Our staff is passionate about helping beginning farmers succeed, and we practice what we preach! And in addition to our core staff, we draw from a range of experts from experienced farmers and extension workers to business experts and lending professionals.
Richard (Dick) L. Cates, Jr., Ph.D., and his wife, Kim, co-own and operate the Cates Family Farm LLC near Spring Green, Wisconsin, a managed grazing, direct-market grass-fed beef business they started in 1987. Dick holds a Senior Lecturer position in the Department of Soil Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is director of the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers, a business and training program for start-up farmers which he helped create in 1995, and he co-teaches courses in grassland- and agro- ecology, pasture management, and managed grazing. Dick recently served on the WI DATCP Board of Directors and the USDA Secretary’s Advisory Council for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers, and presently serves on his local River Valley Board of Education and the Southwest WI Community Action Board of Directors. He is a member of the WI Farm Bureau Federation, Farmers Union and Cattlemen’s Association, River Alliance of WI, GrassWorks, Friends of the Lower WI Riverway, Driftless Area land Conservancy, Aldo Leopold Foundation, and the Spring Green Lions Club. He has worked internationally as a volunteer consultant with farmer-to-farmer assistance projects, most recently in Azerbaijan, China, Honduras, Mexico, Moldova, and South Africa. His book, Voices from the Heart of the Land: Rural Stories that Inspire Community (2008; University of Wisconsin Press), is based on conversations with elder rural citizens around their values about character and care for our land and rural community. The Cates family was recognized recently with the 2013 Sand County and WI Farm Bureau Federation Leopold Conservation Award for Wisconsin.
Nadia Alber, M.S. is Co-Director of the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers (WSBDF). The WSBDF is a program of the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) and the Farm & Industry Short Course (FISC) at UW-Madison. Her work focuses on teaching, outreach and promotion for the WSBDF. She is co-instructor/facilitator for the Pasture-based Dairy & Livestock Seminar, a FISC course on Pasture Management, and an undergraduate Managed Grazing Field Study course. She organizes and promotes events to raise awareness and funds for the school; creates and staffs exhibits for farm conferences; and provides administrative support for the WSBDF. She also serves on the board of the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA). The WBSDF Pasture-based Dairy & Livestock Seminar is part of the core curriculum for this formalized 2-year Apprenticeship in agriculture.
Nadia received her graduate degree from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison in 2011. Before going to grad school, she spent over 5 years teaching math/science, outdoor education, wilderness leadership skills and general life skills to children and young adults. She spent summers as an interpretational park ranger and then as a field assistant in a mountain meadow restoration study out west. In 2009 she decided to go back to school and wanted to combine her love of sustainable food systems with her interest in conservation. She did her master’s research on cool-season grasses in a management-intensive rotational grazing (MiRG) system with Jackson (UW-Madison) and Brink (USDFRC). She believes that MiRG is a way for farmers to have a successful career while at the same time protecting valuable environmental resources, biological diversity and wildlife habitat. Nadia and her husband, Chad, run a diversified, small family farm in Arena, Wisconsin. They sell their organic vegetables, duck/chicken eggs, Berkshire pork and Jacob sheep meat/fleece/yarn at several farmers markets as well as directly to customers who come to their farm.