Pioneer Talks: The Driftless Center

A panel of UW-Platteville professors hosted a Pioneer Talk in the Markee-Pioneer Student Center regarding the Driftless Center for Land and People. The Driftless Center is an idea crafted by a myriad of professors from several different areas of study, focusing on the conservation of the driftless region around the Midwest.

The driftless region is the area UW-Platteville is located in, a region that has not been touched by glacial drift in the last few cycles, creating a unique landscape and culture in the area. The goal of the Driftless Center is to create a hub of environmental and cultural preservation to ensure that the unique aesthetic of the region continues to exist.

The panelists discussed the way the environment has shaped how things are done in the region. For example, because of the rolling hills all through the area, large factory farms found further east are not viable causing small family farms to develop and thrive in the region. This has created a unique quality of life in the region with artisan cheeses and the greatest density of organic dairy farms in the country.

The panelists discussed how they wanted the Driftless Center to show the value of what the region does for the people. Dr. John Peterson, Associate Professor of Biology at UW-Platteville, spoke on how globalization actually harms regions like the driftless area. It causes professionals to look at the big picture and gloss over smaller areas. Peterson and the other panelists talked about creating a focus on this region and using that focus to solve problems on a global scale.

“Use this region as the lens to see the world through,” Peterson said. “This is ours, we love it, we’re proud of it.”

Students who have heard of the project are as enthusiastic about it as the professors are. They want to make their mark on the University that helped them. Jake Wedesky, a junior environmental engineer at UW-Platteville, shared his interest in the project after learning about it.

“This seems like something really cool, and I’m definitely interested in helping to make this something real,” Wedesky said.

Dr. Evan Larson, Associate Professor of geography, spoke on his hopes for the Driftless Center project.

“Let’s just change the world, a little bit,” Larson said. “Let’s make this place known as ‘UW-Driftless.’”