The Wisconsin Agricultural Education Center (WAEC), a non-profit organization which plans to build an interactive attraction that will educate the public on the role agriculture plays in daily life, has announced the selection of Melissa Bender as its new executive director. The center will showcase Wisconsin’s agriculture industry and help the public reconnect with farmers and understand the important role producing food plays in the health of our economy, our people and our communities.

“Bender will bring leadership and creativity to the center and a strong passion for educating others about the importance of agriculture,” stated Julie Maurer, Board President of WAEC. “We are on our way to creating a highly visible tourism site, situated near Manitowoc, Wisconsin along the busy Interstate 43 corridor between Milwaukee and Green Bay. The facility will provide easy access for school field trips and will be a recreational travel destination for families and tourists.”

Bender comes to WAEC from her most recent position as program coordinator for the 4-H Special Interest Club in Illinois where she strengthened and expanded the program, developed a state-adopted recruitment technique, and supported volunteers on multiple grants. Bender’s experience includes teaching agriculture at the high school level for five years in Wisconsin. She has earned both her Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science Degrees in Agricultural Education from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. While teaching, Bender was the Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor and motivated students to be active in agriculture.

Bender is originally from Montello, WI, where she grew up on a dairy farm. “This opportunity with WAEC will allow me to combine my passion for agriculture and my goal of making a difference in the lives of others,” say Bender.

Bender will follow the board’s direction through the fundraising and building process. Plans include:

  • A 21,000 square foot discovery center with educational displays and hands-on learning opportunities
  • A birthing barn where visitors can watch calves being born
  • A 200-person conference center
  • An outdoor playground
  • A café and country store featuring 
Wisconsin products

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