Organic Dairy Research and Farmer Training Program

Nationwide, the average age of dairy farmers is approaching 60 and the number of farms producing milk is in decline. Too few young people are entering the dairy industry.

Wolfe’s Neck Center’s Organic Dairy Farmer Training Program is a two-year residential apprenticeship program for new and transitioning commercial organic dairy farmers. This first-of-its kind program allows apprentices to learn hands-on in all aspects of our certified organic dairy operation.

The Wolfe’s Neck Training Program is part of the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship, a National Apprenticeship under the U.S. Department of Labor-Employment and Training Administration. It consists of 4,000 hours of training over a period of two years.  Of these hours, 3,712 hours are employment and mentoring under an approved Master Dairy Grazier.

A comprehensive DGA Training Manual lays out the competencies that must be met in order to own and operate a managed-grazing organic dairy farm, providing a blueprint for the mentoring process. The other 288 hours are related instruction designed to enhance on-farm training.

Our goal is to prepare each Apprentice to become a valuable member of the organic dairy industry with the knowledge to manage a grazing farm successfully at the conclusion of their two-year apprenticeship. The program will provide a guided pathway to the knowledge, skills, experiences and resources our Apprentices will need to begin their own organic dairy enterprise.  Our focus is on using and teaching regenerative practices.

This program is the first of its kind in the nation, and was launched in partnership with Stonyfield.

Meet Our Apprentices

Haden Gooch

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Josh Harlan

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Tierney Lawlor

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Kelly O’Connell

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Lauren Robertson

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Abigial Smith

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Haden Gooch

I fell in love with grazing, and working with beef cows at the previous farm I worked at, Free Union Grass Farm in central Virginia. My last season there I bought a Jersey milk cow and sold raw milk as a side project. I learned that dairy cows and the management practices that comes along with milking cows was totally different than beef, and wanted to further my education in dairy by doing an internship. I made a trip to Wolfe’s Neck, and immediately fell in love with the landscape. It wasn’t too long after that initial visit when I actually moved and started working here.

I help out with anything that involves keeping cows alive, productive, and healthy.

I love playing guitar/watching live music, cooking, eating good food, drinking milk, and snowboarding.

Josh Harlan

After graduating from college I started an apprenticeship at Aldermere Farm in Rockport Maine. After completing that program, I was looking for another apprenticeship and found Wolfe’s Neck Farm.

I take care of all the animals at Wolfe’s Neck Center.

When I’m not at Wolfe’s Neck, I spend a lot of time traveling home to Missouri, hanging out at the Banter house with the other apprentices, and exploring Freeport.

Tierney Lawlor

Growing up in Ansonia, Connecticut I did not have much of a farm background. During high school, I volunteered and worked at a horse farm, and it was during this time that I decided I wanted to pursue an agricultural degree in college.  While attending UCONN, I majored in Sustainable Farm and Ranch Management and became involved with the school farm.  I worked with the beef cattle, sheep and chickens, but I truly enjoyed working with the dairy cows.  While school was in session I was also able to milk at night and I came to realize that dairy farming was the route I wanted to follow.    After graduating from UCONN I was in search of an opportunity to learn as much as I could about dairy farming and all things farming in general.  When I visited Wolfe’s Neck Center I was not only captivated by the beautiful area, but I was excited to learn about the sustainable farming philosophy of the organization and grazing dairy operation.  I chose to become a part of the Wolfe’s Neck team because I want to gather all the knowledge I can about managing a sustainable grass-fed dairy farm while also learning about other livestock, mechanics, and the business side of owning and operating a farm.  I can’t wait to help Wolfe’s Neck Center succeed and grow.

In my spare time I enjoy playing sports, especially basketball. I also enjoy knitting, reading, exploring the outdoors and hanging out with friends.

Kelly O’Connell

Graduated May 2018

Unlike many dairy farmers it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I was introduced to dairy farming when a classmate invited me to visit her family farm. The family took me under their wings and taught me all they could about dairy farming, including the financial hardships that all too commonly come with it. Quickly, I fell in love with not just the cows but the dairy farming way of life. These people were dedicated, worked hard, yet struggled financially, and this really bothered me. The following year I entered college at SUNY Cobleskill, choosing Agricultural Business Management as my major, hoping to find some answers and solutions to the financial problems which my friends and many small dairy farms face.Shortly after entering college I learned more about U.S. milk pricing and the various ways dairy farmers can differentiate themselves. My friends had been shipping milk conventionally for a pretty low pay price, yet were farming very closely to the required organic standards, which actually paid a much higher price. I presented this information to my friends, and then helped them successfully through the USDA organic grass-fed certification progress. Upon graduating with my Bachelors I joined the Dairy Grazing Apprentice Program looking not only to gain a broad based hands on farming experience, where I could be fully immersed in each aspect of the farm, but also to learn more about public education. I think it’s important for consumers to be able to see where there food is coming from and to experience farm life, much like I had just a few years ago. Wolfe’s Neck was the perfect place for me to continue not just with my own education, but with educating others as well!I’m one of the dairy team members, getting to not only keep our cows happy and healthy every day, but also being a key member in looking at how to keep our soils and land regenerative for a sustainable future.I love spending time with my family and 2 younger brothers who live in North Carolina! Most of my hobbies include anything that gives me a chance to be outside, hiking, paddle boarding, skiing and horseback riding. My more unique and prominent hobby would be MMA, I spend the majority of my free time training at a local gym. My favorite place to be, other than with cows of course, is in front of my favorite punching bag. The whole dairy team can tell you that if I’m not at the farm or gym, then there’s a pretty good chance I’m at my favorite chicken wing spot!

Lauren Robertson

I came to Wolfe’s Neck because I wanted to learn about the dairy industry. Another big appeal was that it was a public farm. I did not grow up on a farm, so now I get to teach and educate visitors about the farm and agriculture.

I feed and milk cows, hay, and snuggle baby animals.

When I’m not at Wolfe’s Neck I visit other farms and explore Maine.

Abigial Smith

After graduating from high school I was thinking about going to school for something in the agriculture field and heard about Wolfe’s Neck Teen Ag program. After working on the farm for a summer I knew I was in the right field. I went to Kennebec Valley Community College to learn more about sustainable agriculture. While in college I worked at several farms, and traveled around shearing sheep. After graduating in 2016 I still wanted to continue to learn more sustainable practices. Wolfe’s Neck and the apprenticeship program seemed like a perfect fit so here I am.

Most days I milk cows and have fun.

When I am not at Wolfe’s Neck I am a kayaking, woodcarving, sheep-shearing shepherdess.

Application

To apply to the Organic Dairy Research and Farmer Training Program, visit the DGA website.
Please email Ben Jensen, with any questions.

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