Coaching the Next Farm Team
About the Mentorship Program
Give farming a future through mentorship! Starting or developing a farm business is hard. Experienced farmers have a wealth of knowledge and skills to share with rookie farmers to help field the next team of farmers. A mentoring relationship not only benefits a new farmer, but can provide learning and networking for mentors as well.
Program Overview and Benefits
- Eight month mentorship between one mentee (or farm unit) and one mentor
- Monthly communication (minimum) initiated by mentee
- Mentorship focuses on a single farm enterprise
- One visit by the mentor to the mentee’s farm land or an alternate site if the mentee is still seeking land
- Flexible arrangements: matched farmers agree in advance what communication and interaction methods are preferred
- Program fee of $75 paid by the mentee upon match with a mentor
- Mentor honorarium of $275, for time and travel
- Support services from OEFFA
Who is eligible to be a mentor? What is a mentor’s role?
Farmers with 10+ years of experience in farming for commercial purposes are eligible to become a mentor. Mentors are matched with an early career farmer to provide special guidance, feedback, and support.
Support provided by the mentor may include:
- Being a sounding board and resource for decision-making
- Responding to questions
- Helping choose tools and practices best suited to the mentee’s operation
- Aiding in development of management skills
- Identifying realistic plans and implementing new ideas
- Assisting in setting and meeting goals
Who is eligible to be a mentee? What is a mentee’s role?
Those farming for commercial purposes for three to nine years are eligible to become a mentee who receives special guidance, feedback, and support from a mentor. The mentee will complete a Farming Skills Evaluation to assess current skill levels. The mentee will then complete a Growing Season Learning Plan with the mentor to set specific learning goals and timelines to guide the mentorship.
Learning goals for the mentee may include:
- Scaling up production
- Engaging in a new farm enterprise
- Farm design and management
- Developing a farm business plan
- Transitioning to organic production
- Or other goals as identified by the mentee
Application and Matching Process
Applications for the 2020 growing season are now open. Apply by December 13, 2019 for best chance at matching.
If an early career farmer is eligible, an appropriate mentor will be identified. Since mentoring relationships are made in response to the specific needs and interests of mentees and the available matches, a mentoring relationship is not guaranteed.
Once a match is identified, a Mentoring Agreement is shared with both the mentee and mentor for their consideration, negotiation, and signature.
The Mentoring Agreement specifies:
- Learning goals of the mentee as outlined in the Growing Season Learning Plan
- Timeline of the mentorship
- Shared expectations for the relationship
Frequently Asked Questions
Does an early career farmer have to own farmland to apply?
No. An applicant may own farmland, rent farmland, or have reliable access to farmland. If you currently do not have access to farmland but are seeking access, either through purchase or long-term lease, and are otherwise eligible, you are also welcome to apply.
Must an early career farmer currently be operating or managing a farm business to apply?
No. Assuming you are otherwise eligible but not currently engaged in farm business, you would need to either be in the process of starting a farm business or otherwise in a farm management position.
What does scaling up production mean?
Examples of scaling up production include improving product quality or consistency, increasing yields, expanding production, and starting or expanding food processing.
What is a “farm unit”?
Since there are many different farming arrangements, the mentorship program is not confined to one individual mentee and one individual mentor. Farm management relationships can be dynamic; therefore, a farm unit refers to one individual farm operation or business. While two individuals operating one farm business may apply for a mentor together, a mentor may choose not to be matched with a farm unit. Also, if two individuals from one farm unit are interested in different enterprises for the mentorship, they should apply separately since the mentoring relationship focuses on only one enterprise.
How does OEFFA decide what makes a good mentor-mentee match?
A mentoring relationship is negotiated in response to specific needs and interests of mentees, and made possible by terms that are mutually acceptable. Examples of these terms include commitment period, availability, forms of communication, and willingness to travel. Other experience and preference factors are also taken into consideration.
How does OEFFA decide if a mentoring relationship has been successful and that a mentor should be paid the honorarium and travel stipend?
The negotiated and signed Mentoring Agreement documents the expectations that both the mentor and mentee agreed upon. This includes learning objectives and types and level of communication during an eight month period. In months four and eight of the working relationship, OEFFA surveys both the mentor and mentee to learn what communication has occurred and what progress has been made in meeting the learning objectives. A satisfied mentee is one factor of success; however, opinions of both the mentor and mentee are considered. Ultimately, OEFFA understands that learning is driven by the mentee and supported by the mentor.
How does OEFFA support a mentoring relationship?
OEFFA manages the application process, collects a modest program fee from mentees, screens and matches mentees and mentors, negotiates and distributes a signed Mentoring Agreement that documents the mentorship, and assigns responsibility to initiate communication to the mentee. OEFFA also offers hands-on assistance to troubleshoot relationship and procedural problems, monitors the mentoring relationship through brief interviews or surveys, conducts a final evaluation, and pays mentors a modest honorarium and travel stipend.