Prospective dairy farmers have until April 1 to apply for an innovative program, now entering its ninth year, to help them establish their own grass-based dairy farms in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers, a program of the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, offers qualified students the chance to attend the UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course, along with special training sessions and seminars in the management of grazing-based dairy farms. Students are mentored by experienced graziers and UW faculty, and on-farm internships are available.
“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.
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 fifth 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 a display table at the Wisconsin Grazing Conference, which will run from Sunday, February 16, through Tuesday, February 18, at the Holiday Inn in Stevens Point, and there will be ample opportunity to meet current students at the conference. The School will have an information table at the upcoming Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin Annual Business Conference, March 11-12 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, go their website, call (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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Through research and outreach like the School for Beginning Dairy Farmers, the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems works with growers and citizens to promote profitable, enjoyable, and environmentally friendly opportunities in agriculture.
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.
SIDEBAR: Scholarships Available for School for Beginning Dairy Farmers
In addition to scholarships from general program funds, the following scholarships are available to assist students at the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers:
The Judd S. Alexander Foundation Scholarship, established to support partial tuition costs for residents of Marathon County, Wisconsin to attend the FISC/WSBDF classroom program, or internships on grass-based dairy farms.
The Milton H. and Velma S. Button Scholarship, established by Velma S. Button, who was born in 1899 and grew up on a family farm just outside of Madison. The scholarship is named after Button and her late husband, Milton, an agricultural specialist for the U.S. Department of State. The scholarship helps to support partial tuition costs to attend the FISC/WSBDF classroom program, or internships on grass-based dairy farms.
The Clarion A. and Henrietta (Clemens) Counsell Internship Endowment, established by their son, Dr. Lee A. Counsell, DDS, MPH, FACD. The Counsell family farm, near Neilsville, was one of the first in Clark County.
The Mike Cannell Scholarship was established in honor of Mike Cannell, a Richland County dairy farmer who was an early champion of grass-based dairy farming and a leader in establishing programs and policies to support family farming, rural community revitalization, social justice and sustainable agriculture. Cannell died in 1996 in a machinery accident while helping a neighbor unload corn.
The Culver Scholarship, established by Culver Franchising Systems, Inc., Prairie du Sac, to support partial tuition costs to attend the FISC/WSBDF classroom program, or internships on grass-based dairy farms.
The Land O” Lakes Fund, established by Land O” Lakes, Minneapolis, to support general WSBDF program costs.
The Lyle C. Molstad Memorial Scholarship, established by his wife, Marie Molstad of Sun Prairie. The scholarship supports partial tuition costs to attend the FISC Short Course/WSBDF classroom program, or two to four months on a Wisconsin grass-based dairy farm.
The Olds Seed Solutions Fund, established by Olds Seeds of Madison to support general WSBDF program costs.
The Rural Opportunities Foundation WSBDF Scholarship, established to support internships for rural Wisconsin residents on grass-based dairy farms.
Also available are the Farm and Industry Short Course Centennial Scholarship and the Nellie Butt FISC Short Course Scholarship, among others.