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Program June 3 highlights women livestock farmers
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DODGEVILLE — A network of experienced female farmers is hosting a workshop to offer support to beginning livestock farmers in Southwest Wisconsin.

The effort is part of a program called the Mentorship Program for Future Livestock Farmers. The program offers matchmaking to setup mentorships between beginning and experienced livestock farmers. 

“Women have always played a significant role in managing livestock farms in Wisconsin,” said Laura Paine, program director of the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship Program. “Today, there is a growing trend toward more women as sole proprietors or primary operators of livestock farms.”

The beginning farmers spend a year checking-in with farmer mentors, improving their business plans, and attending workshops to learn how to grow their businesses, while enhancing the health of the land through managed grazing. 

Erica and Dan Wiederholt rent the family’s farm in Cuba City to raise crops and grass-fed beef. They recently received financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to setup a grazing system on the farm and plan to market beef through the Wisconsin Grass-Fed Beef Cooperative. Eventually they hope to transition the farm to organic dairy production. 

“My mentor will help me to gain the knowledge to implement my own grazing plan” said Erica.

“The mentorship program aims to develop a network of mutual support among farmers,” said program director Wendy Warren. “We help new farmers overcome the barriers to starting a farm by connecting them with resources to gain experience, access credit, and find land to rent for well-managed grazing. Our Grazing Broker helps farmers to start farming on rented land by connecting them with grassland landowners in Southwest Wisconsin. In many cases landowners are female so they may share the perspectives and experiences of female farmers.”

A workshop will be held at Dorothy’s Grange, W8707 Sawmill Road, Blanchardville, Friday, June 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to show and tell how local women farmers can get started raising livestock on pasture. Speakers will describe the basics of rotational grazing, certified organic livestock production, and the logistics of integrating livestock into farm and family.

The workshop is co-sponsored by Southwest Badger RC&D, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, and Wisconsin Farmers Union South-Central Chapter. The cost for the event, locally-sourced lunch, tour of Dorothy’s Grange, a farrow-to-finish hog operation, and a copy of the book Soil Sisters: A Toolkit for Women Farmers (retail value $24.95) is $50 per person. Registration without the book is $30. Scholarships are available by request. 

The event is open to the public but RSVP is requested at 732-1202 before May 27.

The Grazing Broker is supported by grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Southwest Badger Resource Conservation & Development Council, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working in the Southwest Wisconsin region. The organization’s mission is to implement natural resource conservation, managed growth, and sustainable rural economic development in the area through education and implementation of best practices relating to agriculture, grasslands, forests, and surface waters.