Why Wisconsin?

      Bascom Hill, with Capitol in the background

Many people have commented that for a state with only a bit more than 5.5 million people (and only about 1.8% of the US population) it is difficult to imagine how Wisconsin has been able to support and grow such a world class university. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is a marvel in many ways; in its level of scholarship in so many fields, in its nationally-prominent research rankings, in its innovative and progressive ideas of governance, public service, and technology transfer. Today, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is among the top public institutions in the US and among a handful of comprehensive universities worldwide that offers public education combined with world-class opportunities for success in the arts and humanities, in the biological, physical, and social sciences, and in public service that includes a local and global scope.

It is an honor to work at such a university and a privilege to work with such talented students, staff, and colleagues. I recognize that my job includes making good use of state dollars in carrying out our academic programs, but also in obtaining grant and gift dollars through public and private sources that I bring to campus in order to support the research and outreach activities that are important to advancing my field. In this way, I and my colleagues leverage our state funds with a substantial multiplier effect to increase the scope of our programming here on campus.

Sifting and Winnowing, 1894

Among the most remarkable aspects of the University of Wisconsin-Madison is the shared governance model that involves faculty and staff in the operations and decision-making of the university, often resulting in outcomes that increase the chances of success for academic programs. In addition, the interactive processes that support faculty in charting their own course in research, outreach, and instruction help ensure a vibrant academic climate. The underlying spirit that motivates our work and our governance tradition is known as Sifting and Winnowing, memorialized on a plaque on Bascom Hall (pictured at left).

An important contributor to our longevity is the strength of the collaborative partnerships and relationships with stakeholders that are common to land grant universities around the US and especially strong here in Wisconsin. This tradition is known throughout our campus as The Wisconsin Idea. The support of our partners – businesses, local governments, farmers, citizens, not-for-profit entities- and our service to their interests makes these collaborations of great value to the state. We help provide not only an educated workforce but solutions to problems and technologies to improve the well being of the state and its people.

Wisconsin is agriculturally, geographically, and ecologically diverse. This diversity is part of the reason the state has maintained a vibrant economy even during uncertain economic times, and agriculture has played a very important role in the state’s economic health. Agriculture generates more revenue than any other economic sector in Wisconsin with the exception of manufacturing. Wisconsin’s farms and agricultural businesses generate $59.16 billion in economic activity and provide 353,991 jobs[1]. This means that agriculture employs approximately 10% of the workforce in Wisconsin. While more than $20 billion of the total agricultural revenue for Wisconsin is from dairy, a substantial portion comes from horticultural crops, businesses, and related service activities. Horticulture, exclusive of the Green Industry sector, contributes approximately 16,700 jobs to the state. When the Green Industry sector is added and businesses such as floriculture, turfgrass, nursery and woody ornamental plants, golf courses, and the materials and supplies used by these industries are included, horticulture contributes more than 43,000 jobs to the state. A 2002 survey indicated that the Green Industry brings over $2.7 billion in revenue to Wisconsin[2].

Wisconsin leads the nation in the production of a number of horticultural crops. Wisconsin is ranked 2nd overall in processing of major vegetables crops producing approximately 20% of vegetables for processing in the U.S. (USDA, 2010). We are first in the U.S. in snap beans for processing, cranberry production and ginseng. Wisconsin is second in the production of carrots for processing, third in peas for processing, potatoes, and sweet corn, and fifth in tart cherries and cucumbers for pickles[3]. A number of the largest food processors have facilities in Wisconsin that add significant value to these crops. Wisconsin is also a leader in biotechnology and home to a number of seed and life sciences businesses that develop products and services in horticulture as well as advance fundamental scientific discovery. Finally, Wisconsin is home to a growing organic and sustainable food production sector. Some 200,000 acres of land in the state are used for organic food production, and a thriving Community Supported Agriculture movement serves many metropolitan areas of Wisconsin and interacts substantially with many sub-disciplines of horticulture.

[1] Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation data, 2011, see www.wfbf.com

[2] Wisconsin Green Industry Federation Survey, 2002, see www.wgif.net

[3] Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service, see www.nass.usda.gov/wi/