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School For Beginning Dairy Farmers Calls For 2002-2003 Applicants

Young people interested in dairy farming have until April 1 to apply for an innovative program, now entering its eighth year, to help them establish their own grass-based dairy farms in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers, a program of the University of Wisconsin Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, offers qualified students:

* the chance to attend the UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course,
* special training sessions,
* seminars in the management of grazing-based dairy farms, farm internships,
* mentoring by experienced graziers and UW faculty,
* classroom and field experience,
* and the potential for future support and training.

“We”re looking for bright, motivated individuals who dream of starting their own grass-based dairy business,” said school coordinator Dick Cates. “This is a one-of-a-kind program that combines financial support, classroom learning, farmer- and researcher-taught seminars, internships, mentoring, and initial follow-up support to help launch successful business plans. From here, past students have followed a variety of paths, including pursuing apprenticeships, sharemilking arrangements, and actual business start-ups.”

Applications must be received by April 1 for full scholarship consideration, and will be accepted after April 1 until the school is filled. WSBDF participants may apply for a variety of scholarships to help with tuition and internship expenses.

Students who choose internships live on the farms of veteran Wisconsin graziers who serve as teachers and mentors. Recent scholarship recipients/interns and their mentor farms are: Mike Tomandl and Joe Heimerl – New Zealand grass-based dairy farms; Amanda Shine – Dan and Ruth Vosberg, South Wayne; John Fellers – Bert and Sue Paris, Belleville and Mark and Sue Edgington, Cobb; Pat Scallon – Dan and Terri Pearson, River Falls; and Ryan Klussendorf – apprenticeship with Dan and Ruth Vosberg, South Wayne.

For individuals interested in the 17-week grass-based dairy seminar only, distance education options are available. The seminar is available by internet hookup through some county UW-Extension offices or participants” home computers. In its fourth year, this is the first class in the UW-Madison”s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences to be offered by distance education. The cost for the distance education/grazing seminar option is expected to be about $300 per internet site, plus $50 per student for groups. The balance of the costs will be covered by the UW Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, Great Lakes Grazing Network, Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, and the UW-Madison Center for Dairy Profitability.

The School will have an information table at the upcoming Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin Annual Business Conference, March 5-6 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. The table will feature a distance-education demonstration, where viewers can see lectures broadcast over the internet from the grass-based dairy seminar.

To register for or learn more about the school or the distance learning options, call (608) 262-5200 or (608) 588-2836; fax: (608) 265-3020; mail: Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers, c/o CIAS, 146 Agriculture Hall, UW-Madison, Madison, WI 53706; e-mail:

The only program of its kind in the nation, the school is sponsored by the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences), UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course, and the USDA NRCS Environmental Quality Incentive Program, in cooperation with GrassWorks, Inc.; Cooperative Extension, UW-Extension; the Wisconsin Technical College System; and the Farm Link Service of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

The WSBDF depends to a large extent on private contributions to support student scholarships internship stipends, and student conference/workshop attendance, and to compensate farmer-speakers for the grass-based dairy seminar (see sidebar).