Wisconsin loses upwards of 400 dairies every year. If this decline continues, America’s Dairyland will soon have to find a new tagline. It often feels as though the odds are stacked against the Dairy state—aging farmers, high land prices, lack of well-rounded educational opportunities, and the list goes on. And then just when you may be feeling like all is lost, in steps the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship—a shining light in a sea of loss (24,000 agricultural land acres are lost a year in Wisconsin to be exact).
The Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA), a Grassworks initiative, is dedicated to providing a pathway to independent dairy farm ownership, developing grazing careers, and strengthening the economic and environmental well-being of rural communities in the dairy industry.
During two years of hands-on experience under Mentor Graziers and through formal instruction, apprentices earn while they learn and gain the skills, knowledge, experience, relationships, and confidence needed to own and operate their own dairy grazing farm. The program is also hard at work developing models of equity building, start-up, and farm transfer, helping these now experienced graziers overcome the major barriers to entry.
The Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship offers an innovative solution to a problem that, if not remedied, could decimate the state’s rural landscape. The Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship is the first accredited farming apprenticeship in the nation and can act as a model for addressing the aforementioned problems nationwide.
Currently, DGA has 25 approved farm sites, 11 apprentices, 4 Journey Dairy Graziers, and over 50 Apprentice Candidates awaiting placement. All of this, and they are only in year two. Click here to see the DGA in action.
Organic Valley has always been dedicated to saving family farms and is happy to support the DGA in their efforts to train and establish the next generation of dairy graziers.