MADISON — Lorre Kolb: We’re visiting today with Paul Mitchell, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Lorre Kolb. Paul, there’s a forum coming up talking about agriculture in Wisconsin.
Paul Mitchell: This year is the 2018 Wisconsin Agricultural Outlook Forum, it’s going to be focused on navigating the rural urban divide. The morning session will be an agricultural situation outlook; we’ll focus on our major agricultural industries in the state. The afternoon session, the theme of this year’s forum is going to be navigating the rural urban divide and our keynote speaker is Kathy Cramer from the University of Wisconsin Department of Political Science. She had a book a few years ago called The Politics of Resentment. She will be giving it an agricultural spin; agriculture is obviously a very big part of rural Wisconsin. The forum this year is on January 25 on campus here at the University of Wisconsin Google Wisconsin Agricultural Outlook Forum.
Lorre Kolb: What is the rural urban divide?
Paul Mitchell: The rural urban divide, that’s a topic we chose that was focused on something of interest to a broad agricultural audience. Tessa Conroy is a professor here at Ag and Applied Econ at University of Wisconsin-Extension. She will be talking about myths and realities, with data, on the economics, what entrepreneurship is like; economic development in these rural counties in Wisconsin. We have a panel with Larry Alsum of Alsum Farms and Produce, George Crave of Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese and then Mark O’Connell from the Wisconsin Counties Association. Each of those three work in a rural area but their focus is also on selling or connecting with urban. They are navigating that rural urban divide in Wisconsin. So we’re just going to have them reflect on their experiences and think about what they would like the university, the public sector, in general in how they can help that situation.
Lorre Kolb: Do you see that the rural economy is more than farming?
Paul Mitchell: Yeah, that’s actually why we chose Larry Alsum and George Crave because they are both examples of people who have farms but they’ve gone beyond that in not just delivering their products to someone else to take them to market, they take them to market and those are very good examples of farms that are broader in their business interests and they have to capture that urban rural divide, they have to navigate that; live in rural America, live in rural Wisconsin but deliver something of value to the urban consumer directly.
Lorre Kolb: And do you see university research helping rural entrepreneurship?
Paul Mitchell: That’s what I want them to tell us. What they’d like to see the university do a better job at helping them be entrepreneurial to expand their business opportunities in rural America. That’s something that Tessa Conroy works on very much is what rural entrepreneurship looks like. One of her myths of rural Wisconsin, rural America is there’s a lot more entrepreneurship out there than people realize, even more than some of their urban counterparts.
Lorre Kolb: We’re visiting today with Paul Mitchell, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Lorre Kolb.
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