Smart Technology, Dumb Farmer? -Final Capstone Project



Smart Technology, Dumb Farmer?



When you think about farming, smartphones, GPS and apps probably aren’t the first things that come to mind, if they come at all.


Most people describe farming as a barn full of cattle and tractor that has been passed down through generations. While, ninety-eight percent of farms in Wisconsin are still family farms, the technology has greatly exceeded expectations. This includes everything from crop report apps to GPS navigation in all machinery.

Successful Farming Magazine recently did survey research on the amount of smartphone usage among farmers, and the results they found were astounding. Ninety-four percent of farmers have a smartphone, while that number is only at eighty-three percent for the general public. More than half of the ninety-four percent use the phone for internet, apps and email access.

Wisconsin Farm Report Director Pam Jahnke is all too familiar with the misconception of technology when it comes to farming. As one of the top farm broadcasters in the Midwest, Jahnke knows the struggle of creating the correct image of farming for someone that doesn’t necessarily live around the profession.


Well I’m in a little bit of a unique situation. I am a farm broadcaster, where my number one target audience is the actual producers that are in the audience, but I’m in an urban marketplace, which means I have to always be thinking about ways to draw in that non-farm consumer.


Jahnke says that it amazes her that there is still such a big gap in knowledge when it comes to farming technology, especially considering that the job is so important to not only our economy, but to our society as well.


Stop and think how many people you know that don’t have a cell phone, that don’t have an internet email account. Now why would people believe that today’s multi-million dollar farms, because agriculture requires big investment, why would you think that a farm today is using less sophisticated tools than the average teenager? Just think about it. I think there are a lot of people today that still have this very romantic vision of what a farm should be. They see a red bard, white picket fence, mom and dad still doing all the chores, cows out on the grass … and I got to tell you that today in Wisconsin agriculture, that picture just doesn’t exist much anymore.


Research is finding that not only are farmers engaging in weather and crop apps, but their online presence on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is rapidly expanding.

According to New York Times columnist David Bornstein, YouTube is proving to be an educational tool for farmers in India to spread knowledge about rice production. Instances like this can be found all over the web, and Brianna Ditzenberger is behind the scenes of expanding that presence. As an account executive and social media specialist at Filament Marketing in Madison, Wisconsin, she works with agricultural clients every day, including the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. Their number one tool? Social media.


I know so many farmers that are on their smartphone constantly, whether they are getting phone calls or text messages or getting e-newsletters, and Farm Bureau is just evolving along with that to use that technology to reach current members and also potential members as well. So, it’s certainly a tool that we are going to continue to use and really just a way to reach our farmers when stopping by the farm is no longer as feasible because they are so busy. So, this is another touch point that we are using.


Farmer Aaron Ostby is a perfect example of Ditzenberger’s description. He operates a seventy-head family farm outside of Argyle, Wisconsin. Ostby says that his smartphone has become an extension of his body, and without the technology available through that device and in the machinery he runs, feeding the world would just not be possible.


Nowadays, everything is computerized and modernized. Farmers are not dumb, we’re not behind the times. We are very tech-savvy people. We are very educated people. Even our tractors and combines are all computerized, run by computer and GPS. Smartphones get the latest updates on weather, crop reports, milk pricing, everything.


With so many technological advances coming, many wonder how far it will go in the world of farming. Rochelle Ripp serves as the sixty-fifth Alice in Dairyland, a position that is responsible for informing the public of Wisconsin agriculture, and it’s future.

She said her main goal is to make people realize that, like the rest of the world, farming and technology aren’t stopping. If anything, it’s growing faster than in any other field.


Well the average consumers know five generations removed from production agriculture, so there is a huge disconnect, which makes my job of communicating and being the liaison between these two different groups of farmers and consumers of all ages really important.


Ripp is also utilizing social media to do her job. Without it, she thinks it would be very hard to connect consumers with the farmers that grow their food.


I think Facebook it one of those that I use. I show them exactly what I’m seeing, what I’m experiencing, where I am in Wisconsin as I travel the state to promote Wisconsin’s fifty-nine billion dollar agriculture community, and I think this is just going to be a trend that continues to take off and really, like I said, connect those consumers with our farmers.  It’s a great way to tell our message, to share the things that we see, the bits that we hear, and the experiences that we have every single day.


With technology and precision farming becoming much more common among our Wisconsin farmers, it’s only a matter of time before driverless tractors consume the fields. Next time you check your weather app, log onto Facebook or turn on the GPS, remember that a farmer down the road will have those tasks in his daily routine.


For UWW Radio, I’m Kelsey Ostby.

Add comment May 14th, 2013

Whitewater, Fort Atkinson Back Move to Amend

Affiliates of Move to Amend were pleased to see strong support by voters in both Whitewater and Fort Atkinson at the April 2 election.

The group’s mission is to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision that ruled in favor of corporations having the same rights as individual citizens, including no legal limit on campaign donations.

According to the Move to Amend website, the official petition states, “We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and other related cases, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.”

Those opposed, including multiple conservative organizations, say that the amendment would be “an assault on freedom of speech.”

In both Whitewater and Fort Atkinson, the voting was one-sided. Whitewater had a 1,013-198 vote in favor of the movement. Fort Atkinson echoed with a 1,312-395 vote.

Dan Fary, Town of Oakland, said, “It just shows the overwhelming support that citizens have for a constitutional amendment to return control of the democracy to the citizens.” Fary helped organized the Rock River (Fort Atkinson) affiliate of Move to Amend.

The non-binding referendum had a sole purpose to inform citizens on the movement, but did not have any legal ramifications in the recent election.

James Harwick, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater said he was “surprised and pleased by the outpouring of the average person saying enough is enough.”

Harwick also noted that the election result showed “strong bipartisan support to get big money out of elections,” referring to corporation’s uncapped donations to electoral candidates.

President Barack Obama also supports Move to Amend, and called for a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision in August 2012 when he stated, “Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.”

There are two steps in amending the Constitution: proposing an amendment and ratifying it. Although it may seem to be a simple task, it is a rare occurrence that last happened in 1992.

In other action on April 2, the following candidates were elected:

  • William F. Hue as Circuit Court Judge of Jefferson County
  • Tony Evans as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Pat Roggensack as State Supreme Court Justice
  • Mark Gundrum as Court of Appeals Judge of Walworth County
  • Paul Lundsten as Court of Appeals Judge of Jefferson County


Add comment April 9th, 2013

Jefferson County endorses osteopathic college

The Jefferson County board unanimously agreed to support the Wisconsin College of Osteopathic Medicine, which will bring an estimated $65 million to the community of Jefferson, at the meeting on Tuesday, March 19.

The college has plans to operate at the Sanctuary Ridge site, which was formally St. Coletta of Wisconsin’s main campus. Dr. Gregg Silberg, executive vice president and dean of the college, presented details of the plan to the board on Tuesday.

“Demand for physicians is going up, while supply is going down in Wisconsin,” said Silberg.

In addition to the economy boost, graduates of the college are more likely to stay in or around the community of Jefferson, according to Silberg.  In fact, 90 percent of all graduating physicians will reside in the state.

When asked if the college was expecting financial help from the county, Silberg said that while they are always looking for funding, the board’s logistic support would be appreciated.

According to Silberg, technology will be a main educating tactic, and the use of broadband was a specific reason that the Sanctuary Ridge site was chosen.

The college’s mission is to provide healthcare to underserved, rural areas, and osteopathic doctors have a wider range of training for primary care.

Although the college will not welcome a 100-student class until 2015, plans are underway for licensing and construction starting later this year.

In other action Tuesday, the board unanimously approved Kathi Cauley as the interim administrator because of retirement of the current administrator.

Cauley will serve this position for 60 to 90 days, until a permanent administrator is hired. She respectfully declined the permanent position, and will work part-time for the duration of her term.

John Molinaro, county board chairperson, expects to fill the position by the end of May, and hopes to have up to 60 applicants.

The purchase of the former Countryside home was also debated, and the decision came to delay the process due to asbestos. The county is looking to renovate the property into a new highway shop.

In other proceedings Tuesday:

  • Debate enthused over a proposed resolution to contract a professional design services satellite shop in Lake Mills. The proposal did not pass, and the Infrastructure Committee and Highway Committee were asked to open the project to other bidders in order to obtain the best deal for the county.
  • The board approved a $100,000 loan to Rushing Water Fisheries, LLC in Palmyra. The money will allow equipment purchases, processing increases, and expansions including cooler space, a retail store and dining facility. It will also add up to 16 jobs over the next three years.
  • April was named Child Abuse Prevention Month with a unanimous approval by the board.
  • The board approved a jurisdictional change to .3 miles of County Highway Y, located from Jefferson County to the city of Watertown. The same motion was also approved for 1.4 miles of County Highway Y located from Jefferson County to the city of Watertown.

The Jefferson County Board will convene again on April 16, 2013 at the Jefferson County Courthouse.

Add comment March 19th, 2013

Field of Dreams Funds in Question at Council Meeting

Whitewater Common Council learned during the meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 5 that Treyton’s Field of Dreams would require more money than expected.

The project, which includes the construction of a new field, in addition to renovations on three additional fields, needs a budget increase of $225,000 in order to complete construction, bringing the final cost to $1,586,290.

Parks and Recreation Director Matt Amundson spoke on behalf of the project, and stated that although there is a budget increase, community members and business owners are willing to donate their time and products to compensate for part of that increase.

“There are a lot of people that want to help. This has been a community grassroots effort since day one,” said Amundson.

Amundson presented a case study on the Waupun complex. With three fields, that community brought in $5,000-$5,400 of profit per tournament.

By comparison, the Field of Dreams has an additional field, and would accommodate 16 teams, 96 players and 480 fans at once, meaning more profit for Whitewater.

Council President Patrick Singer requested that each business or community member willing to donate time or product sign a letter of intent, so if something were to happen, the council will not be responsible for extra funds.

In order to cut back on costs, one option discussed was having the pavilion on site be owned and operated by a private company. Council members agreed that was a big step, but said that it would be looked into.

Parking around the fields was in question of being cut back, but after a long discussion, council members, along with Amundson, decided that it was in the best interest of everyone to keep as much parking as possible.

“Parking is a must. We all know how congested that area gets,” said Council Member Jim Olsen.

Mike and Mary Kilar could not be reached for comments.

 In other discussion, the purchase of a new police car from Ketterhagen Ford in Whitewater was approved.

Questions arose from council members on the make of the car requested, noting that the Ford model was more expensive than a similar Dodge model. Whitewater Chief of Police Lisa Otterbacher said that although Ford is more expensive, it is the only car that fulfills the needs of the department.

The council also approved a $4,800 contract to complete a Communications Staff Study, per request of Chief Otterbacher.

The Whitewater Common Council will meet again to further discuss the Field of Dreams budget and other issues including 2012 crime statistics Thursday, February 21 at 6:30 p.m. in the City of Whitewater Municipal Building Community Room.

Add comment February 12th, 2013

Parking Lot Rage

Here is my audio feature on the parking issues surrounding Lot 12 on the UW-Whitewater campus.

Parking Lot Rage

Add comment April 30th, 2012

2012 PRSSA Elections

Here’s my story on the upcoming 2012 PRSSA elections.


2012 PRSSA Elections

Add comment April 11th, 2012

New Gym Raises Concerns in Argyle

The residents of Argyle are concerned about the future of a local gym, Club Fit, as the school board is further discussing the possibility of a new, public facility that would be built onto the school.

The five board members discussed different floor plan options Monday as they took questions and concerns from the community about what the new gym would mean for Club Fit, a workout facility that has been in town for over 10 years.

“We definitely don’t want to force Club Fit to close, but our main concern right now is providing a larger facility for students and families,” stated Julie Ostby, Argyle School Board Treasurer.

The initial announcement of plans to build a new gym came earlier this year when Athletic Director Travis Erickson voiced issues with the current workout facility. He stated that the gym, which is only big enough to house six fitness machines, is proving to be “inadequate regarding demand among our athletes and staff.”

According to an article in the Pecatonica Valley Leader, the new gym would be home to over 50 new fitness machines, and would be run much like a 24 hour gym. It would also create 2 new jobs in the community.  This plan has been in the making for almost a year, but was not released to the public until last month.

Club Fit, owned and operated by Argyle citizen Don Nelson, holds over 100 memberships and is popular among college-age students in the area. Mitch Pittz,24 of Argyle, said that he is afraid that the new gym will be the end for Club Fit.

“My friends and I enjoy working out at Club Fit because we have been for so long. I really think building a new gym onto the school isn’t necessary at this time,” he said.

Many other community members hold those same beliefs, especially after budgets cuts last year that forced the music and art departments to cut back. Middle school athletic teams were also taken off the budget, as well as a teacher’s aide position.

Ostby commented on those cuts and said that it is not what any board member wanted to see, but some of the money for the proposed gym came from an alumni class donation for that specific purpose. The athletic department was also given a generous donation from former student-athlete Travis Tuttle, a standout basketball player in the community.

Rachel Jenson, a parent and business owner in the community, said that she was very upset with the cuts in the budget, but having a public gym at the school could be an advantage for everyone.

“Club Fit has many younger members that I think would stay there, but it just isn’t big enough for everyone. The new gym would be nice to have for parents and kids alike to work out in a safe environment,” she said.

Nelson has been out of town on other business and could not be reached for a comment. In a previous interview with the Pecatonica Valley Leader, Nelson said that he was surprised to hear of this plan, and does have concerns for his business.

The board members will meet again to further discuss this issue on Monday, April 9 at 7:00 p.m. The community is once again welcome to listen in on discussion regarding the facility, and to voice other questions and concerns.

Add comment March 19th, 2012

Mayor Arrested on Drunk Driving Charge

Mayor Gustavus G. Petykiewicz was arrested after a two vehicle crash Saturday, where authorities say he was almost twice over the legal limit of intoxicated driving.

Petykiewicz, 53, was traveling east on Fonebone Road around 1:00 p.m. when he failed to stop at a stop sign and collided with the victim, Robert H. Doane, 39 of Kittatinny. Doane sustained serious injuries and was med-flighted to Northeast Pennsylvania Hosptial and Trauma Center in Wilkes-Barre.

With possible spinal injuries, Doane had to be extracted from the passenger-side door of his vehicle by the Flight for Life crew.

Authorities found an open, half-empty bottle of vodka on the passenger-side floor of Petykiewicz’s vehicle, and the odor of alcohol was present. When asked if he had been drinking, he replied, “You’d be drinking, too, if you were me.”

Petykiewicz was also quoted asking deputies, “Do you think we could just keep this quiet? I’m the mayor of Kittatinny.”

A witness at the scene, Alice Q. Margarian, 30, says that she saw the 2006 Ford Explorer hesitate at the stop sign, and then pull into the intersection and cross the road, striking the 1997 Buick Le Sabre on the driver’s side. Both vehicles ended upright in a field on the east side of Highway 117.

Doane was conscious and wearing a seat belt, but was disoriented with noticeable injuries. His vehicle did not have an airbag. Petykiewicz was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident and did not appear to have any injuries. Both vehicles were deemed inoperable and towed from the scene.

After failing a breath test, indicating a blood alcohol content level of .14, and a field sobriety test, Petykiewicz was arrested and transported to the Schuylkill County Jail.  He did not choose to call an attorney, and was later released to his wife, Gloria, who posted a $500 cash bond.

According to Schuylkill County District Attorney Robert J. Morgenthau, Petykiewicz is facing “a charge of causing great bodily harm by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle, which carries a maximum prison term of 10 years.”

A nursing supervisor at the hospital stated that, “Doane is in satisfactory condition,” but is suffering from several broken ribs, a broken jaw, and cuts and bruises to his head, chest and stomach. However, he did not suffer from a spinal injury.

After multiple tries to speak with Petykiewicz and his wife, they have refused to comment on the situation.

Petykiewicz’s preliminary hearing will be held in Schuylkill County District Court Tuesday morning at 9:00 a.m.

Add comment March 19th, 2012

Stanford Graduates Receive Unique Advice from Steve Jobs

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” This was the advice that Steve Jobs gave graduates of Stanford University Sunday at the 114th Commencement, which hosted over 23,000 people.

The 50-year-old chief executive officer and co-founder of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios spoke to the graduates about his trials and triumphs of his life and career, leaving them with unique advice.

Jobs spoke on everything from his adoption and dropping out of college to getting fired from Apple by a man he had elected. While many events did not go as planned, he said that these were the “connecting dots” of his life.

He mentioned that while he did drop out of Reed College, located in Portland Ore., he was considered a “drop-in” for 18 months. He attended classes that interested him, such as a calligraphy class, which is what Reed College is known for. Unbeknownst to him, these classes led to the design of the Macintosh.

“Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later,” Jobs said.

Jobs spoke on love and death. He mentioned his wife, Laurene, and their family. He talked about his friend Steve Wozniak, and their trials of creating their first computer in his parent’s garage.

Another interesting point came with the creation of NeXT and Pixar, which led to films like Toy Story, and eventually back to Apple again, the placed where he was previously fired. Jobs said that he was sure that none of it would have happened if he hadn’t been fired from Apple.

“Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love,” he said.

Perhaps the thoughtful topic, Jobs spoke on death itself, explaining that he knows he will die someday, but it’s about doing what you love everyday that makes dying acceptable. He shared his diagnosis from a year ago, and how, with love and faith, he overcame it.

Jobs left the graduates with a piece of advice that he learned through his own life; something each student could take with them.

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition,” he said. “They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Add comment March 7th, 2012

UW-Whitewater Students Tour Cramer-Krasselt

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater students learned that public relations professionals must be dedicated and creative as they got an inside look Friday at Cramer-Krasselt, an advertising agency in Milwaukee.

UW-W Public Relations Students Society of America members had a unique opportunity to tour one of the world’s top advertising agencies in the world. In addition to the tour, they received a one-on-one panel discussion with a variety of employees at C-K.

The group started off the morning learning about the company itself. Assistant account executive Hannah Thulin explained that C-K’s Milwaukee office is one of four, and that’s its “laid-back and the least stressful office of the four.”

With the slogan, “Make friends, not ads”, C-K is the second largest agency in the world, and hosts big-name clients like Weber and Spice Islands. The firm recently moved to its new location in the Third Ward three years ago.

Thulin also gave the group some insight on her journey to C-K. She was a 2011 UW-W graduate, majoring in print journalism and public relations. After completing a summer internship with C-K, Thulin was hired on as a full-time employee.

“Whitewater really prepared me for my job at C-K, so the opportunity to show students where I work and where they could someday be is very exciting,” she said.

Shortly after learning about the company, PRSSA was taken on a tour of building. While the outside view suggests a smaller space, C-K was not lacking in that area. All departments were situated by each other, and the agency is very proud of their “open door” policy.

UW-W PRSSA President Kelly Katona was very impressed to hear about some of the unique features of C-K. “I thought the open door policy was a great idea, and it made the environment seem much more friendly and welcoming,” she said.

To end the day, the students had a networking dinner at The Milwaukee Ale House, where they had the opportunity to speak with Thulin further on her experiences at C-K. After speaking with her, Katona noted that the experience Friday was “a great chance for students to get a view into their future.”



Add comment February 29th, 2012

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