Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship is a two-year program that pairs beginning farmers with mentors—known as master graziers—to provide a guided pathway toward managing or starting a pastured dairy farm. Using a model of education that has prepared skilled workers in the trades for generations, Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship combines paid, on-the-job training with related technical coursework.
The program also serves to strengthen the economic and environmental wellbeing of rural communities. Host farmers and apprentices become part of an engaged peer learning network of dairy graziers in their region, who collaborate to improve their grazing management strategies and business models.
Founded by dairy farmers in Wisconsin in 2010, Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship was the first nationally registered farming apprenticeship in the country and is now operating in several states. PASA administers the program in Pennsylvania and surrounding areas.
Apprentices receive 3,700 hours of on-the-job training and 300 hours of related technical coursework over two years.
Host farmers train the next generation of dairy graziers & gain access to pre-qualified employees invested in farming as a career.
Both apprentices and their host farmers receive business planning support.
Master graziers receive:
A dairy grazier is a farmer who practices “rotational grazing” techniques to mimic the movements of wild herds in natural ecosystems. Rotational grazing builds soil health, keeps water clean, fosters the wellbeing of the herd, and ultimately produces high-quality milk and other dairy products. (Photo credit: Emily Decker)
Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship consists of 4,000 hours of training over a two-year period. It includes 3,700 hours of paid employment—apprentices “earn while they learn”—and mentoring under the guidance of an experienced grazier. The on-the-job training is complemented with 300 hours of related technical coursework on topics that include:
Apprentices (and often their host farmers) also participate in discussion groups, pasture walks, and farming conferences, as well as networking events and professional development trainings. Additionally, both apprentices and their host farmers receive business planning guidance through the program.
After two years, apprentices who have met all the program requirements become a certified Journey Dairy Grazier. (A “journey person” is an official title for someone who has completed a formal apprenticeship in a skilled trade.) Journey Dairy Graziers typically go on to start their own farms, work as herd managers, or enter into farm transition arrangements. They are also eligible for Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan credits.
Apprenticeship is a tried-and-true model of education that has prepared workers in the skilled trades for generations.