DODGEVILLE, Wis. — The search for farmers to serve as mentors to beginning livestock farmers in Southwest Wisconsin will continue until March 1st. According to Dick Cates, Director for the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers, “Our students will benefit a great deal from a larger network of mentors to answer technical questions, host short visits, and potentially offer internship opportunities. I am personally excited to be involved in the expanded community of graziers that is developing through this program.”
The search for farmers is part of a program called the Mentorship Program for Future Livestock Farmers. Fifteen beginning farmers will spend the next year periodically checking-in with a farmer mentor, improving their business plans, and attending workshops to learn how to grow their small businesses, while enhancing the health of the land through managed grazing. Several of the beginning farmer participants want to get started by renting land for well-managed grazing. Other participants own land and need coaching to expand their businesses.
The fifteen beginners represent the diversity of Wisconsin’s population. Among the group are veterans of the United States Army, Navy, and Air Force, and a member of the Wisconsin Air National Guard. “We match our program participants with experienced farmers in their fields of interest, including background in military service or identification with a historically underserved group of farmers” says Robert Bauer, director of the mentorship program. “Clearly military veterans, among other folks, are drawn to careers in agriculture. Military veterans and service members’ skills are very applicable in a farm setting. And working with animals is a healing experience that I hope more beginning farmers can experience. We need more mentors enrolled in the program to share their experience with beginning farmers.”
Mentors currently in the program include farmers with experience in contract grazing, grass-fed beef, pastured pork, goat dairying, and brush control with goats. According to Wendy Warren, assistant director for the mentorship program, “Our mentors’ motivations are diverse. Some mentors hope to eventually pass on their farm to a qualified beginning farmer. Other mentors simply enjoy sharing what they know.” The mentor participants will receive training to plan their mentorship, as well as compensation for their time spent coaching new farmers.
The deadline to apply for mentors and beginners is March 1, 2016. Application forms are available online at www.swbadger.org/beginning-farmers or by request at 608-732-1202.
The kickoff is scheduled for February 29, 2016 from 10:00 am-2:00 pm at Quality Inn, 1345 Business Park Rd, Mineral Point, Wisconsin, where the program will host an orientation for participants. Dr. Allen Williams, a sixth-generation beef farmer, former USDA meat inspector, and grass fed beef expert will guide participants through the principles of a successful grass-fed operation. The workshop is co-sponsored by The Pasture Project and the Wisconsin Grass-Fed Beef Cooperative. The cost for the workshop and lunch is $20 per person. Scholarships are available for military veterans. The event is open to the public but RSVP is required with Robert Bauer at 608-732-1202 before February 17.
The Grazing Broker is supported by grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Federation and United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Southwest Badger Resource Conservation & Development Council, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working in the Southwest Wisconsin region. The organization’s mission is to implement natural resource conservation, managed growth, and sustainable rural economic development in the area through education and implementation of best practices relating to agriculture, grasslands, forests, and surface waters.
The Mentorship Program for Future Livestock Farmers connects beginning livestock farmers to financial coaching, business mentorship, and land through the Southwest Badger RC&D Grazing Broker. To sign-up to receive updates on events in the region visit www.swbadger.org, www.facebook.com/SWBadger, phone 608-732-1202, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to view the flyer for the program: Mentorship Program Flier March 1
— Southwest Badger Resource Conservation & Development Council
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