Extension Employees Mark 25 and 35 Years on the Job

Ann (Fisher) Kaiser started her career with UW-Extension in 1978. A quick 35 years later, she is the indispensable Administrative Secretary for the Fond du Lac County UW-Extension staff.

                When she began, her equipment included a typewriter, White-Out, and a mimeograph machine. The first computer in the office arrived in the 1980s and was shared by all the staff.  Later, one of Kaiser’s duties was to print everyone’s e-mail messages on a dot matrix printer and distribute them. 

                Former Department Head Nan Baumgartner speaks highly of Kaiser:  “I had the pleasure of working with her in various capacities for 31 years. Believe me, she makes it all work, keeps it running like a well-oiled machine, and does it all with a smile. The County and specifically the UW-Extension office benefit from her many talents and abilities.”

An early adapter of changing technology, Kaiser took the office from Telex machines to e-mail and from floppy disks to thumb drives. Her colleagues describe her as a patient instructor and a lifelong learner.

The County’s Director of Administration, Erin Gerred, adds that Kaiser is also active on the wellness and safety committees for County employees.  “She is an excellent resource for us,” Gerred says.  “For example, she supports wellness activities by designing and creating marketing materials.  We can always count on Ann for her creativity and attention to detail.”

Originally hired to assist the 4-H program, Kaiser became the office manager and support staff for Family Living education.  She is supporting 4-H again and enjoys interacting with leaders, members and parents.

A more public face on the UW-Extension staff is that of Mike Rankin. As a crops and soils agent, Rankin works with farmers and agribusinesses to improve crop production and profitability. This August, he has been on the job for 25 years in Fond du Lac County.

Need a spreadsheet on the value of straw and corn stalk fertilizer?  Wondering about inoculant and fungicide use in no-till soybeans?  Rankin answers questions about forages, corn, soybeans, winter wheat, and other crops. He personifies the Cooperative Extension mission: To apply university research to real-life practice.

For instance, Rankin has been collecting data on statewide alfalfa yield and persistence over several years. He has evaluated the economic viability of fungicide use. He has helped County residents deal with droughts, floods, and diseased crops. In fact, he has spoken in numerous states, and both Canada and Mexico, at agricultural conferences.

Local gardeners recognize Rankin because he oversees the Master Gardener training. Out of the public eye, he mentors newer agriculture agents and guides them through the University’s tenure process. Gerred, the Director of Administration, cites Rankin’s “wealth of knowledge and unique sense of humor” when describing him as a “valued asset for Fond du Lac County.”

Baumgartner, the retired Department Head, also praises Rankin: “As a crops and soils agent, Mike has been a leader in the state for local research that goes well beyond the county borders.  He has used technology to share research and get information to people who need it most.  He is a true Extension professional – sharing knowledge, creating change and doing so in a cutting edge manner.  One of the things I most value about Mike, in addition to his competence, is his sense of humor.  He can make even a dry topic (like alfalfa) interesting and fun.  He is an outstanding teacher.”

Rankin grew up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where he “learned a lot from baling hay, cleaning box stalls and milking cows.” He earned a degree in Dairy Science, followed by a M.S. degree in Agronomy, from Iowa State University. When he’s not in a farmer’s field, Rankin is either on a baseball field or watching one. He is a devoted Brewers fan and a long-time Little League coach. He and his wife Nancy live in Malone.

 Always more a writer than a talker, Rankin now saves his favorite columns, including humorous ones, in a blog. Calling them “ramblings from an old county agent,” he posts them at http://fyi.uwex.edu under the heading “Around the Corn.”