Discovery Farms Co-Leaders Named

Contact: John Shutske, (608) 262-9812,

After 31 years with University of Wisconsin-Extension as a county extension agriculture agent and founder and director of Discovery Farms for the last 13 years, Dennis Frame is stepping into retirement from the UW in early July. Replacing Frame will be Co-Directors Amber Radatz and Eric Cooley who will begin their new duties on July 3, 2013.

Radatz joined Discovery Farms in 2009 as a Nutrient Management Outreach Specialist. Her work has evolved over time to assume more responsibility with the research connected to Discovery Farms’ efforts to better understand the influence of specific areas of individual watersheds on water quality. As Co-Director, Radatz will focus on outreach and budget management for the program and will be headquartered in Pigeon Falls.

“I’m excited to be part of this program which has reached and helped so many farmers across the state,” she said. “We will stay true to the original mission of the program and look forward to working with farmers and other stakeholders to keep our agricultural industry moving forward while preserving our natural resources.”

Radatz grew up in Trempealeau County and was raised on a family dairy farm. She attended UW-Madison and received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in soil science.

Cooley joined Discovery Farms in 2004. He earned undergraduate degrees in nuclear engineering from Thomas Edison State College and soil and water conservation from UW-Madison and received a master’s degree in soil physics from UW-Madison. Cooley served a six-year enlistment in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear reactor operator and water chemist. He also served with the Door County Soil and Water Conservation Department, where he specialized in nutrient management planning. Cooley’s responsibilities will include direction of the research agenda of Discovery Farms along with the program’s steering committee and he will be headquartered near Manitowoc.

“I’m extremely proud of the work that the Discovery Farms Program has accomplished under the leadership of Dennis Frame and Fred Madison who founded the program,” Cooley said.  “I will continue efforts to serve producers and other stakeholders to address challenges in modern agriculture.”

The Discovery Farms program sits at the interface of UW-Extension and UW-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and involves faculty from the College. The program sets up and oversees on-farm research projects that investigate economic and environmental effects of agricultural practices on a diverse group of working Wisconsin farms. Program staff educate members of the agricultural community, consumers, researchers and policy-makers.

“We will miss Dennis’s important contributions to Wisconsin agriculture and his leadership with this innovative and widely recognized program,” said John Shutske, Program Director of the UW-Extension’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Program.

Shutske noted that the Discovery Farms model is being replicated in several states and has at its heart the notion of “true engagement and involvement of the agricultural community.”

“It’s an exciting time in agriculture,” Frame said. “There is much to do, and I am proud that we have been successful in engaging Wisconsin farmers and those in other states in the important work of improving water quality and identifying key best practices through our research.”

Frame and Fred Madison were the first Co-Directors of Discovery Farms. Madison retired from the UW in 2011. They started planning how the Discovery Farms program could be developed and managed in Wisconsin while visiting Europe in the early part of the last decade where similar models of research, education, and community involvement and engagement were being developed.


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