Wichman leaves CARC after 31 years

CARC Superintendent Dave Wichman is all smiles as he considers life after retirement.  
Photo by Vicky McCray

By: 
Vicki McCray
Special to the News-Argus

After 31 years at the Central Agricultural Research Center as well as several years in the business prior to that – more or less 40 years, Dave Wichman says he needs a break. This need is the catalyst behind his retirement. Wichman’s official last day was Friday.

Retiring, however, doesn’t mean he’s picked out a rocking chair and is going to spend the rest of his days watching daytime television and snoozing. He said he has a 100-year-old barn sitting on his property that needs some TLC and finally he will be able to complete the project. After that, time will tell – another full-time job is not out of the question.

“As long as the job’s here,” he explained of his position at CARC, “it’s like a magnet. I’m always down here.”

“He will be missed,” said Administrative Assistant Lorrie Linhart. 

In November it will be 20 years since Wichman hired Linhart.

“He is easy to work with,” Linhart said, “and he has always been right out in the midst of things. Dave has always had the farmer-rancher as his priority to help them improve their production.”

During his 31 years at the experiment station, Wichman has been involved in the evaluation and development of crop varieties – cereals, oilseeds, pulses, specialty seed-food crops and forage crops – for suitability to the producers in the area.

“The work is always interesting,” he said. “Some of the other things – a lot more regulations, for example, – get old.”

He noted he will definitely miss the people with whom he works. They are dedicated to their jobs and the center’s mission: “to conduct and promote studies, scientific investigations and experiments relating to agriculture, natural resources and rural life, and to diffuse information thereby acquired among the people of Montana.”

“We don’t always have the answers, but we can help producers arrive at an answer,” Wichman said.

One of the superintendent’s philosophies is if the station has something they recommend to producers, they had better be planting it at the station.

“If we don’t do it ourselves, what business do we have recommending it?” he said.

In addition to superintendent and agronomist Wichman and administrative assistant Linhart, who is half time, staff at CARC are Pat Carr, cropping systems scientist; Tim Bishop, farm mechanic; Darryl Grove, farm manager; Shabeg Briar, research associate; and Sally Dahlhausen, research technician.

Dahlhausen’s work is paid with grant monies.

One member of the Advisory Committee also serves as a delegate to a State Advisory Committee. 

CARC also teams up with Extension, which is their outreach.

 

Early years

Wichman grew up north of Moore, but prior to taking the CARC superintendent job, he had only once been on the grounds that certainly became a second home to him. He recalled his station visit was for a 4-H judging. His family owned and operated a farm, growing multiple crops and multiple animals.

After graduating from high school, Wichman attended Montana State University, where he earned a bachelor of science degree and a master’s degree in agronomy. He was working at Huntley during most of the time he was completing his master’s.

He worked for Continental Grain in Culbertson, where he was in charge of grower-production safflower. He had over 800 growers and 187,000 acres of safflower contracted in Montana, North Dakota, Colorado, Idaho and Nebraska.

During this time he also worked with canola, testing the early hybrids in America. He explained they were developed in Australia and he got to plant some of the first hybrid canola in North America.

“That really brought focus to canola,” Wichman said. “It could not be sold in the United States as canola oil, though, because the soybean and corn oil industries had such clout they could block it.”

With hybridization, however, large companies formed a venture company and rules were changed in order to call the product canola oil.

Dave and his wife Janet, who currently teaches kindergarten at Hobson School, moved to Moccasin in 1985. They lived on experiment station grounds for a number of years. Their three children were raised in the area, their daughter Lynae born while they were on the grounds.

All three of the Wichman children worked for Chengci Chen, a former cropping systems scientist at CARC, who is currently superintendent of the Eastern Agricultural Research Center in Sidney.

“They all had to do volunteer work here,” Wichman said.

The workload can be overwhelming, so it stands to reason Wichman will be relieved when he turns the CARC reins over to his replacement, Cropping Systems Scientist Pat Carr. But certainly, the station and the work it does will always be on his radar. When one has done something for as long as Wichman has served the Central Agricultural Research Center, it isn’t easy to just walk away. 

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