Through its Farmers Advocating for Organics (FAFO) fund, Organic Valley Family of Farms, the nation’s oldest and largest cooperative of organic farmers, today announced a $50,000 contribution to the UW-Madison School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers (WSBDF).
The contribution is one of the school’s most significant to date and will provide training and mentoring for students looking to a future in pasture-based organic dairy or livestock farming.
New endowment initiative
Organic Valley’s contribution comes in an endowment as part of the WSBDF’s recently launched endowment initiative. The initiative provides opportunities for organizations that value Wisconsin’s agricultural heritage and rural communities to foster a new generation of farmers who will care for the land and grow its food.
Since its inception in 1995, WSBDF has guided and inspired graduates into successful farming careers through winter classroom curriculum and business plan development, on-farm internships, farm field trips, conferences and networking.
Today’s growing demand for organics can only be met by working to ensure there will be a next generation of farmers,” said George Siemon, chief executive officer for Organic Valley and one of the co-op’s seven founding farmers. “Organic Valley is proud to support the WSBDF in a collaborative effort to nurture this next generation by providing tangible opportunities for them to start and succeed in our industry.”
One of a kind
The WSBDF, the only program of its kind in the United States, emphasizes business planning and pasture-based farm management, with an increasing focus on organic farming. Of the WSBDF’s graduates actively engaged in dairy or other livestock farming, one fourth are entering into organics.
“We’re incredibly grateful for Organic Valley’s generous contribution to our program,” said Dick Cates, WSBDF director. “More than half of our budget is raised through external grants and private contributions, so support from our local businesses is essential in helping the WSBDF continue to help new farmers succeed and in turn ensure our rural communities continue to thrive.”
Proceeds from WSBDF’s endowment will fund a portion of the operating costs of the program each year and help serve as leverage with the Wisconsin legislature as WSBDF works to secure long-term public funding.
The WSBDF is a program of the University of Wisconsin Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and Farm and Industry Short Course. This year, in addition to the UW-Madison location, distance education is offered at four sites throughout Wisconsin, including Reedsburg, Wausau, Phillips and Spooner. Visit www.cias.wisc.edu/dairysch.html for details.