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UW beginning farmer school offers classes and mentoring at 17 sites across the state

If you’re an aspiring dairy or livestock farmer looking for some
instruction and mentoring within reasonable driving distance, the
Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers (WSBDF)
wants to hear from you.

The school hopes to offer its distance education program at 17 sites
around the state this year, but at least three students must sign up
for a site for the program to be offered there.

Participants in the Farm Services Agency’s (FSA) beginning farmer loan
programs are encouraged to apply. WSBDF qualifies for the business
training the FSA program requires.

The distance education classrooms are designed for students who want
start farming but aren’t able to attend class in Madison. Each
classroom will have video and audio links to the weekly seminar based
in Madison, but will also have an on-site instructor and feature guest
lectures by local grazing specialists, farm lenders and experienced
farmers. Students also tour local farms and have opportunities to
participate in internships and industry conferences.

“Our students consistently tell us that these opportunities to talk to
farmers, especially young graduates of the WSBDF who are succeeding in
dairy and livestock farming, is one of most valuable parts of the
program,” says program director Dick Cates.

The WSBDF curriculum covers all aspects of business planning, from
farm selection, design and remodeling to animal and pasture
management. About three-fourths of those who graduated from WSBDF
since 1996 are now farming. Of those, about half started their own
farm businesses.

The school is offered through the UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short
Course. The 15-week course begins November 10 and meets every Thursday
from 11 a.m.-1:15 p.m. through March 22 (the class meets Tuesday,
November 22 during Thanksgiving week and takes a four-week break in
late December and January).

Tuition and fees vary by site, number of credits earned and how the
student enrolls. Typically, students who take the class at an off-
campus site pay between $200 and $300 (and end up with a completed
business plan).  Students who want to earn a certificate of completion
or 1-3 college credits (either UW-Madison or Wisconsin Technical
College) pay the per-credit fee charged by the institution.

The deadline for applications for the distance sites is Nov. 1. Some
scholarships are available. Those interested should contact the
facilitator at the appropriate site:

Antigo: Alex Crockford, UW-Extension, Langlade County, 715-627-6236,

Appleton: Randy Tenpas, Fox Valley Technical College, 920-735-5673,

Chilton: Jeremy Hanson, Fox Valley Technical College @ Chilton
Regional Center, 920- 849-4416; or Greg Booher,
Lakeshore Technical College, 920-693-1241;

Independence: Mary Anderson, River Country RC&D, 715-538-4396 ext 33;

Lancaster: Arin Crooks, Agricultural Research Station, 608-723-2580;

Ladysmith: Rich Toebe, UW-Extension, Rusk County, 715-532-2151,

Neillsville: Maria Bendixen, UW-Extension, Clark County, 715-743-5121;

Medford: Sandy Stuttgen, UW-Extension, Taylor County, 715-748-3327;

Menomonie: Mark Denk, Chippewa Valley Technical College, 715-577-3036;

Phillips: Mark Kopecky, UW-Extension Price County, 715-339-2555;

Prairie du Chien: Vance Haugen, UW Extension, Crawford County,

Reedsburg: Doug Marshall, MATC-Reedsburg, 608-524-7727;

Spooner: Otto Wiegand, UW-Extension, Washburn, Sawyer & Burnett
Counties, 715-635-3506,

Thorp: Brad Sirianni, Chippewa Valley Technical College, 715-579-5834;

Viroqua: Jean Stramel, Grazing Specialist, 608-647-8874 ext110;

Waupaca:  Lynn Jerrett, Fox Valley Technical College, 920-831-4387;

Wausau: Victoria Pietz, Northcentral Technical College, 715-803-1414;

To get application materials to attend the WSBDF on the Madison
campus, or to get more information about any aspect of the program, go
online to or call 608-265-6437.