MSTC honors students in centennial celebration

February 4, 2014

From thecountrytoday.com: “Mid-State Technical College honors students in centennial celebration” — Two farmers from Mid-State Technical College’s agriculture programs were recently selected to receive Centennial Merit Awards.

Kevin Spindler of Farm Business and Production Management and Trevor Peterson of the Farm Operation program earned the recognition last month.

“In honor of 100 years of technical education in central Wisconsin, the MSTC community wanted to provide special recognition to students within each of its 50-plus program who have demonstrated commitment to their education,” said MSTC Foundation and Alumni Director Chris Maguire.

The funds were provided by the MSTC Foundation Board of Directors.

Students were selected based on academics, attendance and leadership within the program, college and community.

Seeing the benefits

Spindler, who farms near Stratford, admits he wasn’t thrilled four years ago when he found out he’d be required to go back to school as a condition of a Farm Service Agency loan.

“I was forced to do it and didn’t know if I was going to get much out of the schooling or not,” Spindler said.

His father, Russ, who had studied production agriculture when he started farming in the 1970s, gave him a bit of advice.

“He said you’re going to get out of school what you put into it,” Spindler recalled. “So I went into it with an open mind.”

Now in his fourth year of the Farm Business and Production Management program, Spindler said he’s been pleasantly surprised.

The program, which spans six years, is designed for those already operating a farm and focuses on ways to maximize profits.

“Basically one year is for the beginning farmers, to get them up to speed in all agricultural areas,” instructor Mike Sabel said. “The succeeding five years each cover a specific topic, and those are soils, crops, nutrition, livestock management and finance.”

Students meet at remote locations throughout the technical college area for about three hours on one evening every other week.

“We have 10 classes a year over a period of 20 to 22 weeks in October through March,” he said.

Sabel stays connected with students through the summer with individual on-farm visits.

Spindler said the network he’s grown through class has been one of its biggest benefits.

“We glean a lot of ideas off each other,” he said. “Class is always an interesting experience, and everybody in class seems to have a real genuine open-door policy.”

Spindler milks 75 cows and raises 170 acres of crops on his Marathon County farm, which has been in his family for more than a century.

“Four years ago I started buying the cows and personal property from my parents,” Spindler said. “Last April I purchased the real estate.”

Spindler said he hopes to eventually retrofit a parlor in his tie-stall barn and build a free-stall to grow the herd to 150 or 200 head.

His brother, Ryan, is also active on the farm.

Spindler said his Mid-State classes have shown him the many options he has as he looks to the future.

“It’s been a great way to learn about different setups and what I can do differently,” he said.

Spindler and his fiancée, Beth Kolbeck, have two children, a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old, and are expecting a third addition in mid-February.

“Our hope is the kids may want to be a part of this someday,” he said. “If they do, we’ll grow to accommodate them.”

As for his merit award, Spindler said he was shocked to be chosen out of all the students in his program. He was surprised with the award as he walked into class one evening after rushing to get there after chores.

“If I’d known I was getting my picture taken, I’d have cleaned up a bit,” he joked.

Sabel said Spindler exemplifies the kind of student he likes to have in his program.

“He’s very open to information and really weighs the information he’s given to make the best decision possible,” Sabel said.

More importantly, Spindler isn’t shy about sharing what he’s learned with others.

“That’s how the entire program works so well,” said Sabel, a 25-year veteran of Farm Business and Production Management. “It’s that network they develop with other farmers that makes it so successful.”

Future of agriculture

Peterson, 20, farms with his parents, Dave and Cindy Peterson, near Marshfield.

He and his older brother, Michael, hope to gradually take over the farm, where they milk 75 cows and run 400 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa.

“We plan on expanding the herd next year and building a barn,” Peterson said, adding their current setup is a stanchion barn.

Though he doesn’t have any solid plans, Peterson said he’s considered investing in robotic milkers someday.

“One day it would be cool to have them,” he said. “They need to advance and get their flaws figured out first,” he said.

Though he grew up on the farm, Peterson said the knowledge he’s gained during the two-year Farm Operation Program — like his insight into robotics — has been invaluable.

The 36-week program, which takes a minimum of two years to complete, focuses on day-to-day farm operations. Each segment is broken into three six-week terms, running from November to April every school year. Classes are from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., working around chore schedules.

“It gives a great overview of everything that has to do with farming, from animal nutrition to crops and pesticides, manure credits,” he said. “It has helped me a lot.”

Peterson was surprised to hear he’d been selected to receive the merit award.

“I had no clue,” he said. “I just walked into class one day and there was this big check.”

Each of the students receiving merit awards were given $100.

Program instructor Teri Raatz said Peterson has received a number of other post-secondary scholarships during the past two years he has been in the Farm Operation Program.

“Trevor is not only an excellent student, he is also a respectful and responsible young man,” Raatz said. “He is always on time and willing to put his best effort forward in and out of class.”

Peterson was an active member of the Marshfield FFA.

“He has carried his passion for agriculture through his post-secondary studies also,” Raatz said. “He is a wonderful example of what the future of agriculture looks like.”

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