Celebrating National Ag Day with FVTC Alumni
Wichman Farms is home to three graduates
As we celebrate National Ag Day, it’s important to remember Agriculture continues to be one of Wisconsin’s largest industries, contributing an estimated $104.8 billion annually to the state’s economy.
One of those contributors is Wichman Farms in Appleton, operated by brothers Mark and Bruce, and Mark’s son Brad. This fourth-generation farm began in 1916 as a 117-acre farm. Today, it’s grown to 550 acres with 250 cows.
Bruce, Mark and Brad are all graduates of Fox Valley Technical College’s Farm Operation program. Although they are many years removed from the classroom, they continue to stay tightly connected to the college by offering their farm as a hands-on learning lab. Each semester, students in several Agriculture classes spend time at Wichman Farms.
“The dairy cattle provide opportunities for Vet Tech students to have exposure to large animals and practice the care and treatment of these animals,” explains Jennifer McIntosh, associate dean of Agriculture. “We also use their calves for our Dairy/Livestock Ration Balance class. Students weigh calves regularly and study their nutrition. In addition, we use their cows for our Dairy/Livestock Artificial Insemination/Records Management class. Students and faculty use their meeting room for instruction and the animals for live practice.”
The farm has also been an excellent example of an evolving dairy operation. In 2013, the family moved its milking operations from a tie-stall barn to a state-of-the-art free-stall barn using robotic milking units.
“For many students, this can be their first experience touching or handling cattle, so they develop that sense of confidence that they could be a part of animal agriculture,” says Lori Nagel, department chair for Agribusiness. “Agriculture is continually challenged to bring new people into the field—and Wichman’s is the spot to make that happen.”
As for the Wichman’s, Brad says his family likes having the students on the farm. He enjoys sharing what he learned during his time at FVTC and in his current role. And on this National Ag Day, he shares some advice for current and future students.
“It’s important to remember there are so many different careers in agriculture, beyond being a farmer. It is an industry that has so many different options and everyone should keep an open mind as they go through school. There is a career in Agriculture for anyone willing to work hard to get the job done.”