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Serving: WI

UW Beginning Farmer School Offers Classes, Mentoring

UW Beginning Farmer School Offers Classes, Mentoring
The 15-week course begins Nov. 10.

If you're an aspiring dairy or livestock farmer looking for some instruction and mentoring within reasonable driving distance, the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers (WSBDF) wants to hear from you.

The school hopes to offer its distance education program at 17 sites around the state this year, but at least three students must sign up for a site for the program to be offered there.

Participants in the Farm Services Agency's (FSA) beginning farmer loan programs are encouraged to apply. WSBDF qualifies for the business training the FSA program requires.

The distance education classrooms are designed for students who want start farming but aren't able to attend class in Madison. Each classroom will have video and audio links to the weekly seminar based in Madison, but will also have an on-site instructor and feature guest lectures by local grazing specialists, farm lenders and experienced farmers. Students also tour local farms and have opportunities to participate in internships and industry conferences.

"Our students consistently tell us that these opportunities to talk to farmers, especially young graduates of the WSBDF who are succeeding in dairy and livestock farming, is one of most valuable parts of the program," says program director Dick Cates.

The WSBDF curriculum covers all aspects of business planning, from farm selection, design and remodeling to animal and pasture management. About three-fourths of those who graduated from WSBDF since 1996 are now farming. Of those, about half started their own farm businesses.

The school is offered through the UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course. The 15-week course begins Nov. 10 and meets every Thursday from 11 a.m.-1:15 p.m. through March 22 (the class meets Tuesday, Nov. 22 during Thanksgiving week and takes a four-week break in late December and January).

Tuition and fees vary by site, number of credits earned and how the student enrolls. Typically, students who take the class at an off-campus site pay between $200 and $300 (and end up with a completed business plan).  Students who want to earn a certificate of completion or 1-3 college credits (either UW-Madison or Wisconsin Technical College) pay the per-credit fee charged by the institution.

The deadline for applications for the distance sites is Nov. 1. Some scholarships are available. Those interested should contact the facilitator at the appropriate site:

Antigo: Alex Crockford, UW-Extension, Langlade County, 715-627-6236, [email protected]

Appleton: Randy Tenpas, Fox Valley Technical College, 920-735-5673, [email protected]

Chilton: Jeremy Hanson, Fox Valley Technical College @ Chilton Regional Center, 920- 849-4416; [email protected] or Greg Booher, Lakeshore Technical College, 920-693-1241; [email protected]

Independence: Mary Anderson, River Country RC&D, 715-538-4396 ext 33; [email protected]

Lancaster: Arin Crooks, Agricultural Research Station, 608-723-2580; [email protected]

Ladysmith: Rich Toebe, UW-Extension, Rusk County, 715-532-2151, [email protected]

Neillsville: Maria Bendixen, UW-Extension, Clark County, 715-743-5121; [email protected]

Medford: Sandy Stuttgen, UW-Extension, Taylor County, 715-748-3327; [email protected]

Menomonie: Mark Denk, Chippewa Valley Technical College, 715-577-3036; [email protected]

Phillips: Mark Kopecky, UW-Extension Price County, 715-339-2555; [email protected]

Prairie du Chien: Vance Haugen, UW Extension, Crawford County, 608-326-0223; [email protected]

Reedsburg: Doug Marshall, MATC-Reedsburg, 608-524-7727; [email protected]

Spooner: Otto Wiegand, UW-Extension, Washburn, Sawyer & Burnett Counties, 715-635-3506, [email protected]

Thorp: Brad Sirianni, Chippewa Valley Technical College, 715-579-5834;

[email protected]

Viroqua: Jean Stramel, Grazing Specialist, 608-647-8874 ext110;     

[email protected]      

Waupaca:  Lynn Jerrett, Fox Valley Technical College, 920-831-4387; [email protected] 

Wausau: Victoria Pietz, Northcentral Technical College, 715-803-1414; [email protected]

To get application materials to attend the WSBDF on the Madison campus, or to get more information about any aspect of the program, go online to or call 608-265-6437.

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