UW-Green Bay grad student works to preserve ‘family trees’

Patrick Brodhagen admits to being a hard worker. In fact, his to-do list would make young Abe Lincoln look like a slacker – attend grad school, tend to the family farm, and start a personal business.

“As soon as the frost is gone from the ground, I will increase to 70 to 80 hours per week. When May comes, it’s up to 90 for a few months. It’s a cycle.

What drives it forward? Very persistent alarm and (just-don’t-call-work) ethics.

“A lot of people laugh at me because I’m actually a late sleeper.” Of course, “late” is defined within the parameters of Wisconsin dairy culture. “If I have to, I’ll wake up at 5:30 or 6 a.m. I’m usually wide awake by 7 a.m..”

Then it’s off to a typical 12-hour workday. “I’m not a morning person at all. I work many hours, but I love every hour. I look forward to whatever I’m about to do, whether it’s working with my personal business or consulting cultures. Every day I have fun. »

Over the past two years, Brodhagen has added even more fun to his life, including taking graduate courses in environmental science and policy and starting his own business, Hickory Hill Forestry and Horticulture Services.

“It’s really a catch-all name so I can explore whatever interests me.” What tends to interest Brodhagen most is being outdoors and working with farmers. Over the past two years, it may have been a combination of fresh air and uniquely agrarian social distancing that has kept him going.

“I work with a lot of farmers. They’re like, “Well, we’re either covered in dirt or cow manure, so we won’t be that close to you anyway.”

Hickory Hill Forestry is Brodhagen’s seasonal winter job. During the summer, he is a crop consultant and is considering a career in agronomy. “I work with many dairy farms to grow their crops, manage their manure, and help them protect the environment, while still being an efficient farm.”

Brodhagen also readily admits there is another reason for his formidable work ethic. “I want nice things and I have to work hard for them. The main difference between a boy and a man is the size of the toys (equipment) we have.

Among those “good things” is the purchase of his own family’s century-old 250-acre farm, a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation. “My grandfather bought it from my great-grandfather, my father bought it from his father, so it’s my turn to buy it. I have to prove that I am responsible enough and able to take over.

The fact that in 2005 his parents opened a garden center on the family farm in which Brodhagen helped from the age of six until his senior year of high school might be proof enough. But it turns out there are even limits to his ability to happily accept new “pleasure,” especially when college beckons. “My parents asked me if I wanted to take over the business and I told them that I was burnt out from retail, that it was time for me to explore new things.”

Not that he strayed from the farm, choosing to attend UW-Green Bay as an out-of-town student for his bachelor’s degrees in environmental science and geosciences, in addition to completing the graduate program. studies in environmental science and policy by researching groundwater contamination in southern Door County.

Brodhagen’s research goals are to better understand where manure or fertilizer applications should be managed to prevent water contamination and protect rural residents. His career goal is to become an agronomist and consultant, but he will never give up on carrying on the enduring family traditions.

“The name my grandfather gave to the farm in the late 1950s was Valley Tree Farm. When he retired from dairy farming, he converted three-quarters of the property into a tree plantation. These trees are 30 to 40 years old, so now I take care of them and do the forestry work – I try to put them back in their natural environment.

Despite his terrific schedule, Brodhagen admits to enjoying a hobby that helps him unwind after a long day. “When I get home, I usually chop firewood until dark. Sometimes until 10 p.m. It might be a country boy mentality, but there’s nothing quite like chopping wood while watching the sunset and smelling the crisp evening air. come in…it takes you back to a time when life was slower, simpler and honest.

Grandpa and Honest Abe would be proud.

What keeps you up at night?

The current state of world affairs keeps me a little awake. I read before bed and every night I choose a different subject to learn. I am interested in so many things, I don’t have enough life to learn everything. Right now I am learning how to propagate plants by cuttings.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

An audible alarm! I’m not a morning person at all. I work many hours, but I love every hour. I look forward to whatever I’m about to do, whether it’s my personal business or advice on crops in the summer. Every day I have fun. When I work, I relax because I like it. I know a lot of people don’t think of work that way.

Why will you never stop learning?

My motto is: “The day you stop learning is the day you start dying.” That’s what my grandfather taught my father and what my father taught me.

What is the last lesson that life taught you?

Everything happens for a reason. Here is a short story for an example: I had made a trailer of firewood and was going to pile it near my barn. The frost disappeared and I buried my truck in the mud. And of course our tractor was out of service, so I really had nothing to get it out. In such situations, you might just sit there scratching your head and maybe want to say some bad words. Then the next day someone messaged me because they wanted to buy some firewood. If I hadn’t gotten stuck, he would have come and he would’ve gotten stuck. We ended up rescheduling the pickup to be less muddy. I let the truck sit for a day and let the water drain out. It took a few hours, but I got out. Moral of the story: even in the worst situations, there is always a reason why it happens; we don’t always recognize or appreciate it right away, but there’s always a reason.

How has education triggered your personal growth?

Going to college teaches you how to learn and how to teach yourself. In high school, you learn a lot of basic information and facts. College teaches self-learning. Knowing where to go for information and what information to trust and why you should trust them and why you should trust them.

How has education opened doors for you?

Education has helped me make a lot of connections. When I first attended college, just talking to professors boosted my self-esteem and confidence. The experience has also increased my professionalism when speaking to others outside of the university as a peer, not just as a student. My college experience at UW-Green Bay was amazing.

How has education leveled the playing field?
A lot of people go to college not knowing what they want to do, but you can still learn a lot of skills from a large group of people that you couldn’t pick up on your own. In my case, Calculus II was my most difficult class. But you never know who or what you might have the chance to learn or teach from. For example, I worked with another student in the natural areas of the campus. He had grown up in the city and had never learned to use a chainsaw, so I showed him. Going to college gives you all kinds of skills. Education allows you to acquire skills that you might not have acquired otherwise at home or in previous professions.

What do you think is the biggest challenge in education?

I think it’s important that students have the connections they need with potential employers after college. We need colleges to do more outreach to high school counselors to keep them up to date with job application information. I think there’s always a lag between graduating from high school, getting into college, having a sense of career trajectory, and understanding market demand for specific skills. Many children start university without knowing what they really want to do as a career; a strong communication link between colleges and high school counselors can help minimize this uncertainty and get students on the right track from day one. In the long run, it will speed up college, save students money, and successfully attract more students to the careers they love.

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