Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA) is the first formally accredited agricultural apprenticeship program in the United States. The program pairs beginning farmers with mentors—or master graziers—to provide a guided pathway toward independent dairy farm ownership or a career in grazing while strengthening the economic and environmental wellbeing of rural communities and the dairy industry.
Using the model of education that has prepared skilled workers in the trades for generations, DGA combines work-based training with related instruction for the federally recognized occupation of “Dairy Grazier.”
DGA was founded by dairy farmers in Wisconsin, and is now operating in several states across the country. PASA administers apprenticeships in Pennsylvania and surrounding areas.
A dairy grazier is a farmer who uses managed grazing. In managed grazing systems, the majority of farm acres are planted with perennial forages, and cows are rotated through paddocks of high-quality grasses and clovers that are allowed to rest and regrow. Farmers use lightweight portable fencing to mimic movements of wild herds in natural ecosystems.
Apprenticeship is a structured system of training designed to prepare individuals for skilled occupations by combining on-the-job training with related instruction. Apprentices earn while they learn, and their skills are nationally recognized.
The DGA program consists of 4,000 hours of training over a two-year period. It combines 3,712 hours of employment and mentoring under a master grazier with 288 hours of related instruction that includes courses on:
DGA apprentices also participate in discussion groups, pasture walks, and farming conferences, as well as networking events and professional development trainings.
After two years, apprentices who have met all the program requirements earn Journey Dairy Grazier status. Journey Dairy Graziers are eligible for FSA loan credit, and typically go on to start their own farms, work as herd managers, or enter into farm transition arrangements.
DGA provides business planning guidance for both apprentices and masters.