MINNEAPOLIS, MN— It’s no secret that consumers are driving the rapid growth in grass-based and organic dairy markets. Values based shoppers have proven themselves willing to invest their food dollars in agricultural systems that provide nutritious products, improve animal welfare, and protect natural resources. Managed grazing production systems deliver on all fronts and consumer demand for grass-based dairy has been identified as a key trend. This is good news for current dairy graziers. But what if “the product” is not milk or butter or cheese but farmers themselves?
Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA), a formal Apprenticeship in managed-grazing dairy production, links current and aspiring dairy farmers and provides a guided pathway for the transfer of knowledge, skills, and farms to the next generation. Developed initially by farmers in Wisconsin to address farm loss and environmental concerns, DGA is now an accredited National Apprenticeship with 75 approved farm sites in seven states, including Minnesota. This innovative program is training the farmers who will supply these growth markets into the future.
To support the educational efforts of Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship, five area Whole Foods Market Minnesota stores recently chose the organization for its One Dime at a Time program, which provides an incentive to customers who bring their own bags for shopping. Between March and June of 2016, customers at the register had the option to receive a 10-cent per bag refund as cash back off their purchase or choose to donate it to that month’s selected charity organization. Those dimes add up and raised $10,710 for DGA.
“We’ve been looking for creative ways to reach out to consumers,” says DGA Communications Coordinator, Bridget O’Meara, “so we were thrilled to have this opportunity to engage people who are already very knowledgeable about food and farming.”
The money raised will go into a DGA Educational Fund that is managed by Central Wisconsin Community Foundation to help Apprentices cover the costs of coursework required to enhance their two years of on-farm training. Although the promotion has ended, individuals can still contribute to the fund by donating online
To find out more about DGA, including partners, program requirements, and case studies of graduates, as well as the benefits of managed grazing dairy production, visit www.dga-national.org
Joseph Tomandl, III, Executive Director
Laura Paine, Program Director firstname.lastname@example.org 608-338-9039
Bridget O’Meara, Communications Coordinator email@example.com 715-410-2956