A Delicious Revenue-Generating Idea for UW-Madison

March 4, 2013 | Blog

This story in today’s New York Times made me happy because it emphasized an approach to revenue-generation consistent with the mission of many public universities, especially land-grant institutions: develop ways to produce excellent agricultural output.   Washington State University is selling beef, including Wagyu, and marketing it to alumni– among others.

This is a perfect fit for UW-Madison, which could strategically expand its exist talents via the Babcock Dairy (ice cream and cheese) and Bucky’s Butchery, as well as the excellent crops that could be produced by star faculty.

Here’s a sample line of potential UW-Madison products that could be marketed throughout the Midwest and indeed across the country to our adoring alumni. 

  1. Ice cream It’s already available, but why not ship it to alumni who miss it? As a friend put it, who wouldn’t want to try ice cream made by the flagship university of America’s dairyland?
  2. Cheeses (we have award winning cheddar, already in gift sets, but why not market this in tandem with the book store?)
  3. Cuts of beef, pork, and lamb –all of which Bucky’s already offers; this need only be scaled up.
  4. Bucky sausages (these already exist)
  5. Bucky’s Hot Sticks (these already exist)
  6. Former Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Bill Tracy’s famous corn (and canned corn)
  7. Professor Irwin Goldman’s beautiful beets (and canned beets)

Moreover, the  Madison community could easily facilitate a community-supported agricultural model, which might also produce food for the campus and the child care sites therein.

This is the kind of money-making activity that benefits the school without compromising any core values and actually growing educational opportunities for students in an area highly-supported by the state legislature. It’s worth serious thought.

ps. I’ve been informed by uwbadger74 on Twitter that a UW Regents policy prohibits these sorts of activities because they compete with private businesses. That policy is here, and should be revisited.

3 Comments

  1. Reply

    PensiveFashionista

    March 4, 2013

    My only concern would be a glut of these projects.
    I'm glad schools want to be creative in generating revenue.
    I really like the idea of community-supported agriculture. I could see a school vegetable garden as a way to cut down on the cost of feeding students or at least giving students the option to consume local food.

  2. Reply

    Carl Fergus

    March 7, 2013

    When I worked at Babcock, I asked why we didn't scale up the production of ice cream and was pointed to the Regents policy. It confused me as well, however, I was also told that the reason for the small-scale production of dairy products was to maintain the purpose of the plant in relation to the Food Science Department- a spot for hands-on training, research, and community outreach. Scaling up production for greater profits could lead to decisions that are more profit-driven than people-driven, and could affect both the mission of the plant itself as well as the quality of the ice cream. The small-scale batch production of ice cream has enabled the staff to keep the original basic batch recipe for 60 years!

    • Reply

      Sara Goldrick-Rab

      March 8, 2013

      This could be a problem but could also be overcome, and the need for revenue might be more important than ever.


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