Wis. dairy farmers create apprenticeship to prepare next generation

Published On: Apr 28 2013 07:31:19 PM CDT   Updated On: Apr 28 2013 07:36:00 PM CDT
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

A group of Wisconsin dairy farmers is trying to expand a new program that will pave the way for the future of its industry.

The Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship was started two years ago by a group of farmers in Wisconsin.

Program director Joe Tomandl said the first apprentices were at farms in the central and eastern part of the state but now they're looking to expand into the La Crosse area.

Students in the apprenticeship spend two years on a farm, learning alongside a seasoned farmer and attending some courses at local colleges.

The goal is to create a well-rounded course that will prepare the next generation of dairy farmers.

"We're trying to create that pathway to farm transition. The average age of our farmer right now in the state and in the nation is between 55 and 57 years old so there's a lot of these individuals and families that are looking to transition that farm in the next decade and many of them don't have anyone to turn it over to," said Tomandl.

Tomandl said this is the only  program of its kind in the nation.

It's currently being reviewed by the Federal Department of Labor as a possible national model.