Training and Transitioning New Farmers: A Practical Experiment in Farmer Self-Development and Institutional Reinvention

Final Report for LNC95-088

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1995: $85,800.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1999
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $147,250.00
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
George Stevenson
UW-Madison, Center for Integrated Ag. Systems
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Project Information


[Note to online version: The report for this project includes a table and attachments that could not be included here. The regional SARE office will mail a hard copy of the entire report at your request. Just contact North Central SARE at (402) 472-7081 or [email protected].]

Wisconsin has suffered dramatic losses in numbers of dairy farms. While the decrease in part includes large numbers of retiring dairy farmers, the lack of young people entering dairy farming is an even more significant factor in the decline. To reverse that trend a creative approach is needed to make dairy farming more attractive.

The Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers (WSBDF) aims to get more young people into dairy farming using management intensive rotational grazing (MIRG). WSBDF is the only School of its type in the nation, and is administered by the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS). The career paths and training opportunities for New Zealand dairy farmers provides one model for the School. Adapting this training model to a program has been a challenge and a learning experience for the School’s staff and committee, and the program is continuously evolving to meet the demands of Wisconsin’s farming realities.

First Steps

In 1995, Steve Stevenson, CIAS associate director, and Russ O’Harrow, a retired Wisconsin dairy farmer and former CIAS advisor, traveled to New Zealand to study dairy farmer career development there. They found that carefully institutionalized farmer career paths in New Zealand help young people of all backgrounds enter dairy farming (see Attachment 1, Dairy Farmer Career Paths). An important part of career trajectory in New Zealand is specialized; early-career training that includes both classroom and on-farm work.

MIRG plays an important role in helping young farmers get started in New Zealand. “New Zealand dairy production systems interested us. Our impression was that the low-purchased-input and low-capital nature of these systems helps get energetic, committed young people into dairy farming,” says Stevenson.

In addition, dairy graziers and UW extension faculty approached CIAS about providing training in grass-based dairying. In 1995, CIAS secured a grant from the USDA-sponsored Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program to begin operation of WSBDF in cooperation with the UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

WSBDF originally required attendance at the 17-week Farm and Industry Short Course, participation at a weekly grazing seminar, and completion of an internship. The School now offers flexible attendance options and additional alternatives, such as distance education. The School also gives students a chance to meet dairy graziers, and offers students assistance in identifying farming opportunities.

Training objectives

Stevenson and O’Harrow identified recruitment and training of new dairy farmers as a key challenge facing Wisconsin and an area where New Zealand’s example would be instructive. They identified four training and recruitment objectives. Comparing the WSBDF to these objectives helps point out the fit between the New Zealand dairy training model and Wisconsin realities.

Objective 1: Identify strategies for recruiting beginning dairy farmers from non-farm as well as farm backgrounds.

According to Dairy Farmer Career Paths, in New Zealand approximately one-third of all entering dairy farmers came from non-farm backgrounds in 1995. In Wisconsin in that year, less than five percent came from non-farm backgrounds.

Attracting people from a variety of backgrounds can strengthen successful entry, energy level, and openness to new ideas in the dairy industry.

WSBDF sends recruitment information to county extension faculty, farm press, high school agriculture teachers, vocational agriculture schools, and farmer grazing networks. Students come from farm and non-farm backgrounds. While Dick Cates, the School’s coordinator, feels that WSBDF has something to offer people from farms, it holds special promise for those who don’t come from a farm. “These students need a strong combination of dairy information, grazing knowledge, and management skills,” says Cates. And while most students have dairy farm experience, few have farm management experience.

WSBDF students’ ages (18 to 35) and extent of formal education vary widely. Both men and women attend the program. Students come from Wisconsin as well as outside the state. One recent graduate had previously worked as a computer programmer; another had been a construction worker.

While recruiting diverse students has been successful, student numbers have been lower than hoped. Low student numbers may reflect that those in positions to pass WSBDF information on to potential students are not doing so, or that the School’s requirements did not meet students’ needs. Cates hopes raising the Schools visibility and offering flexible attendance options, like distance learning, will attract more students.

Objective 2: Use training approaches that creatively combine the theoretical and the practical, and make effective use of farmer mentors and on-farm internships.

In New Zealand, dairy farmer training programs move from classroom to on-farm learning and are management-oriented. Dairy farm “cadets,” or apprentices, serve under carefully selected farmer mentors.

Wisconsin’s Farm and Industry Short Course classes offer theoretical and practical training in dairy farming. The weekly grazing seminar allows farmers and others with grazing expertise to co-teach all aspects of developing a grass-based dairy. Students go to pasture walks to see grazing in practice, to ask questions, and to learn about a variety of grazing approaches. They also attend conferences, gaining practical knowledge from the sessions, and making important connections.

After their coursework, students can complete two to six month internships on several Wisconsin grass-based dairy farms. A careful process matches students and farmer mentors. Internships begin in the spring, so interns reach seasonal or semi-seasonal dairies at the thick of the calving season. They get lots of experience-fast-with managing grass and cattle.

Objective 3: Provide programs that help beginning farmers receive academic certification and earn income from meaningful farm jobs and apprenticeships.

In the New Zealand training scheme, several levels of certification are available to students. National certificates in farm practice and farm business management tie directly to positions of increasing responsibility.

In Wisconsin, meaningful certification is critical to those wishing to farm without family assistance or a farming background. WSBDF mentors provide letters of recommendation for interns working on their farms. Cates will also provide a letter of recommendation upon student request, and students receive a graduation certificate. “Bankers take the WSBDF credentials seriously,” adds Cates, “as do farm employers. Nearly 80 percent of our graduates are farming, and more than half of those are on their own dairy farm.”

Objective 4: Build organizational capacity to oversee ongoing training and employment pathways as is done in New Zealand.

In New Zealand, dairy cadets follow a structured path defined by the government, training centers, and the dairy industry, similar to students choosing other trades. Field officers monitor and guide dairy students’ progress through the New Zealand dairy career ladder. Field officers’ responsibilities include arranging job interviews and reviewing farmer trainers.

Cates provides help for WSBDF students in ways similar to New Zealand field officers. He speaks as a reference for students looking for a farm to rent or for a cattle loan, and helps them evaluate a farm or situation when asked. “When they have the confidence and knowledge to start contacting others who can help them, they are on their way to managing their own farm,” Cates observes. But Wisconsin does not have a standard organizational structure for training and employing dairy farmers. Apprenticeship and sharemilking opportunities are scarce. “Most grazing farms are simply not large enough yet to employ someone year-round,” says Cates.

WSBDF graduates can find meaningful farm employment hard to come by, particularly if they are without a family farm, an established employment situation to return to, or enough equity to get a loan for cattle. Such students may work on en expanding conventional dairy, even if their goals to develop their own grass-based dairy.

Program evolution

WSBDF carries out the four objectives for dairy training with varying success, depending on how well Wisconsin’s dairy realities match the New Zealand model. Dairy graziers have been eager to speak at the grazing seminar and serve as mentors. Students report that they have learned an immense amount from the internship. Student recruitment and post-graduation employment are weaker areas.

The School is clearly unique in how it defines and fills its niche. One of the successes of the School is that it has attracted interest from people who want to give something back to Wisconsin agriculture. Many different levels of support are available to those who wish to make a financial contribution to the School. Cates notes, “Interest in this opportunity to invest in the future of grass-based dairying in Wisconsin is strong, and is crucial to the future success of the program.”


The practical experiment proposed below seeks to address a key dilemma associated with the structure of agriculture throughout the North Central Region: a serious decline over the past several decades in the rate of entry of new farmers (Gale and Henderson, 1991). Farmers leaving the profession greatly outnumber those entering. In Wisconsin, the ensuring loss of farms is particularly rapid in dairying (Cross, 1994). Couple with an aging farm population and a recent decline in the state's aggregate dairy production, Wisconsin's seeming inability to reproduce its base of farmers presents increasingly serious consequences for the state's dairy manufacturing and processing sectors and for the economies of many rural communities (Barham, 1994).

On the positive side, a serious and sustained movement of dairy farmers in the state is adopting various forms of rotational grazing to address issues of profitability, life style, and environmental stewardship. Over seven hundred farmers attended Wisconsin's second annual grazing conference (Stevens Point, March, 1994), organized by farmer networks around the state. To many knowledgeable observers, low capital, grass-based dairying appears to offer a significant entry vehicle for beginning farmers. In addition, veteran graziers increasingly speak of a willingness to act as mentors and sponsors for young farmers interested in grass-based dairying.

What appears to be needed is a creative and coordinated effort to couple the resources of these veteran farmers with institutional resources to identify, educate, and strategically transition young families into farming enterprises that are environmentally, economically, and emotionally sustainable. The project proposed seeks to experiment with such a creative, coordinated effort through:
-- investigating (with a strong eye to adapting) some of the programs and institutions of a country (New Zealand) with extensive experience in preparing and placing new dairy farmers.
-- re-inventing portions of the Farm and Industry Short Course at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a "School for Beginning Farmers."
--establishing and monitoring case examples of veteran graziers mentoring and sponsoring the entry of new dairy farm families.

While couched in Wisconsin realities, this practical experiment is intended to be a model and inspiration for farmers and educational institutions in other states as they search for ways to reproduce a viable and vibrant base of farmers. It is fundamentally a demonstration and education project with strong investigative and monitoring components. It links farmer networks, county Extension personnel, and university resources.

Project Objectives:

Objective #1. Investigate and evaluate for adaptation in Wisconsin New Zealand's programs for the education and entry of new dairy farmers.

Objective #2. Develop a creative "School for beginning Dairy Farmers" within the Farm and Industry Short Course of the UW-Madison.

Objective #3. Establish and monitor case examples of veteran graziers mentoring and sponsoring the entry of new farm families into grass-based dairying.


Materials and methods:

Objective #1. Investigate and evaluate for adaptation in Wisconsin New Zealand's programs for the education and entry of new dairy farmers.

Rationale: New Zealand has over three decades of experience with programs that identify, educate, and smoothly transition young farmers into viable dairy enterprises. Many of these new entrants are not from farm backgrounds, a positive given our sense that new farmers will need to be increasingly recruited from non-traditional sources.

Methodology: Working with a newly established liaison office between the New Zealand Pastoral Agricultural Research Institute and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UW-Madison, staff members form the UW's Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) and the Agricultural Technology and Family Farm Institute (ATFFI) will investigate New Zealand's primary new farmer training and transition mechanisms--the Dairy Cadet and the Share Milking programs--and make recommendations regarding adaptations for Wisconsin. Veteran graziers and county Extension faculty associated with the project has also visited New Zealand, are familiar with these education and entry mechanisms, and will contribute heavily to these recommendations.

Timeline: October, 1994--December, 1995. (Initial investigations will begin prior to the starting of the SARE grant.)

Objective #2. Develop a creative "School for beginning Dairy Farmers" within the Farm and Industry Short Course of the UW-Madison.

Rationale: The New Zealand model puts considerable emphasis on the high quality training of beginning farmers, through both classroom and on-farm internship experiences. The possessor of a century-long tradition of serving well farm youths who we unable or uninterested in four-year degrees, the Farm and Industry Short Course at the UW in recent decades has struggled and experienced significant enrollment declines. Developing an educational forum for beginning dairy farmers may well offer an exciting opportunity for institutional regeneration.

Methodology: Current thinking for the re-invention includes: (1) a two-year sequence involving classroom work, field visits, and veteran graziers serving as educators/mentors; (2) positioning the new "School for Beginning Dairy Farmers" to draw students from throughout the upper Midwest. Staff members from the Short Course, ATFFI, and CIAS will monitor and record dynamics of the new School.

Timeline: October, 1995-September, 1997. (Planning, curriculum development, and recruiting for the new School will begin prior to the starting of the SARE grant.)

Objective #3. Establish and monitor case examples of veteran graziers mentoring and sponsoring the entry of new farm families into grass-based dairying.

Rationale: Beginning farmer education needs to be coupled with strategic mechanisms that enable beginners to accumulate the necessary farm enterprise resources to start and sustain profitable and satisfying dairy enterprises. Farmer self-development through the mentoring and sponsorship of veterans and through the progressive accumulation of resources by beginners is a successful, time-tested dynamic in the New Zealand experience.

Methodology: Several veteran graziers involved with the project are committed to mentoring beginning farmers through adaptations of the New Zealand Share Milking program wherein new farmers initially work for wages and progressive shares of the female calves, until they accumulate sufficient milking animals and capital to begin buying out the veteran's enterprise or move to a new farm of their own. Extension agents connected with the project and staff members of the CIAS and the ATFFI will monitor and record these case studies.

Timeline: October, 1995-September, 1997. (Some of the beginning farmers in these case studies will be identified through the new School.

Outreach and Evaluation of Project Outcomes. Outreach will occur primarily through the following mechanisms: (1) communication with Grassworks, Inc., the umbrella organization of farmer grazing networks in Wisconsin and sponsor of the state's annual conference on grazing. (2) communication through the Wisconsin Department of Development's Dairy 2020 Program and through the two-year-old Wisconsin Farm Entry/Exit Coalition. (3) academic and Extension publications and news releases. (4) field days, meetings, and conferences. (All participants in the project will be available as resources persons at these gatherings and university researchers are committed to presenting project-related papers at academic conferences.)

Outcomes from the first objective will be evaluated in terms of the usable information gathered from investigating the New Zealand programs. The second objective will be evaluated by the overall effectiveness of the new School. This evaluation will be led by the Short Course staff and will involve all project participants as well as students enrolled in the new School.

Research results and discussion:

Objective #1. Investigate and evaluate for adaptation in Wisconsin and other states in the region New Zealand's programs for the education and entry of new dairy farmers.

Two members of the research team, retired farmer Russell O'Harrow and sociologist G.W. Stevenson, conducted a field investigation during the spring of 1995 of New Zealand's dairy farmer career structures. In addition to personal observations, information was gathered through interviews with a wide range of New Zealand dairy agriculturists, including farmers at all career stages, farm organizational leaders, government officials, researchers, and agricultural teachers and mentors. A report was published in May, 1996 which articulated the investigations primary findings and evaluations for beginning farmer programs in Wisconsin and the upper Midwest (See Attachment 1). Emphasizing the importance of supportive dairy farming systems and creative institutional relationships between the public and private sectors, the report has made significant contributions to addressing the other two objectives of the project, the founding of a Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers and the establishment of mentoring and apprenticeship opportunities for graduates of the new School. In addition, the report has been distributed to significant national and international audiences, with requests received for over 850 copies to date.

Objective #2. Develop a creative School for Beginning Dairy Farmers within the Farm and Industry Short Course of the UW-Madison

The Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers (WSBDF) was established summer/autumn 1995. The primary goal of the new WSBDF is to make it easier for serious young people to get started in their own grass-based dairy business. Brochures were developed to describe the unique new program to interested public and to solicit potential candidates (Attachments 2, 3, and 4). Approximately 800-1000 copies of the 1995, 1996, and 1997 brochures were distributed, primarily in Wisconsin, but also in neighboring North-Central Region states. The WSBDF was set up to offer 10 full-tuition scholarships each of the three start-up years. In the first year, eight in-state and one out-of-state scholarships were awarded to qualified candidates; two students were accepted without a scholarship award. In the second year, five in-state and one out-of-state scholarships were awarded; four students were accepted without scholarship awards. In the third year four in-state and one out-of-state scholarships were awarded.

The WSBDF offers students a unique combination of classroom and on-farm learning. Classroom learning spanned 17 weeks November-March. Students were enrolled in the Dairy Farm Management Specialty within the UW Farm and Industry Short Course Program (Attachment 5). Additionally, they attended a special Grazing Seminar, which focused on all aspects of grass-based dairying. Experienced grass-based dairy farmers, as well as UW-CALS and UWEX personnel, served as instructors for the Grazing Seminar (Attachment 6). Farmer instructors received a speaker stipend, and were reimbursed for travel expenses. Over the span of the Grazing Seminar, it was each student's responsibility to develop a business plan for their own start-up grass-based dairy. Student business plans (examples: Attachments 7, 8) were presented for critique to classmates and a panel of experienced grass-based dairy farmers in the final sessions of the seminar. The WSBDF also sponsored student attendance at the three-day Wisconsin Grazing Conference, January or February each of three years. This conference had an attendance of approximately 600 people representing the North-Central states grazing community.

At the conclusion of the 17-week classroom curriculum, students were matched with mentor grass dairy farmers to begin four-month on-farm internships (See Objective #3).

Outreach and education efforts to promote the WSBDF were aggressive. News releases were prepared for statewide distribution to appear in approximately 100 local and statewide newspapers; numerous unsolicited articles appeared in the state agricultural press; several radio interviews were conducted with the Coordinator; educational displays were set up at conferences and Wisconsin Farm Progress Days; the Coordinator and CIAS staff represented the WSBDF at numerous pasture walk farm field days; and annual brochures were mailed to approximately 800 B1000 interested parties each year. A complete list of the WSBDF Outreach Activities appears on the following page.

Efforts were initiated in the second year of this start-up School to develop a long-term grass roots funding base. A program description (Attachment 9) was written and distributed (approximately 1000 mailings) as a promotional piece. The Mike Cannell Scholarship Fund (Attachment 10) was established winter 1997 following the tragic loss of Mike Cannell, a leader in establishing programs and policies to support family farming, rural community revitalization, social justice, and sustainable agriculture. Mike was also a friend, and instrumental in helping in the start-up of the WSBDF. A WSBDF Fund has also been established and is held within the University of Wisconsin Foundation (Attachment 11). Longer-term industry support is being solicited through these fund mechanisms. At present, the Mike Cannell Scholarship Fund and the UW Foundation WSBDF Fund are supported at a level of approximately $40,000.

Objective #3. Coordinate and monitor case examples of veteran graziers who are sponsoring and mentoring the entry of new farm families into grass-based dairying.

Establishing the first step in this mentoring sequence for beginning grazing dairy farmers has been relatively easy and quite successful. This step was the 4-month summer internship required of students graduating from the new School. Students were matched with appropriate veteran graziers and mentored in a range of grass-based dairy farming competencies (See Attachment 10). Moving beyond introductory internships to more extended apprenticeships (2-3 years) during which aspiring farmers can develop substantial management skills and begin acquiring equity will be more difficult. Such important mid-career transitions are accomplished in New Zealand primarily through share-milking arrangements between beginning and established farmers. The primary challenge to adapting this transition strategy to the upper Midwestern United States is that few grass-based dairy farm enterprises are yet developed to the size where employing a full-time apprentice makes meaningful managerial sense.

A few such farms do exist, however, and one share-mailing relationship has been negotiated between a graduate of the School and the owners of a large grass-based dairy farm in southern Wisconsin. On a related front and in preparation for this share-milking agreement, a team of university of agricultural economists associated wit the project and country Extension agents have adapted New Zealand's share-milking contracts to realities in the upper Midwest (Appendix 27). Other graduates from the School have entered dairy farming through alternative mechanisms, including rental arrangements, often times on farms consciously chosen to locate these beginning farmers in proximity to established graziers who serve as members of informal mentoring networks.

A summary look at the graduates of the first three years of the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers reveals that nearly 80% of them are currently involved in farming operations and 50% are involved in enterprises in which they are making primary managerial decisions. (See section titled APotential Contributions Farmer Adoption, Impact, Involvement.)

Research conclusions:

Table 1 is a summary of farming activity by WSBDF graduates classes '96, '97, and '98. These are the first three graduating classes from the WSBDF, and the three years of the USDA SARE grant. Data in Table 1 were collected from an autumn 1998 WSBDF Graduate Follow-up survey (Attachment 25).

Survey responses, combined with follow-up telephone conversations by the Coordinator shows the following key information:

• 77% of WSBDF graduates are actively involved in farming of some kind, and most of these individuals (73%) are involved in dairy farming;
• Of the individuals that are farming, 75% are practicing managed grazing to some extent;
• And 60% have started their own dairy farming business, either in partnership or solo.

These findings indicate that WSBDF graduates are busy changing the world (!).

Student testimonials (Appendix 4) strongly support the educational experiences, which the WSBDF provided. Students spoke most favorably about:

• The dairy grazing seminar
• The internship opportunity
• The life-long relationship developed with fellow students and mentor farmers
• Dairy reproduction and nutrition courses within the Farm and Industry Short Course Program.

Students mostly commonly agreed that the WSBDF could be improved for non-traditional students (older, presently employed; sometimes with family), by allowing flexible attendance options. It is often the non-traditional student who is seriously looking and ready to start into their own farming career. Based on this feedback from WSBDF graduates, we have introduced flexible attendance and distance education options for the fourth (present) and upcoming fifth year of the program.

The University of Wisconsin College of Agriculture and Life Sciences plans to release an official impact statement as regards the WSBDF. A draft of that statement is attached (Attachment 26).

The WSBDF continues as an ongoing educational effort. Work since August 1998 is summarized below.

Students 1998/1999

• 12-15 students (varies by term) enrolled in the Dairy Grazing Seminar through Farm and Industry Short Course.
• 8 students enrolled through distance education option by telephone conference hookup; our class is the first ever in CALS to offer a distance attendance option.
• 2 students to present business plans to farmer panel March 24; they will receive Honors credit for this work.

No students have committed to the internship opportunity at this time; I'm expecting that we will have several students enrolled as interns this summer.

Work in progress

• Class 1999/2000 application process.
• Applications are due April 1 for full scholarship consideration; we've had approximately 10 requests for the application package to date.
• UW Foundation WSBDF Fund. Major fund raising mailing to take place approximately April 1 to Wisconsin dairy agribusinesses, electric and water cooperatives, and agricultural organizations, Department of Dairy Science and CALS alumni, as well as to our standing mailing list (approx. 1000 names) of producers, agency offices, agriculture instructors, and interested public. The Mike Cannell Scholarship Fund and the UW Foundation WSBDF Fund, combined, are presently at a support level of approx. $40,000.
• Farm and Industry Short Course scholarship award committee; scholarship awards will be made by the end of April.
• Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin education committee; this new effort by the PDPW group needs our experience with farm career entry training, and we can benefit from the critical mass of committed producers they bring to the table.
• Center for Dairy Profitability assistance with additional distance education capability. It is our goal to offer the 1999/2000 Dairy Grazing Seminar by on-line computer hookup.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers Outreach Activities September 1997 - August 1998

September - October 1997: WSBDF student recruitment

November 1997: Press release to 100 Wisconsin local newspapers, Wisconsin state agricultural press, national farm publications, and computer internet list servers (Attachment 13)

January 1998: 1998 brochure mailed to approximately 1000 interested parties

February 1998: Presentation and display table, Wisconsin Grazing conference, Stevens Point, WI

March 1998:
• Article, Wisconsin State Journal (Attachment 15)
• Article, Agri View - state agriculture newspaper (Attachment 16)

April 1998: Radio interview, Wisconsin Public Radio

June - August 1998:
• 16 WSBDF mentor/intern and WSBDF graduate farm field days (Attachment 17)

July 1998:
• Press release 100 Wisconsin local newspapers, Wisconsin state agriculture press, national farm publications, and computer internet list servers (Attachment 18)
• Article, Agri View - state agriculture newspaper (Attachment 19)
• Display table, Wisconsin Association of Vocational Agriculture Instructors Conference, Madison, WI

August 1998: WSBDF graduation ceremony, Middleton, WI (Attachment 20)

September 1998:
• Article, Wisconsin State Farmer (Attachment 21)
• Press release to 100 Wisconsin local newspapers, Wisconsin state agriculture press, national farm publications, and computer internet list servers (Attachment 22)
• Display tables (3), Wisconsin Farm Progress Days, Dunn County, WI


Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems Research Brief #37. Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers. January, 1999. (Attachment 23)

Dairy Grazing Seminar reference notebook. March, 1999. (In progress).

Cassette Tapes

Forum on grass-based dairy economics and start-up strategies. Wisconsin Grazing Conference. February, 1999. (Attachment 24)

1998/1999 Dairy Grazing Seminar - all seminars are available on cassette tape

Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers Outreach Activities September 1996 - August 1997
(press releases/articles previously sent along with 96/97 Annual Report)

December 1996: Press release to 100 Wisconsin local newspapers, Wisconsin state agricultural press, and national farm publications

January 1997:
• 1997 brochure mailed to approx. 1000 interested parties.
• Presentation and display table, Wisconsin Grazing Conference, Stevens Point, WI.

February 1997: Two articles in The Stockman Grass Farmer, a national magazine published in Jackson, MS

April 1997:
• Radio interview (3 parts), KFIZ Fond du Lac, WI.
• Article, The Stockman Grass Farmer

May-Aug 97: Twelve WSBDF mentor/intern farm field days

June 1997:
• Presentation and display table, Wisconsin Forage Expo, Waupaca County.
• Mentor farm tour (Bickford Farms, Ridgeway and Truttmann Dairy, Mt. Horeb) in conjunction with the Agriculture Food, and Human Values Conference, Madison, WI.
• Press release to 100 Wisconsin local newspapers, Wisconsin state agriculture press, and national farm publications.

July 1997:
• Display table, Wisconsin Association of Vocational Agricultural Instructors Conference, Madison, WI.
• Display table, Wisconsin Farm Progress Days, Manitowoc County.

August 1997:
• Radio interview, Q104 Madison, WI.
• WSBDF graduation ceremony.
• Expertise/Training session, Wabasha County, MN.

Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy Farmers Outreach Activities July 1995 - August 1996
(press release/articles previously sent along with 95/96 Annual Report)

July 1995:
• Brochure development; mailed out to approx. 800 interested parties
• 2 press releases, 100 state newspapers and state agriculture press

Nov. 1995: Radio interview, KFIZ Fond du Lac, WI.
Jan. 1996: Press release, 100 state newspapers and state agriculture press

Feb. 1996:
• 1996 brochure development
• display table - Wisconsin Grazing Conference
• 2 articles, AgriView - state agriculture newspaper

March 1996:
• Presentation, Wisconsin Farmers Assistance Conference.
• Article, Appleton Post-Crescent, Appleton, WI

April 1996: Article, Pasture Talk

May-August: WSBDF Mentor/intern farm field days: 1996
• Mike and Charlotte Cannell, Cazenovia, WI - May 23rd.
• Tom and Karen Stankowski, Mosinee, WI - May 28th.
• Harley and Nancy Troester, Potosi, WI - June 25th-26th.
• Dr. Dave and Cheryl Olson, Eleva, WI - June 27th.
• Dan and Ruth Vosberg, South Wayne, WI - July 2nd.
• Bert and Trish Paris, Belleville, WI - July 3rd.
• Lyle and Pearl Guralski, Athens, WI - Wisconsin Farm Progress Days - July 16th-18th.

June 1996:
• Brochure mailed out to approx. 800 interested parties
• Article, Country Today - state agriculture press
• Presentations, Wisconsin Forage Exp., Grant County

July 1996:
• Press release, 100 state newspapers and state agriculture press
• Presentation, Wisconsin Association of Vocational Agriculture Instructors
• Display table, Wisconsin Farm Progress Days.

August 1996: WSBDF Graduation ceremony.

Project Outcomes


Areas needing additional study

Two research projects have been initiated at the UW-Madison that seek information related to dairy farm entry strategies relevant to graduates of the School and to other inspiring farmers of a similar status. Co-sponsored by the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and the Program on Agricultural Technology, the first is collecting and analyzing data on a systematically-selected sample of thirty-five Wisconsin farm families who have entered the industry in the past five years. The following four categories of entering farmers are being compared: those with farm backgrounds who are taking over a family farm, those with farm backgrounds who are beginning on a separate farm, those with non-farm backgrounds, and those whose entry attempts proved unsuccessful. Roughly twenty percent of the cases involve grass-based dairy enterprises.

The second research project focuses exclusively on entry dynamics for grass-based dairy farmers. It explores resources and strategies relevant to the following four types of entrants: "young" entrants (low skill/low equity), "second career" entrants (low skill/high equity), "advanced" entrants (high skill/low equity), and "independent" entrants (high skill/high equity). Of particular importance for this research will be investigation of apprenticeship (or share-milking) opportunities for aspiring graziers on conventional, confinement-based dairy enterprises, given the currently small number of apprenticeship opportunities on grass-based farms in the state.

The funding from both research projects will feed into non-traditional mentoring and transition strategies being explored in Wisconsin by a coalition of agencies, including the UW, the UW Extension, the Wisconsin Technical College System, and the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. Findings from these research projects will also be shared with the North Central SARE office.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.