- Education and Training: farmer to farmer, mentoring, technical assistance
Managed grazing is a sustainable method by which farmers can produce high quality food and many ecosystem services. The overall goal of this project is to better equip a targeted group of educators and farmers associated with Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA) to train the next generation of dairy farmers, focusing on sustainable farming practices including managed grazing. The overall effectiveness of DGA hinges largely on the knowledge and abilities of these outlying Education Coordinators and Masters.
Outcomes of the project include:
- Improved educational and mentoring skills for Education Coordinators and Master Graziers (a.k.a. Masters), who are critical within DGA and more broadly in training this next generation of grazing dairy farmers.
- Increased knowledge of grazing dairy systems for Education Coordinators and Masters, including the diversity of practices that can lead to a successful operation.
- All of which will lead to improved morale for the industry, increasing number of grazing dairy farms, and improved sustainability (environmental and economic) of the overall dairy industry.
Activities will include:
- An annual Education Coordinator seminar where all DGA Education Coordinators come together at a central location once per year to gain skills related to administering DGA, networking, visiting farms and learning skills relevant to successful dairy grazing.
- An annual Master Grazier Summit, where DGA Masters will gather to learn from experts in the field, network with others that are mentoring Apprentices, further plans with Education Coordinators and DGA staff.
- Virtual learning opportunities for Education Coordinators, Masters and DGA Apprentices.
Project objectives from proposal:
The network of regional DGA Education Coordinators currently spans the North Central and Northeast U.S. regions. The partnership between these Education Coordinators and DGA staff is critical to the success of the organization and mission. The annual seminars proposed in this project will provide an extremely valuable opportunity for these individuals to gather at a common location to network, share strategies, improve common curriculum, and inspire everyone to conduct excellent work on behalf of DGA.
The partnerships between Education Coordinators and Masters is equally important to the mission of DGA. The opportunities for networking and learning at Master Summits and Virtual Roundtables allows these groups to interface and learn together.
An important product of the proposed activities will be participation in meetings and events. In particular, anticipated attendance at Education Coordinator Seminars and Education Coordinator Virtual Meetings will be approximately 20 total individuals (15 Education Coordinators and 5 DGA Staff). These same 20 individuals (subject to change with position turnover or expansion of program) would have recurring participation in the activities focused on them.
The in-person attendance goal for each of the Master Summits is 30 grazing dairy farmers for each event. Furthermore, we would expect an additional 10 DGA staff and/or Education Coordinators and up to 30 Apprentice candidates at each of these Summits. An additional 30-50 DGA Masters and Apprentices would be expected to participate virtually. Public participation will be encouraged for a portion of the summit, and attendance will likely vary regionally.
The attendance goal for the Virtual Roundtables is 30 live participants for each session. In addition, recordings of each Roundtable will be made available online, which we would expect to have a long-lasting impact with the potential for dozens if not hundreds of views in the three years following the live event. These recorded roundtables are a key educational output from this PDP, as the information will be a very useful and impactful mix between scientific based recommendations and on the ground farmer logistics and observations.
Improvements and additions to existing DGA curriculum and other educational materials will be continuously updated during the course of this project. This includes the DGA Training Manual and other print/online resources available to Education Coordinators, Masters and Apprentices, as well as the online courses offered through the Managed Grazing Innovation Center. The proposed events will provide key opportunities to gather feedback from Education Coordinators and Masters about the educational materials, which can continuously be updated to improve the experience for the mentors and Apprentices.