Erin Silva Named Endowed Chair in Organic Agriculture and Outreach – CALS News

Erin Silva at the UW-Madison Arlington Agricultural Research Station in 2021. Photo by Anders Gurda/UW Organic Collaborative.

Erin Silva, associate professor and extension specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology at UW-Madison, has been selected as the first recipient of the Clif Bar Endowed Chair in Organic Agriculture and Outreach.

The new chair, established with a $1 million endowment from Clif Bar & Company, was created to support the advancement of organic agriculture through dedicated research and outreach programs. The endowment capitalizes on a “Morgridge Match” opportunity at the university, doubling the donation to $2 million. This matchmaking opportunity began in the fall of 2014, when UW-Madison alumni John and Tashia Morgridge pledged $100 million to match new donations to endowed faculty at the university.

Silva’s selection as president recognizes her cutting-edge work in organic agriculture. His research and outreach efforts focus on improving organic and sustainable cropping systems, with a particular focus on no-till organic production and cover crops. Silva co-founded and directs the university’s Organic Grain Information and Resource Network (OGRAIN), a comprehensive program aimed at providing educational support to new, transitioning, and experienced organic grain farmers. She also spearheaded the creation of the UW Organic Collaborative group and the Campus Certificate in Organic Agriculture for undergraduates.

This appointment will enable the creation and long-term support of a network of multi-state researchers to guide organic farmers to become successful providers of quality small grains and organic seeds, and leaders of thriving rural communities.

“Public/private collaborations are key to driving innovation in agriculture. Clif Bar’s funding provides the flexibility for a talented and creative teacher like Dr. Silva to expand their work to a wider audience,” said Kate VandenBosch, dean of the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “This generous donation will allow Erin to increase the number of farmers she works with and increase the number of current students who can learn more about organic farming.”

This is the second endowed chair at UW-Madison created by Clif Bar & Company. The first, created in 2015 in partnership with Organic Valley, focuses on plant breeding for organic crops.

These investments are part of Clif Bar’s commitment to create endowed chairs at land-grant universities, which is the fourth. According to Clif Bar, since 2003 the company has purchased over one billion pounds of organic products and today nearly 80% of all ingredients in Clif Bar products are organic or certified sustainable.

“Clif Bar has been committed to investing in organic for nearly 20 years because we recognize the benefits to people, communities and the planet,” says Sarah Beaubien, senior director of sustainability impact at Clif. Bar & Company. “With agricultural research receiving less than one percent of public funding, this endowment program is intended to fund the best and brightest minds to help advance the organic industry and meet growing consumer demand for organic food.”

Clif Bar’s announcement of the new endowed chair can be read on

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