GrassWorks, a grassroots nonprofit membership organization dedicated to increasing awareness of the benefits of managed grazing among farmers, policy makers and the general public, sponsored the 21st annual Wisconsin Grazing Conference, Jan. 17-19 at the Patriot Center.
During the conference, which was attended by 275 people, GrassWorks held its annual meeting electing Juli Engel of DeForest to her first term on the Board of Directors and reelecting Matt Hartwig of Athens.
Returing board members include: Peter Arnold, Edgar; Dave Vetrano, Bangor; Bob Winkel, Waupun; Kevin Mahalko, Gilman and Cheyenne Christiansen of Chetek.
Current officers all retained their positions, including David Johnson, Arcadia - president; Daniel Olson, Lena - vice president; Kay Craig, New Holstein - treasurer; and Wendy Galbraith, Aniwa - secretary.
GrassWorks provides leadership, education and resources for grass-based farmers and regional organizations that support graziers.
The organization also encourages young people to begin farming through its Dairy Grazier Apprenticeship Program, the first and only fully accredited, formal apprenticeship for farming in the United States. Its goal is to make managed grazing the standard method of farming in Wisconsin by 2020.
Four recent graduates of the program - Clem Miller, Brandon Probst, Gabby Rojas and Nate Weisenfeld, were recognized just before the annual meeting.
The apprenticeship program links current and aspiring graziers in the transfer of farms and graziers skills and knowledge, develops alliances with agricultural, environmental, and consumer groups and provides opportunities for farmers and their customers to invest in the next generation of grazing farmers.
The program enables experienced dairy graziers to share and transfer their knowledge to the next generation.
These master graziers must have five years of successful grazing experience or be a graduate of the dairy grazing apprenticeship program, and must be capable of training apprentices in the core work processes identified for this trade and employ a full-time experienced dairy grazier or other qualified individual to supervise and/or train the apprentice.
Apprentices must have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED, or a composite score on the ACT of at least 18, or minimum Accuplacer test scores in math and reading.
They must be at least 18 years of age, must be physically able to perform the work of the trade with reasonable accommodations and without hazard to themselves or others and have reliable transportation to and from work and school.
The Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship is a two-year program established by GrassWorks and the Wisconsin Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards (BAS) with the support from USDA-NIFA's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.
It is composed of 4,000 paid hours of training over two years (the equivalent of a full-time job). There are 3,712 hours of on-the-farm employment and mentoring by a Master Dairy Grazier and 288 hours are paid for instruction.
Apprenticeships are open to anyone - from the complete novice to the seasoned farmhand - who wants to become a dairy farmer. Individuals may receive program credit for approved previous education. More information is available from the program's director Joe Tomandl, IL. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 715-560-0389.
GrassWorks represents graziers and advocates for changes in public policy that recognize managed grazing as a tool for improving the quality of food and the environment, the stewardship of animals and the profitability of farms.
The organization also facilitates on-farm research by members and works with science professionals through the Wisconsin Institute of Sustainable Agriculture (WISA) Research Program, gathering information on the impacts of managed grazing in communities, the environment and society.