UWP students intern at Pioneer Farm

September 25, 2002

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2002_09_25.jpgPLATTEVILLE-As summer projects at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneer Farm wrap up, more projects are underway this fall. Water and forage sampling and testing, stream bank cattle-crossings and construction of a weather monitoring station, are just a few projects slated for the farm this fall.

As projects develop at the farm, more job responsibilities arise. The Pioneer Farm has turned to UWP students to fulfill those responsibilities. Tom Hunt, director of the Pioneer Farm Research Initiative, has always desired to see students get involved with various aspects of the project.

"Teaching is and will continue to be fundamental to the mission of Pioneer Farm," Hunt said. "Student involvement and experiential learning are at the heart of our educational philosophy. Pioneer Farm is a place where students learn by doing."

Two students who have been working for the Pioneer Farm are Ryan Weiskircher and Bryce Riemer. Weiskircher is an animal science major from Mineral Point. He began working for the farm in March. Weiskircher said working at the farm has a number of benefits.

"It's been great to build a network with all the different people I have met through the Pioneer Farm. I have learned more about teamwork, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and how to deal with unexpected challenges when they arise," Weiskircher said. "I look forward to learning through these different experiences because farming changes, and my ultimate goal is to farm someday. The lessons I learn and the people I meet through Pioneer Farm will give me an advantage when I am farming."

In addition to working with the daily operations of the farm, Weiskircher spends many hours maintaining the farm equipment, assisting in the construction and installation of water sampling stations, as well as representing Pioneer Farm at events like Farm Progress Days. He plans to continue working for the Pioneer Farm until he graduates in May.

Riemer, of Platteville, is a graduate student in the Counselor Education Program. While attending classes, he works for the Pioneer Farm focusing mainly on communications and public relations tasks. Riemer received bachelor's degrees in agribusiness and psychology from UWP in 2000 and began working at the farm in May.

"When I learned that I could apply for an assistantship with Pioneer Farm, I was excited," Riemer said. "I have a great respect for the School of Agriculture at UW Platteville, and I enjoy the people who work there. I did not know exactly what I would be doing for the Pioneer Farm when I took the position, but I knew that I would enjoy working with the team of professionals. As it turns out, I am having a lot of fun and have learned a number of things."

Riemer went on to say that he finds satisfaction in the position because he feels like he is contributing in a tangible way to the farm.

In addition to the public relations aspect of the farm, he is involved with the water sampling responsibilities at the Pioneer Farm. When it looks like rain in Platteville, he heads out to each of the four water sampling stations and puts ice in the samplers. He does this before the rain falls to ensure samples remain cool, which prevents them from being tainted with bacteria. After the rainfall is over, he heads back out to the stations and retrieves the water samples. This includes labeling each bottle (up to 96 bottles depending on the amount of rain) and preparing them to be transported to Stevens Point for analysis. Riemer also writes the protocol for this process, in an effort to increase the efficiency of the procedures.

"Working on the water sampling team has helped me to develop my environmental philosophy," Riemer said. "I was not previously aware of the extent of the damage that poor management practices had on water pollution. My experience working with the water team has refined my understanding of the issues, primarily non-point source pollution. I enjoy getting out in the field and working hard to ensure that we can acquire as much data as possible and, in turn, provide farmers with information they can use to improve their practices."

Writing press releases and photographing events are two of the other responsibilities Riemer has. He also represented the Pioneer Farm and the School of Agriculture at Farm Progress Days and the Wisconsin State Fair.

"The students that are involved with the project have pride in the work they are doing," said Alicia Prill-Adams, assistant farm director and academic facilitator. "They are also gaining experience in networking and management that can only be gained through interaction with all the professionals both local and regional, that are working with the various aspects of the farm."

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