MREC History

There are three items in this section on MREC History:

1. A link to a video called Electric Research Farm , a 1950’s film story about the University of Wisconsin-Madison Electric Research Farm. The 16 mm sound color film (28 minutes long) shows how electricity can help reduce chore time and hand labor on America’s Dairy Farms. A fun, informative and entertaining video.The Wisconsin Electric Research Farm was an experimental farm in the 1950’s that provided the opportunity to study the application of electric light, heat and power to all phases of dairy farm operation under actual working conditions  The film champions how the American dairy farmer can use electricity to help pump water, milk the cows, unload silage, clean the barn, dry hay, grind feed, and many other uses. From the transformer to the distribution panel to the house, the barn, the hog and poultry houses, the farm shop and other buildings- the film rapidly summarizes research in the field of farm electrification.

2. A presentation on the History of Rural Electrification and Farm Wiring given by LaVerne Stetson (Professor Emeritus, University of Nebraska) at the 2012 MREC Conference in La Crosse WI.

3. An article (below) titled “MREC History” by Lynndon Brooks.

MREC History

by Lynndon Brooks, Secretary-Treasurer, 1962-1987  

The Wisconsin Farm Electric Council (WFEC) was organized in the middle 1950s by a group of investor-owned and cooperative electric power suppliers. Electricians, farm equipment dealers, and other interested people could become associate members. Carl Neitzke, farm electrification specialist at the University of Wisconsin, served as secretary, and the other officers were representatives of electric power suppliers. The Council did not attract very many associate members, and some electric power suppliers did not participate. Prof. Neitzke left the University in July 1959, and the Council subsequently became inactive.

The position of farm electrification specialist was vacant until 1960, when I was selected for the position. In the fall of 1960, several electric power suppliers’ representatives talked to me about re-activating the WFEC. During 1961, I had several meetings with Dale Hansman of the Wisconsin Utilities Association (WUA), George Davis of the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (WECA), and numerous meetings with electric power supplier personnel, to discuss ideas on how the WFEC should be re-organized and the type of activities it should sponsor.

After joining the Extension Service in 1960, one of my major activities was preparing publications and other materials for the 4-H electricity program. Electric power suppliers were promoting the program and had influenced the WUA and WECA to provide $1200 per year to the 4-H office for purchasing demonstration and educational materials for 4-H electricity leaders and members. In 1962, the WUA and WECA elected representatives to meet with me to work out details for reorganizing the WFEC. It was decided that funding for the WFEC would be through the WUA and WECA, as was being done for the 4-H program. The investor-owned utilities would provide 60% of the funds and the cooperatives 40%, as that was the approximate ratio of the number of farms that each served. I was to serve as secretary-treasurer, and the offices of president and vice-president were to rotate each year from investor-owned to cooperative members. The board consisted of three representatives were from investor-owned utilities and three from the cooperatives. WUA and WECA representatives were ex-officio members.

The major goals of the WFEC were to promote safe and efficient use of electricity, and provide educational programs and materials for electric power supplier personnel, electric equipment representatives, and the general public. In 1963, the WFEC started holding annual conferences and sponsored exhibits at Wisconsin Farm Progress Days. From 1964 through 1987, the WFEC sponsored an all-electric model home at Farm Progress Days, but in some years they had exhibits on various electric farmstead applications, proper wiring and stray voltage. In 1965, the WFEC began sponsoring exhibits at the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Show, because there was increasing interest in electric power for irrigation. Several years later, the WFEC began sponsoring activities at World Dairy Expo. Funds for educational materials in the 4-H electricity project were soon incorporated into the WFEC budget rather than as direct payments from the WUA and WECA to the state 4-H office.

A special conference on stray voltage was held in September 1979 in Wausau for electric power suppliers and milking machine company representatives. Another meeting was held in September 1980. The WFEC had established a technical committee in the 1970s. Meetings were held annually to discuss stray voltage problems. In the summer of 1981, a one-day stray voltage training seminars for electricians were held at 10 locations around the state. Enrollment was limited to 40 per location. A total of 409 attended. Similar seminars were held in 1983 at 9 locations around the state with a total of 274 participants. Stray voltage displays were set up at Wisconsin Farm Progress Days in 1983, 1984 and 1985. The Stray Voltage Technical Committee prepared three publications in 1981 for farmers, electricians, and power suppliers: Dairyman’s “Stray Voltage” Checklist; Stray Voltage Problems — Suggested Procedures for the Electrician; and Stray Voltage Problems — Suggested Procedures for the Power Supplier. These publications were revised several times during the 1980s.

[Note: This article was drawn from documentation on the history of the MREC prepared by the MREC board with the cooperation of Lynndon Brooks and former board members. Please contact the secretary at mrec@uwex.edu if you would like to contribute to this document.]