Marshfield, Medford, Stevens Point, and Thorp, expects to see a direct impact from the gift in the 12-county area it serves. North-central Wisconsin has the highest participation in the WSBDF program. More than 20 program graduates have started farm businesses in the area.

“”We stress community involvement at all levels of our organization, and our board believes strongly in this program and its positive effect on our local communities,”” says Mike Krutza, CEO of FCS Financial Services. “”It”s quite simply a long-term investment in the health of the communities in north-central Wisconsin.””

Cates said WSBDF graduates make important contributions to their communities.

“”Every young farmer that is successful in starting a business adds to the economic strength of their community, the public schools, and to the collective knowledge and enthusiasm around the possibility and hope for the next generation on the land.””

WSBDF helps not only individuals who want to start farming, but also those who want to switch to managed grazing, add a low-cost milking parlor or simply improve their business skills.

Besides studying on the UW-Madison campus through the WSBDF curriculum and the Farm and Industry Short Course, participants can also earn UW system or Wisconsin Technical College credits by taking classes via live audio or video feed at distance education classrooms at UW-Marathon and MATC-Reedsburg.

WSBDF was created in 1995 as a response to a steady decline in the number of Wisconsin dairy farms. Since then, more than 200 students and transitioning farmers have gone through the program, Seventy-five percent of all graduates are actively engaged in dairy or livestock farming, and more than half of these have started their own farm businesses. Many graduates who are not yet farming have plans to do so.

The curriculum emphasizes business planning, pasture-based farm management, and transitioning strategies such as low-cost milking parlor technology.

WSBDF is a program of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and the Farm and Industry Short Course, It is the only program of its kind in the country.

To learn more, go to www.cias.wisc.edu/dairysch.html; to learn about the distance education enrollment option for classes beginning November 14 through mid-March 2007 contact Tom Cadwallader, UW-Marathon, at (715) 536-0304, or Doug Marshall, MATC-Reedsburg, at (608) 524-7727.

To make a pledge and become a Friend of the WSBDF contact:
The UW Foundation-Friends of the WSBDF Fund
Attn: Jodi Wickham, (608) 263-2027
1848 Univ. Ave., PO Box 8860
Madison, WI 53708-8860