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Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers offers classes and mentoring at 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.

Students who aren’t able to attend class on the Madison campus can participate at one of a number of distance education sites around the state. Up to 15 sites will be available, but at least three students must sign up for a site for the program to be offered there.

The distance education classrooms are for students who want to start farming but aren’t able to attend class in Madison. Each classroom has video and audio links to the weekly seminar in Madison, but it will be led by an on-site instructor and will 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.

Participants in the Farm Services Agency’s (FSA) beginning farmer loan programs, as well as apprentices in the new Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA) program are encouraged to enroll. The WSBDF is an approved vendor for both FSA and DGA business training.

“Our students tell us that the opportunities to talk to farmers who are succeeding in dairy and livestock farming is one of most valuable parts of the program,” says Dick Cates, who has served as director of the WSBDF since it was established in 1995.

The WSBDF curriculum covers all aspects of business planning, farm selection and layout, and 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 enterprise or new farm business.

The school is offered through the UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course. The 15-week course begins November 7 and meets every Thursday from 11 a.m.-1:15 p.m. through March 13 (the class meets Tuesday, November 26 during Thanksgiving week, takes a two-week break in late December/early January and then a one-week break in early February).

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 have the opportunity to 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 November 1. Some scholarships are available. Those interested should contact the facilitator at the appropriate site:

—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;

—Eau Claire: Maria Bendixen, Chippewa Valley Technical College, 715-937-5058,

—Elkhorn: Peg Reedy, UW-Extension, Walworth County, 262-741-4961,

—Independence/Sparta: Brad Sirianni, Western Technical College, 715-533-8081,

—Green Bay: Valerie Dantoin-Adamski, NE WI Technical College, 920-498-5568,

—La Crosse, WI or Lewiston, MN (site TBD): Aimee Finley, Western Technical College, 507-273-7722,

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

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

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

—Prairie du Chien: Vance Haugen, UW Extension, Crawford County, 608-326-0223,

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

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

—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.

For more information, contact Richard Cates at 608-265-6437, 608-588-2836 or; or Steve Neary, 608-265-6437,