Mentor Training Program - for farm and ranch mentors

Mentor Training - supporting farm mentors to improve land-based experiential learning

As fewer Americans grow up on farms or ranches, experiential farmer training programs build skills for aspiring, beginning, or first generation farmers and create an entryway to the industry. Mentor matching programs increase the number of skilled farmers by pairing experienced farm mentors with novice farmers. Agricultural Service Providers who coordinate farm mentor networks value the role that quality mentorship relationships play in training farm successors. Yet, balancing the demands of work and facilitating farm-based education and learning can create strains on productivity and profitability. Mentors must consistently set reasonable expectations, effectively communicate, provide feedback, and nurture their mentees. This Mentor Training Program seeks to develop agriculture-specific mentor training resources and support ag service providers with the tools, curricula, and training strategies to build mentor support networks and offer quality professional training and support to farm mentors to build their capacity as educators.  Learn about the Value of Agricultural Mentorship through our story map (voices of farm apprentices and mentors).

Professional development for farm mentors has the potential to result in more effective training for aspiring and beginning farmers, increase knowledge transfer of agricultural skills, increase employee retention, and improve farm work culture. Networking with other farm mentors builds professional relationships with other producers who share similar educational missions and community engagement values.

This three-year (2020-2023) SARE-funded Professional Development Project will develop and deliver robust mentor trainings and faciliatate mentor peer support groups. Content delivery will include:

  1. regional standalone 2-day professional development workshops targeting ag service providers and farmers interested in mentoring or training beginning farmers. 
  2. webinar versions of workshop topics posted on New Entry’s website;
  3. regional winter conference presentations;
  4. mentor discussion / peer groups and individualized training sessions;
  5. materials posted on New Entry’s website.

Previous Workshops:

In January and February, 2022, our partner, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association hosted a virtual, 4-part farm mentor training and labor management series designed for farmers and farm mentors that employ workers or host apprentices. This series centered on farm workers' stories and guided farm managers and mentors through crucial aspects of managing and mentoring including communication, building inclusive workplace cultures, and empowering staff. Please direct any questions about the series to MOFGA's Beginning Farmer Program Specialist, Bo Dennis at bdennis@mofga.org.

For workshop descriptions see details below:

  • January 10th, 2022:  Centering Workers on Farms with Not Your Farm. A keynote presentation by Not Our Farm, a national farm worker visibility project, kicked off the series with a human resources training led by career farmers who have spent many years working on farms that are not their own. At this workshop we discussed the absolute necessity of centering workers in all aspects of our farming operations. We approached this through the lens of human resources (interviews, onboarding, working, training) and by hearing conversations and insights from experienced career farmers who have spent many years working on farms not their own. Not Our Farm is a worker visibility and support project that seeks to amplify the voices and experiences of workers on farms not their own.
  • January 24th, 2022:  Supporting and Inclusive Workplace Culture with Rock Steady Farm. Rock Steady Farm presented on their workplace culture, farm policies, care focused approach, and on how to build an inclusive workplace on your farm, especially for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ workers. There was also a panel of inspiring farmers from across the country who spoke on their best practices and lessons learned on farmer rights and workplace culture building.
  • February 7th, 2022:  On Farm Communication with UMaine Extension and Apple Creek Farm. University of Maine's farm coaching team members  Leslie Forstadt, Human Development specialist and Abby Sadauckas, farmer at Apple Creek Farm presented on improving on-farm communication. The session included: communication essentials, practice skills during break-out groups and how to build a communication plan for your farm.
  • February 28th, 2022:  Supporting Learning and Empowering Leaders in your Staff with San Juan Ranch and Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming. Julie Sullivan from San Juan Ranch and staff from Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming presented about supporting the self-directed learning of your crew and apprentices. They discussed balancing learning and doing while farming, the experiential learning cycle for adult learners, and how to build respect and investment in your worker to create a more supportive workplace.

Other Training Programs:

Resources:

Access the UMD January 2021 Farm Mentor Trainings (Recordings).

Listen to voices of apprentices and mentors through our Value of Agricultural Mentorship Story Map.

A Mentor Training Toolkit and Resource Guide for ag service providers includes training agendas, fact sheets, participatory activities, annotated resources, and facilitation guides for supporting peer-to-peer mentor groups through low-cost approaches. Mentor support networks in each region will help prioritize future educational resource development.

Project Partners

Our project partners include:  University of Maryland Cooperative Extension and UMD Institute for Applied Agriculture, CASA Future Harvest, Glynwood Center, Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming, Stone Barns Center for Agriculture, Maine Organic Farming and Gardening Association, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutrition, Agriculture Food and Environment Program, and NOFA Vermont.