Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA), the first registered Apprenticeship for farming in the United States, is celebrating a milestone. On Tuesday, January 18th, DGA’s National Apprenticeship Training Committee approved graduate status for two Apprentices, Jacob Lee and Dale Pratt, marking DGA graduates 49 and 50, respectively. Having completed all requirements for this unique and rigorous program, Lee and Pratt join a cohort of next-generation farmers who are recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor as certified Journey Dairy Graziers.
“It’s a significant accomplishment,” says DGA Executive Director, Joseph Tomandl, III. “DGA has received hundreds of applications—to secure an Apprenticeship with one of our approved Mentors, then work full-time on a dairy farm, while completing classes, learning all the ins and outs of not only managed grazing dairy but also running a small business… not everyone makes it through.”
The two-year Apprenticeship combines a minimum of 3,700 hours of work-based training under an approved Mentor with 300 hours of related coursework, peer discussion groups, and networking opportunities. Initiated in Wisconsin as a statewide program, DGA became a National Apprenticeship in 2015 and now has more than 200 approved Mentor training farms in 15 states. DGA partners with eight other organizations and universities to provide educational support across its expanding service area.
“We’ve been really excited about the growth of the program and the continued interest in dairy farming, especially regenerative managed grazing, among young people,” notes Angie Sullivan, Director of Apprenticeship. Even those Apprentices who do not graduate gain real-life skills, experience, and connections during their time working with a Mentor, according to Sullivan. More than 600,000 hours of training have been delivered to aspiring dairy farmers through the Apprenticeship as well as DGA’s Internship option.
In 2019, to increase access to its curriculum and network of producers, DGA launched an online school, the Managed Grazing Innovation Center (MGIC) , which is open to the general public and offers the same custom courses available to Apprentices. DGA sponsored on-farm events, also open to the public, give current and aspiring producers an opportunity to learn more about managed grazing, the program, industry trends, and innovations.
According to Tomandl, “Managed grazing dairy has the potential to address many of the environmental and economic challenges facing our rural communities—DGA’s goal as an organization is to develop skilled people who can be part of the solution.”
To find out more about regenerative managed grazing as well as Apprenticeships and Internships, MGIC classes, and on-farm events, visit https://www.dga-national.org/