Meet Laura Paine, MFAI’s new Board Vice President
February 9, 2016
Laura joined MFAI as a board member in the spring of 2014, she became Vice President January 1, 2016. It is important to her to contribute toward moving agriculture and the economy in a good direction. Her goal is to support MFAI transition its research focus to addressing future issues. Her interest in sustainable agriculture and her desire to be a part of MFAI stems from her ecology background and her concern about the health of this planet we call home. “Human beings are making a big and negative impact on our planet and if our actions were more informed by ecology and we viewed ourselves as part of the earth’s ecosystem, a lot of those impacts could be lessened.”
“I had the good fortune of going to grad school in the late 1980s and early 1990s when there was a lot of activity around sustainable agriculture.” MFAI was a young organization then, as was GrassWorks, MOSE, MOSA and Organic Valley. Paine said, “It was an exciting time and there was a lot of interaction among the organizations and the University.” She became very familiar with a collaboration project between MFAI and the UW Agronomy Department; Dr. Josh Posner’s WI Integrated Cropping Systems Trial. “I’ve always felt that MFAI was on the right track – doing research to support and promote sustainable agriculture.”
Agriculture is facing some huge challenges, Laura acknowledges. “Climate change is a big one. The economy’s influence over agricultural practices is another that keeps us from adopting sustainable practices: we just tore up thousands of acres of grasslands to grow $7 corn – now corn is $3 a bushel, but the damage has been done. Land tenure and access to land for beginning farmers is a third. We are rapidly beginning to look like a feudal agricultural system. More than 60% of the land is owned by people who don’t farm it themselves. That’s a sad commentary on our Ag economy and doesn’t bode well for the next generation of farmers.”
Paine earned her Masters of Science in Horticulture in 1992 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a Bachelors of Arts in Botany from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and her Holistic Management Education Certification in 2015. She continues learning and teaching in sustainable agriculture. She and her husband raise grass-fed beef on 80 acres of pasture near Columbus, WI.
Since completing her degrees, Laura has worked for Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, UW Extension and UW Agronomy Department in a variety of Organic, Grazing, Ag Economic Development, and Ecosystem capacities before becoming the Program Director of Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA) last year. DGA is a formal farmer training program where beginning farmers are placed on private grazing dairies for two years, of paid, work-based training. The DGA is currently in WI, MN, IA and MO; and is working to expand the program into PA and NY.