Ted Halbach, outreach specialist and dairy judging coach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison dairy science department, has been appointed as the new director of the university's Farm and Industry Short Course, a 17-week educational program that prepares students for careers in agriculture and related fields.
"Ted brings to this position a wealth of expertise and experience. He is well known throughout rural Wisconsin, especially among agricultural youth," says Molly Jahn, Dean of the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. "Ted is very familiar with the short course and has great ideas for making this extraordinary program available to new audiences."
Halbach joined the staff of the UW-Madison Department of Dairy Science in 1998. He has coordinated and supported dairy youth programs throughout Wisconsin taught dairy cattle evaluation classes for both the four-year college program and the short course, and coached the UW-Madison's highly successful dairy judging team.
The Farm and Industry Short Course offers more than 40 courses in subjects ranging from crops and livestock to marketing, human relations and communications. Its curriculum has evolved in recent years to reflect new industry trends. One new specialty program is geared toward the turf and landscape industry, while another focuses on pasture-based dairy and livestock systems.
The program has also begun to expand its reach to students who can't come to the Madison campus. Students have the option of attending a pasture-based dairy/livestock seminar at off-campus locations, including Wausau, Reedsburg and Spooner, with part of the teaching done by a local instructor and part coming from Madison via interactive Web cast.
Halbach wants to continue these efforts to expand the program's curriculum and make it accessible to a wider range of students.
"One area where I see for room for growth is organic agriculture," he says. "Organic agriculture has seen tremendous growth in Wisconsin, especially in the crops area. There is clearly a need for more people with skills in raising those crops and providing services to those who raise those crops.
"And with the growth of Wisconsin's Hispanic population and the growing involvement of Hispanic people in Wisconsin agriculture, I see a tremendous opportunity to use the short course to train more industry professionals who are Hispanic," he adds.
He also envisions restructuring some class schedules — for example, offering the same total number of class hours, but condensing them into fewer, longer class periods over fewer days to better accommodate the program's bent toward hands-on instruction.
"It's really hard to provide hands-on experience within a 50-minute time block," he says. "In some cases I think we need a longer meeting time. There's a real benefit to letting students focus longer on an individual subject."
Established in 1885, the UW-Madison's Farm and Industry Short Course is the oldest program of its kind. Its first director was W.A. Henry, the first dean of what was then the College of Agriculture. Halbach will be the seventh director. He replaces Richard Daluge, who retired last year.