My Letter for His Sweater

letter-sweaterI wear my father’s letter sweater with pride. He earned it as a member of the University of Wisconsin Farm Short Course, class of 1948. He was one of 325* farm boy students who journeyed to Madison to learn the most up to date methods of farm management, crop production, and animal husbandry.

This is my letter for my father’s sweater. Though the garment is 68 years old, it is timeless, a testament to my father’s long-term commitment to education and agriculture. After graduating from the Farm Short Course, Dad took up farming with his father on the farm that already had been in the family some 40 years. He devoted his career to the place — always learning, working, and improving the family farm.

All seven of us kids had our shot at agriculture, working on the farm as we grew up. And all of us had the opportunity for post-high-school education of some kind. Not being all that good at farm work, I was one who opted for the public university liberal arts route, getting a bachelor’s degree in communications from another UW — the one at Stevens Point.

As I sought a newspaper job post college, on a whim I sent my resumé to a statewide agricultural newspaper. I figured: What the hell? I could write about farm stuff. With my dumb luck, I got the job and became involved in agriculture in the literary sense. Eventually that work led me to Iowa State University, a master’s degree in rural sociology, and a career as a communications specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach.

I know it’s a stretch, but in my view I’m carrying on my father’s education and agriculture legacy. And so I wear his sweater with pride.

Laura Sternweis


*The 1948 class size is according to “A History of the Farm and Industry Short Course, 1885-2010,” College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was strictly the Farm Short Course when my father attended. Industry was added to the name in the late 1960s.


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