Champion for sustainable agriculture teaches future farmers

Valerie Dantoin, NWTC instructor

Valerie Dantoin

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College

Instructor

Sustainable Food and Agriculture Systems

Valerie Dantoin and her husband, Rick Adamski, have been practicing sustainable agriculture on Full Circle Farm in Seymour since the 1980’s . They maintain a herd of 80 to 100 head of dairy cattle using organic and managed grazing principles. Since 2008, Valerie has also taught at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC).

“I have a passion for respecting plants, land and animals,” she said. “And I want to see stewardship practiced in the way we feed ourselves.”

Dantoin earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and a master’s in agronomy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Recognizing growing interest in sustainable agriculture, NWTC got a grant from the National Institute for Food and Agriculture to create a faculty position and develop the Sustainable Food and Agriculture Systems program.

“There is a rising tide of people who want to reconnect with the land and grow good food,” Dantoin explained. “It is an awakening connection between food and health.”

The college called together experts from around the state including Dantoin to help build eight courses that constitute the core of the program. It started as a certificate, but evolved into an associate degree with 22 courses. Dantoin teaches nine of the courses.

“That’s the beauty of the technical college. You can have a program up and running quickly,” she commented.

Dantoin teaches concepts in real world terms often asking, “So what?” and “What difference does it make?” Classes tend to be discussion-based. She sees herself as a “facilitator of learning” challenging her students to look things up and dig further into a subject.

Some program graduates own their own farms and some manage operations. They learn business skills and how to manage a farm economically, environmentally and ethically.

Currently, Dantoin is helping NTWC explore the possibility of operating a sustainable teaching farm where students could learn skills such as plowing, seeding, and business skills through operating a Community Supported Agriculture program and farm market.