Danielle Endvick, Communications Director, 715.471.0398,
Sarah Lloyd, Special Projects Coordinator, 608.844.3758,

‘Moving Solar Forward’
Farmers Union State Convention to open with focus on renewable energy

CHIPPEWA FALLS – A pre-convention workshop, “Moving Solar Forward,” will kick off the Wisconsin Farmers Union 84th annual State Convention Jan. 23-25 at The Plaza Hotel in Eau Claire.

The workshop, from noon to 4:15 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 23, will feature two tracks, one covering on-farm and household solar installations and another on community and group solar projects in the state.

“We know that building a renewable energy infrastructure in our rural areas is essential for the viability of farming, agriculture and rural communities in the future,” said WFU President Darin von Ruden, “so we are bringing together farmers, rural residents and folks working in energy and renewables for an active conversation on plans and strategies.”

Track one will consider the steps necessary to assess, design, finance and install a solar system at a farm or residence. Presenters will provide case studies and lead a workshop activity for each participant to work out a task list, timeline and financing opportunities for the project they are considering. Speakers will include Josh Stolzenburg, North Wind Renewable Energy; Eric Udelhofen, H&H Solar; Zeus Stark, Next Step Energy; Brenda Heinen, USDA Rural Development; and Paul Dietmann, Badgerland Financial. Attendees to this track are asked to bring their own energy bills for a hands-on activity.

Track two will include a strategic roundtable on a collaborative push for solar in Wisconsin, with specific cases presented, including logistics and financing mechanisms for group solar purchases and community solar projects.  Speakers include Peter Murphy of Riverwest Cooperative Alliance; Dave Maxwell of Vernon Electric Cooperative, Doug Stingle of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and Lynn Thompson from the Eau Claire Energy Cooperative, as well as invited lenders.

The workshop will kick off with an overview for all attendees on the “State of Solar in Wisconsin” by Michael Vickerman of RENEW Wisconsin. Both tracks will gather for a final general session sparking discussion on strategy and a work plan for moving solar forward together in Wisconsin.

The cost for the workshop is $15 for WFU members and $30 for nonmembers, which includes lunch. To register, call the WFU State Office at 715-723-5561 or send a check, payable to Wisconsin Farmers Union, with the printable registration form available at

WFU calls for farmers to be considered part of the energy solution, rather than the problem, with a focus on establishing clean, independent energy policy. Many WFU members have taken the initiative to install solar energy systems to support their farm operations, but the group recognizes there is much work yet to be done.

“Solar power is a shining American success story, with a solar system being installed in the U.S. every 3 minutes, on average; however solar installations in Wisconsin are not keeping pace with the rest of the country, and there is much to do to increase clean energy adoption in the Badger State.” said Midwest Renewable Energy Association Development Director Doug Stingle, who will be among roundtable participants during the workshop. “Working with farmers and homeowners, businesses and others to highlight the benefits of solar – including job creation, local control and energy freedom – we can push Wisconsin forward.”


We look to MSU for a lot of expertise on fruit production that is simply not available in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinios or Iowa. The most recent issue of MSU’s Futures magazine includes an eight page story about extreme weather and its affect on the Michigan fruit industry.

The story goes into detail about March 2012 abnormal temperatures and subsequent drought, and the bitter cold of last year’s winter, including some of the new strategies that fruit growers are using to take some of the risk out of growing fruit in extreme weather conditions. One we haven’t talked about much is to delay bloom.

The article discusses apples, peaches, wine grapes, small fruits, turfgrass, turkeys and wheat. It talks about the Enviro-weather automated weather stations (74 in Michigan, and 6 in Door County. Talk to Matt Stasiak if you want to put one in your Driftless orchard). In fact, the winegrape growers held an all-day conference on this topic and have posted the presentations here. Hint: many of the presentations apply to fruit generally.

The article also shares highlights from a new book “Climate Change in the Midwest: A synthesis report for the National Climate Assessment”. It is intended for educational purposes on college campuses, and also to help industry stakeholders make informed decisions. You can download the book free-of-charge.

In celebration of our 25th year on the UW-Madison campus working on sustainable agriculture, CIAS invites all of you who we’ve worked with over the years to join us December 5th for a reunion.

This event will be held from 2:00-5:30pm on Friday, December 5, at the Holy Wisdom Monastery in Middleton. Our Driftless partners play an important role in shaping CIAS, and we hope you can join us.

At this reunion we plan to share memories, catch up with acquaintances, and celebrate our past, present and future. Light refreshments will be served and there will be plenty of time for conversation. This event is free and open to the public. While no RSVP is necessary, please feel free to call or email if you can join us or if you have any questions: 608-262-8018,

The Holy Wisdom Monastery (formerly St. Benedict Center) is located at 4200 County Highway M, Middleton, WI 53562.

Thank you for your involvement with CIAS. We look forward to seeing you on December 5th.

Researcher Chuck Benbrook will be the featured keynote speaker at the first Organic Agriculture Research Symposium (OARS), to be held February 25 and 26 in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The title of his speech is “The Benefits of Organic Agriculture: Evidence Based Results.” The symposium will be on the theme of building a solid foundation for organic agriculture to provide healthy food for the future in a sustainable and ecologically sound way.

Benbrook is at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources where he leads the program Measure to Manage: Farm and Food Diagnostics for Sustainability and Health (M2M). He recently published “Organic Production Enhances Milk Nutritional Quality by Shifting Fatty Acid Composition: A United States-Wide, 18-Month Study”  in PLOS ONE on December 2013. See also major findings and other information.

The two day Symposium, immediately preceding the Organic Farming Conference,  is intended to provide farmers and other practitioners results from current and on-going research. Panels and posters will feature organic farming systems, seeds and breeds suitable for organic farming, care and feeding of organic livestock, the economics of organic agriculture and the biological control of pests and diseases of organic farms. Panelists will include experts in organic farming and food systems with national and international reputations, as well as up and coming researchers who are taking fresh and innovative approaches to the daunting challenges that face agriculture.

The OARS will also conduct a listening session on the research priorities that organic farmers are particularly encouraged to attend. Outcomes of the listening session will be used to advance the research, innovation and technology transfer. The conference is hosted by the University of Wisconsin Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems and Department of Agronomy, and sponsored by The US Department of Agriculture’s Organic Research and Education Initiative, The Organic Center and Ceres Trust.

For more information and to register for the event, visit the OARS website:



Doesn’t it seem like there is a lot going on in the Driftless around food and drink? Well, the economic development folks think so, too.

MadREP wrote a comprehensive industry analysis for the Madison Region’s Agriculture, Food & Beverage (AFB) sector examines the cluster in a way that identifies its potential comparative advantages. The analysis includes information on food & beverage manufacturing employment and establishments, agricultural production and employment, support industries and supply chain considerations, human capital, and cluster positioning. The report is authored on behalf of MadREP by Matt Kures of the University of Wisconsin-Extension, Center for Community and Economic Development.

MadREP wrote and submitted an application to the federal government’s Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) for the Madison Region’s Agriculture, Food & Beverage (AFB) sector. The document serves as a regional business model for the AFB industry, including $200+ million worth of active and potential projects, industry and workforce data, supply chain, infrastructure, R&D, and capital assessments.

For more on MadREP’s work, go to:

This year at West Madison, Horticulture professor Julie Dawson planted trials of several
species of vegetables with a particular focus on flavor, with varieties selected by plant breeders at UW Madison and by seed companies with organic seed offerings for direct-market growers.

They have beets, carrots, onion, lettuce, hot and sweet peppers, melons, winter squash, cabbage, tomato, potato and sweet corn in collaboration with plant breeders at UW Madison and the West Madison demonstration gardens.

Field days are each month from 3-5 pm. Participants will tour a breeding nursery or larger trial each time, and also look at all the crops in the demonstration gardens and do a taste test.

  • Wednesday August 27th: tomatoes, sweet corn, melons, peppers
  • Monday September 22nd: beets, carrots, onions, tomatoes
  • Tuesday October 21st: potatoes, winter squash, carrots

All the field days will be held at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station 8502 Mineral Point Rd, Verona WI 53593,

For more information and to receive information on project results, contact Julie Dawson,
Department of Horticulture,

Remember the talk about a trade association for regional food? the Local Food Association, based in Lexington, KY,  is organizing just such a service! The director bio is awesome and they have a great board of directors. They are hosting a first conference November 6th for supply chain businesses, including farmers / shippers, to meet and do business.

For all of you working to recreate our food system, I thought you might enjoy this short piece by Kate Clancy. She discusses the promise of the collective impact process to change complex systems.

Clancy, K. (2014). Food system governance. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 4 (2), 3–6.

The five conditions of collective impact:

  • Common Agenda
  • Shared Measurement
  • Mutually Reinforcing Activities\
  • Continuous Communication
  • Backbone Support


The 2014 Wisconsin Hazelnut Field Day will be held this Saturday, August 23, at Emancipation Acres near Stoughton, WI.  Please visit:  for all the details.  Pre-registration is not required, but is appreciated.

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