About the Smart Farm

The 192-acre UW-Platteville Richland Smart Farm was bequeathed to the Richland County Campus Foundation (RCCF) in August of 2005 by Mae Senneke Smart following her death. Per Mae’s and her husband Joe’s intent, this historic property now serves the education needs of students of UW-Platteville Richland as well as the community of her beloved Driftless Area. The Smart Farm acreage and infrastructure have been impeccably restored by the RCCF and the facility is on track to becoming an active field station supporting natural resource research and education. The City of Richland Center and the Smart Farm lie in the heart of the Driftless Area, a region known for its deeply carved river valleys which escaped glaciation.

Farm History
Prior to Joe’s death, the Smarts farmed this land and managed a Holstein dairy operation. With resourcefulness typical of mid-20th century homesteaders, Mae crafted hardwood floors, interior wood trim, as well as the kitchen cabinets from lumber harvested from the farm. Timber harvested from the farm acreage was also used to build the historic barn and other out buildings.

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 Conservation as Education

Keeping in the Smart’s spirit of conservation, the UW-Platteville Richland Smart Farm participates in several managed forest and cropland programs. Sixty-eight acres of cropland is in a conservation plan through the Natural Resources Conservation Service and 121 acres of forestland is in a 25-year Managed Forest Land Forestry Plan. The managed forest plan includes potential selected timber harvest with 18 acres of mature timber being preserved. Under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), five-thousand trees were planted in 2001 in a 10-year CRP which has been renewed. The Smart Farm became eligible for the Bee Pollinator Program in 2014.  Two small openings on the edge of the forest were planted in clover and native prairie plants to attract pollinating insects. Smart Farm conservation summary:

  1. Timber Stand Improvement (TSI) (60 acres)
  2. Bee Pollinator (2 acres)
  3. Conservation Reserve Tree Planting (5.8 acres)
  4. Conservation Reserve Cropland (31.4 acres)
  5. Managed Forest Law (MFL) – logging (62 acres) (B)
  6. Managed Forest Law (MFL) – logging (18 acres) (C)
  7. Remaining tillable cropland (30 acres)


A Model for Energy Efficiency

Richland County Campus Foundation has invested more than $250K in the Smart Farm to date with a goal of making the farmhouse a model for energy efficiency. The farmhouse, originally un-insulated and heated by wood, has seen significant improvements:

  • The farmhouse, including the attic and the basement, has been insulated.
  • Together with the solar array, consisting of 24, 200-watt panels, the house has Tier 2 energy rating.
  • A geo-thermal ground heat pump system was added for heating and cooling.
  • A new steel roof holds a 50-year warranty.
  • New siding, mid-level replacement windows, and basement windows were replaced.
  • A new septic system was added.
  • Water and electrical lines now run to the barn.
 Solar energy in action

The Smart Farm has a solar photovoltaic system consisting of 24 crystalline silicon modules connected in a series to produce direct current which travels to a SMA Sunny Boy 6000 (watt) US inverter which converts the DC power to usable AC current. Any excess power is pushed back onto the Richland Electric Utility grid and credited at the retail rate. The solar array produces electricity to run the geothermal heating and cooling system with excess used to power the farmhouse.

Geothermal heating and cooling

Heating and cooling of the farmhouse is accomplished using a Bryant 2-stage ground-source heat pump in tandem with a standard forced air furnace. Ground-source heat pumps extract heat from the ground for heating the home during the winter months while transferring heat from the house to the ground during the summer months for cooling purposes. The system pumps Puron refrigerant through closed loop pipes extending underground into three 150-foot vertical wells.