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Land donation broadens legacy of retired soil science professor

Metro Wire Staff

The educational legacy of a retired University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point professor goes further than his 31 years of teaching and mentoring soil and waste resources students in the College of Natural Resources.

Professor Emeritus Milo Harpstead, who retired last year, donated 22 acres of his land in nearby Polonia to the UWSP Foundation, continuing its use as a soil sciences field laboratory. The property offers a wealth of resources and information as it is the glacial birthplace of an ice-walled lakebed, the remnants forming a flat-topped hill that is considered one of the highest features in Portage County.

More than 11,000 students have studied its varying soils for 60 years, collecting samples for experiments and using them for soil judging practice and competition. Harpstead first brought his classes there in 1961, and he wanted that to continue.

“I donated the property because I recognized its value for students,” said Harpstead at the event, according to a news release from the college. “For those of us who are teachers, students are our first priority, and we will do anything to support them.”

Harpstead’s donation was recognized on Oct. 27 in a ceremony that unveiled a sign for “Milo Acres” to mark the university research area. The press was not invited to the event.

“For 50-plus years, Dr. Harpstead’s farm has been used by College of Natural Resource students to better their understanding of soil science and conservation. His generosity ensures another 50-plus years of soil science. CNR majors will continue to learn about this special soil and regional area as part of their applied, interdisciplinary training,” said Brian Sloss, College of Natural Resources Dean. “We are honored and humbled by Dr. Harpstead’s gracious gift of this property to our college.”

Given the success of UWSP alumni through the years, this property and Harpstead’s influence on the CNR has and will continue to have lasting impacts into the foreseeable future, said Sloss. “We are very thankful to have such wonderful friends and faculty as Dr. Harpstead.”

Harpstead began teaching at UWSP in the early 60s, taking his students to the site regularly. He bought the 60-acre property in 1974, continuing to use the land for university soil research as well as renting portions of it out for farming of Christmas trees, corn, and alfalfa. Since his retirement in 1992, he has continued to maintain the homestead of the farm as well as welcome natural resources students and faculty to the site.

Bryant Scharenbroch, associate professor of soil and waste resources, has been taking students to the site several times a year since he began teaching at UWSP eight years ago. About 400 students visit the site each year.

“The diversity of soil offers unique features and lake sediments from the glacial age,” he said, “making it a great outdoor classroom space for our students.”

Its three open soil pits make it easy for students to study without having to excavate each time, he said. UWSP’s soil judging team used the property as a contest site when it hosted the Region III 2019 Collegiate Soils Contest, and future competitions are planned there.

Harpstead said there is no shortage of programs and majors that could take advantage of his gift, from natural resources to earth science.

“It can be a field laboratory for forestry, wildlife, waste management, water science, cartography, and geology,” said Harpstead. “Now it will be available to students as long as there is a College of Natural Resources at the university.”

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