Want to dairy in Wisconsin? Why not apprentice?

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SEYMOUR, Wis. — Wisconsin is using formal apprenticeship as an innovative way to get new, qualified dairy farmers on the land.

GrassWorks, the statewide grazing organization, is the industry sponsor for a new dairy grazier apprenticeship.

Similar to the well-established model used for plumbers, bricklayers and electricians, the dairy grazier apprenticeship will combine classroom education through the Wisconsin Technical College System with on-the-farm training under the guidance of a Master Farmer.

If successful, the program has the potential to provide a new model for farmer education, environmental stewardship and rural economic development.

Benefits

As dairy grazier apprentices, beginning farmers will not only achieve a high level of competency but will also receive compensation for work on the farm as well as for related classroom hours.

In addition, as journeyman dairy graziers, graduates will develop the relationships necessary to become successful entrepreneurs, co-owners and/or managers of grass-based dairy farms.

Experienced farmers, as Master Farmers, will receive training in mentoring an apprentice. They will gain a skilled apprentice who has gone through an initial screening process and provides skilled labor, managerial assistance and the potential for future business partnerships.

Funding

The National Institute for Food and Farming funded the program with $96,000. Initial funding through NIFA s Beginning Farming and Rancher Development Program as well as Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative will allow GrassWorks to establish the dairy grazier apprenticeship and will help to support the program in its pilot year.

Anyone interested in enrolling in program as an apprentice or as a Master Farmer, visit www.grassworks.org or contact Joe Tomandl, III, project coordinator, at cjtom@hughes.net or 715-560-0389.

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