Apprentice Program Trains Next Generation of Farmers

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In Wisconsin, the census shows the state lost 8,700 farms in the last five years and the average age of a farmer is 57-years-old. To make sure farming remains a staple in our state, the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship was start in 2010 in Medford.

Program Director, Joe Tomandl says, "If we want to become a teacher, doctor, or layer there's a pathway. But if we want to become a dairy farmer, there really isn't. So we created a formalized apprenticeship registered with the WI Dept. of Workforce Development in dairy farming."

The objective is after two years, a person has the skills to help manage a dairy or transition into a dairy operation. Apprentices work on a farm under a guided workbook. Tomandl describes it as a paying job, "earning while learning."

So far, 7 people have completed the course and are now working in the dairy industry. Currently, there are 5 apprentices going through the course.

To qualify, you must be at least 18-years-old, with a high school diploma. There's no cost to enroll; however you are expected to pay for your related instruction classes.

Tomandl says he's working with the Federal Dept. of Labor to make this a national program.

To learn more about the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship, visit their booth in the Progress Tent at the Portage Co. Farm Technology Days or click on the link posted. You can also check it out on Facebook - Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship.

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