Lab Farm Director

University of Wisconsin - River Falls

July 18, 1997

Connolly Takes on Position of UW-RF Lab Farm Director
by: Maria Rohl-Franco
UWRF News Bureau

The responsibilities of being a university laboratory farm director are great.

But apparently not too great for Bill Connolly, who also plays a role in the planning of a new $2.8 million dairy facility for the UW-River Falls College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences, and also manages to be an active member of the CAFES Dairy Committee.

And he also is pursuing his master's degree.

Connolly graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor's degree in farm operations and a background in agronomy and livestock. He began his career as the farm operator at Iowa State University before coming to UW-River Falls in 1985 as the assistant director under former Laboratory Farm Director Rudy Erickson.

When Erickson retired in 1996, Connolly was offered the interim Lab farm directorship. Dean Gary Rohde appointed him to the position on the recommendation of the the college's Farm Advisory Board. He was appointed permanently to the job in January.

As the lab farm director, Connolly manages and supervises the two University farms, which he says run very similar to regular farm operations, taking into consideration the livestock crop and dairy production.

The differences Connolly notes are in the purchasing and business operations aspects. Unlike a regular farm, everything has to be run through the University, which means extra paperwork because of its status as a state agency. Some of his office practices include analysis and summarization of farm records and transactions, processing bills and receipts and ordering products. He is also responsible for making decisions regarding major purchases and sales of livestock and crops.

The business aspect is the hardest part for Connolly to get used to, but Rhode says of Connolly, "I have confidence that he will do an excellent job as our Farm Director,... he is a competent and capable individual."

Connolly likes what he considers the "juggling" of the job. "One minute I can be doing paper work in the office, and in an hour I can be out working on a silo, or getting a tractor ready for the fields." He also likes the interaction with the University and the public.

Aside from the management and book work responsibilities, Connolly stresses an even more important responsibility: the importance of working closely with faculty and being available for students. The main purpose of the lab farms is educational through activities such as farm cropping operations, organizational activities and visitor tours, laboratory class activities, applied research projects and student employment, all of which Connolly manages and supervises.

Connolly believes it is important to give students from all backgrounds the opportunity to become familiar with farm management practices. He believes the University offers excellent lab classes through a good agriculture science department that is dedicated to teaching.

Connolly is also a member of the Dairy Committee and is active in the planning stages of the new dairy facilities. Planning money has been released for the facility with the likelihood that it will be constructed in the next four years in the Mann Valley Farm.

Connolly also is pursuing his master's degree through an off-campus master of agriculture degree program through Iowa State University. The program is perfect for people like Connolly, who work full time and lead busy lives and do not have easy access to their program of interest. Connolly rarely ever has to travel to Iowa, as the program offers almost all of the curriculum through videotapes.

Connolly admits that this type of program is difficult to do and jokes that he is in the 15-year master's plan. But he also is very pleased with the program and the faculty he works with. "If I have a question all I have to do is send an e-mail message and I have an answer usually in less than an hour." He appreciates their support. "They understand that most of the students in the program are working full time in addition to studying the courses. Their motto is 'don't give up, however long it takes.'"

Connolly doesn't seem to plan on giving up on anything anytime soon.

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