Dairy organization expands veteran services

Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship

Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship welcomes Veteran Liaison Matt Keesling

Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA) is proud to welcome Matthew Keesling as the program’s new Veteran Liaison. Keesling’s work will be supported over the next three years through a USDA grant to create a dairy farming career path for military veterans through participation in the Apprenticeship. DGA is the first in the nation federally registered formal Apprenticeship in agriculture, providing an immersive learning experience comprised of two years of paid, on-the-job training on private dairy farms, and related classroom instruction.



Keesling is an Army veteran with 24 years of service. He is currently completing a DGA Apprenticeship with dairy farmer, and retired Army Reservist, Andy Bures in Deerbrook, WI. Matt’s career took him around the globe, including three tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan in a variety of duty positions. Keesling’s final assignment was on a Joint Staff where he worked with all branches of service. “Matt brings a perfect blend of skills and experience,” said Joe Tomandl, DGA Executive Director. “He knows the culture of military service, understands dairy farming, and knows what it’s like to be an Apprentice in the program.”

Keesling will focus on recruiting veterans for the program as well as providing support to veteran Apprentices and the Masters who hire them. “I am excited to share this program with interested veterans. DGA has offered me a path from military service, into agriculture and on to farm ownership. Veterans participating in DGA are eligible to use their GI-Bill education benefits and a host of State level benefits based on where they are training,” he said. “As part of this three-year project, they will also receive financial, logistical, and peer support as they progress through the program.”

As part of the project, DGA also plans to expand availability of the program to two to four additional states. Currently operating in 11 states, DGA has a network of over 160 participating farms (“Masters”) approved to conduct training.

Funding for the project is provided by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans Competitive Grants Program (AgVets). Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship is also supported in part by a grant from USDA-NIFA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and by other funding partners, industry sponsors, and individuals.

For more information on DGA and how you can get involved, visit dga-national.org or contact Joe (715-560-0389 or joe@dga-national.org), Laura (608-338-9039 or laura@dga-national.org) or Matt (715-623-6915 or matthew@dga-national.org).

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