Chilton Regional Center
Fox Valley Technical College has a Farm Business/Production Management instructor, Jeremy Hanson, serving the greater Calumet County area.
Engineering not for him
A graduate of West Bend High School, he began his college years with an eye toward becoming an electrical engineer – until he said he realized math classes were not for him. He went on to earn his bachelor of science in Agronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1992.
Hanson worked as a crop consultant with Central of Eastern Wisconsin, and was later transferred by that cooperative to the Appleton area because of its greater concentration of farms.
Hanson later moved on to take a position with the Outagamie County Land Conservation Department, working for them for nine years before joining FVTC.
Program started in 1960s
When FVTC started what was called “vo-ag” (vocational agriculture) in the early 1960s, it was the only program of its kind available. Hanson said. Since then, other entities have become more active in providing local continuing education for farms, including the University of Wisconsin-Extension, agri-businesses and area high schools.
I’m happy to be here, Hanson said. It’s a great community and there’s lots of farms around here.
Hanson said FVTC ag program is open to anyone in the agriculture community, whether their farms are beef cattle, crops, dairy cows etc. Each year a different topic is focused on – this year it is livestock equipment and facilities – although Hanson said the program is really geared to helping individual farmers with their own specific challenges. “We fit those principles exactly to their farm and needs,” he said, whether that need is record-keeping, employee relations or any number of other areas.
Classes are held just one afternoon and one evening per month, but 12 hours of on-farm instruction are given over the course of a year with at least six visits being made to the farm by Hanson.
“It’s a good source to keep up with the most current, up-to-date information,” Hanson said of the program, adding that networking with other farmers is also a valuable way to learn and a side benefit of being part of the program.
While improved farm operations via education is the obvious goal of the program, another side benefit and motivator is that the farmer can say he or she has a technical school degree in agriculture once the program is successfully completed. “I think the technical degree is a good incentive for some of the younger farmers,” Hanson said.
The new instructor said the youngest farmer in the program is 24 and the oldest is 62. Farmers can enter the program anytime, and Hanson said it is one of his goals to get more area farmers involved in it. There are about 35 farms in the program presently but there is room for 60-65. Farmers who successfully complete the obligations earn three credits per year. Farmers can continue to be part of the program even after they have earned their diploma.
The cost of the program is approximately $250 per year, and Hanson said just one small improvement on a farm can pay for that fee many times over. Financial aid and tuition assistance is available for farmers who qualify based on income levels. To sign up or learn more, call FVTC Appleton campus at 920/831-4369 or 920/858-1821.
Hanson also said he is ready, willing and able to help farms of all sizes, from the mom-and-pop homestead to the biggest corporate dairies. With the large farms, he often works directly with employees. “Everything changes in agriculture,” Hanson said, “You look at how agriculture has progresses through everything. You have to adapt or get left behind.