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Bell to Serve as Director of UW-Madison CIAS Program
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 11/14/2011

The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems has a new director. Michael Bell, who has been an environmental sociologist with the school since 2002, has been hired to take over the CIAS research and outreach program, which focuses on developing sustainable production and marketing strategies for small to medium-sized agricultural and food enterprises.

Bell is a professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology who helped launch the university's agroecology program, a group of scientists from various disciplines who study agriculture and food systems from an ecological perspective.

"Michael Bell is a natural choice for the job," says Bill Tracy, who is the interim dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. "He knows the issues and the stakeholders, and he will bring a lot of energy and excitement to the program."

Bell became a faculty associate in CIAS soon after he joined the college nine years ago. Through that association, he conducted a study on the life satisfaction of dairy farmers.

"This is a particularly exciting time for the center," Bell said upon his appointment. "Sustainable agriculture is no longer a minority voice. We all agree on its importance, and there is so much more that we can accomplish because of that agreement."

The CIAS program was established in 1989 through an act of the state legislature in response to farmers' requests for research and outreach on integrated farming systems. It is guided by an advisory council that includes farmers and food business owners.

CIAS partners in local and regional programs related to strengthening markets for local food and supports outreach and research in managed grazing. It is also part of a nationwide effort to develop new business models, public policies and research supporting mid-size farms, which are often too big for direct marketing but unable to successfully market bulk commodities.

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