Prospective dairy farmers have until April 1 to apply for an innovative program, now entering its tenth 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.
“Students who engage in internships (two to six months in spring/summer 2004) live on the farms of veteran Wisconsin graziers who serve as teachers and mentors. From here, past students have followed a variety of paths, including pursuing apprenticeships, equity-building arrangements, and their own business start-ups,” he says.
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. For individuals interested in the 15-week grass-based dairy seminar only, a CD set is available for purchase ($115; includes shipping) by contacting the WSBDF.
The WSBDF will have an information table at the Wisconsin Grazing Conference, which will run from Monday, Feb. 9 through Wednesday, Feb. 11 at the Holiday Inn in Stevens Point; current WSBDF students will attend on Tuesday and there will be ample opportunity to meet them that day. The school will also have an information table at the upcoming Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin Annual Business Conference, March 9-10 at the Alliant Center in Madison.
To register for or learn more about the WSBDF, go to www.wisc.edu/cias/schools/dairysch.html; call (608) 265 6437 (WSBDF office) or (608) 588-2836 (Dick Cates); fax: (608) 265-3020; mail: Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers, c/o CIAS, 1450 Linden Dr., 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 Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, in cooperation with Grass Works, 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, student conference/workshop attendance, and to compensate farmer-speakers for the grass-based dairy seminar (see sidebars).
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 daughter, 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.