'Wisconsin Idea' Still Strong – For Now

Posted on May 1, 2011 :: Editor
Margaret LeBrun
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Margaret LeBrun


In the last 80 years or so, the number of dairy farms in Wisconsin has declined by more than 90 percent. Yet, milk production has doubled in that time. Wisconsin produces more milk for cheese than any other state and remains the No. 2 milk producer overall.
This issue’s cover story on Milk Source LLC offers an inside look at just how much the dairy industry has changed in recent years. When News Editor MaryBeth Matzek returned from her first visit to the company’s Rosendale Dairy in Fond du Lac County, she described the unusual scene: 80 cows in each of two giant carousels, facing inside as they’re quietly milked, going around the circle until their stint with the machines is up. Eight minutes later, one steps off and the next one in line takes her turn.

The carousels represent one of many best practices and innovations adopted by the three owners of Milk Source, who all grew up on farms and studied agribusiness at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Rosendale, currently the largest dairy operation in the state with 8,000 cows, offers a glimpse at where the dairy industry is headed. Check out our story on page 28 to read about the economic impact of Milk Source and find out how Rosendale Dairy feeds all those cows – and handles all that manure – in creative and efficient ways.

What led Wisconsin to become the Dairy State? It took more than a lot of farmers and their cows. I discovered this when doing a little background for our Face Time interview with the new chancellor for the University of Wisconsin Colleges and UW-Extension, Ray Cross, who spent a day at UW-Fox Valley in March. As he discussed the important tie between UW-Madison and the rest of the UW System, he repeatedly mentioned the Wisconsin Idea, which embodies the notion that “the boundaries of the UW-Madison campus are the boundaries of the state.”

As early as the 1880s, UW-Madison began offering Farmers’ Institutes to introduce farmers to new techniques and technology, according to the UW Board of Regents web page. “These classes helped what was then a poor, struggling state establish itself as a leader in agriculture. By the turn of the century, the university expanded its programs statewide for teachers and engineers, with the goal of leveraging the knowledge center at UW-Madison to improve the quality of life in Wisconsin.”
The Wisconsin Idea led to the UW Extension, to the establishment of the 13 two-year colleges and to Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television, all with the goal of spreading knowledge to the far corners of the state, all overseen today by Cross. The state’s 13 four-year universities are also part of the Wisconsin Idea.

The proposed state budget recommends breaking UW-Madison away from the rest of the university system to promote efficiencies and allow the research institution more flexibility. Cross delves into the potential impact of such a change; to read his cautionary perspective, turn to page 19.
Another important industry in Wisconsin with its own long history is making its way back: Shipbuilding. Seven marine manufacturers in the New North have partnered with the region’s technical colleges to form the North Coast Maritime Manufacturing Alliance. Turn to page 12 to find out about two new educational programs catering to the shipbuilding industry to be launched this summer.

Also in this issue, we pose the question, “How do you make the most of your company’s generational differences?” Four individuals with varied backgrounds, representing several generations and experiences, delve into the subject in the next installment of our InForum. We encourage you to click on the video takeaways and to weigh in on our blog. Do you think boomers are workaholics?
Do Millennials need to learn a thing or two about business etiquette? Let us know! Go to www.insightonbusiness.com, click on our digital magazine and dive in.

Margaret LeBrun

About Margaret LeBrun

Co-Publisher, Executive Editor View all posts by Margaret LeBrun →