Ask Abe: Farm and Industry Short Course

An Alum

When did the Farm and Industry Short Course start?


The Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC) is one of the great stories in the history of the Wisconsin Idea — but it almost didn’t come to be. In the 1880s, the UW sat in the middle of a culture war between rural and urban Wisconsin. Many farmers felt that the UW didn’t serve the state’s agricultural interests and advocated for splitting the university’s Department of Agriculture off as a separate institution. The governor at the time, Jeremiah Rusk, argued that such a move would “operate to check the dangerous rush of farmer boys to the cities and into the professions.” Instead, UW regent William Vilas 1858 and farmer H. D. Hitt came up with an alternative plan: have the UW create a series of 12-week courses to run during the winter so that farmers could learn to apply research to their work. The first FISC began in January 1886, and the agriculture department became the College of Agriculture (today’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences) in 1889. Now, 131 years later, the FISC program enrolls about 130 students a year and offers certificates in five areas of farm operations and management.