The Early Days
Research began at the Hancock Research Station in 1916 by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences on land belonging to the Hancock Development Company. The intent of the research was to aid general livestock farmers in their attempt to make a living on the droughty sands of central Wisconsin. It was six years later when the Board of Regents purchased 95 acres from this private company, and by 1934 they had acquired two more adjacent parcels to bring the farm to 223 acres. Research efforts for the next twenty years were directed towards dairy feeding, pasture utilization, soil fertility management, and studies with coniferous and deciduous shelterbelt plantings for wind erosion control.
A New Beginning
Irrigation possibilities came to the forefront in the late 1940s with aluminum pipe becoming available and the discovery of an ample, easily accessible water supply underfoot. Irrigation brought renewed hope to the people of the area and redirected the college’s research efforts. Studies began to reveal two-, three-, and sometimes four-fold increases in crop productivity when irrigation was used. Seventy acres were added to the station in 1962 to aid in irrigation research, provide low fertility land, and help offset acreage lost by Highway 51 relocation.
The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences had the foresight to acquire an adjacent 120 acres in 1971 to add to the station’s land resource. This modestly priced purchase came with an irrigation well and was soon equipped with center pivot irrigation.
The research data generated at the Hancock Research Station by the college faculty has had a major impact on the development of the Central Sands of Wisconsin.