Sunday, June 06, 2010

97% of farmers agreeing on anything...

We wrapped up a grant-funded worker training program in South and Southwest Wisconsin called the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) program from the U.S. Department of Labor.

In Wisconsin, the WIRED region includes Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Grant, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Lafayette, Marquette, Richland, Rock, and Sauk Counties.

For our piece of it, we (Iowa County/SW CAP) were fortunate to receive a grant for training area farmers about growing vegetables at a commercial scale meant to serve institutional users. We were also able to emphasize the possibilities of local foods processing in our new Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

First, special thanks to new ICAEDC Board member Dr. Lorin Toepper from the Iowa County Town of Highland and Madison College for helping organize this grant. All of the planning and execution was done masterfully by Beth R. The good folks at SW CAP made it all possible by acting as the fiscal agent and organizer. Links below.

This is how the final WIRED newsletter described our project:

"Using WIRED funds, Southwest Community Action Program created an Agriculture & Agribusiness Peer Network to link member farmers with economic development experts, education providers, entrepreneurs and businesses. Participants gained valuable knowledge in areas of planning, budgeting, and safe growing, as well as handling and harvesting techniques for vegetable growers.


48 certificates awarded to participants

5 training sessions held with 97% of attendees rating the sessions “highly satisfactory."

My goal in all this is to help create valuable new platforms for doing entrepreneurship and innovation. We can't make jobs in rural economies without the infrastructure to support innovators and entrepreneurs. Iowa County is at the front edge of a movement to create new opportunities for job creation in agriculture and local foods.

Having worked in rural economic development for some time now, getting 97% of farmers to agree on anything is an accomplishment, let alone a 'highly satisfactory' rating for the presentations our group organized. I am thrilled with the outcome, and the possibilities for what comes next.

The WIRED grant supported our work building new peer-to-peer networks in agriculture. I'm watching parts of these new networks unfold in valuable, unanticipated ways.

Almost like it was planned. Thanks to WIRED. I enjoyed helping and learning from all the many great contributors to this project.

Now let's keep that work going!

Southwest Community Action Program (SW CAP)

ICAEDC, Iowa County Area Economic Development Corp.

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