Farm Mentorship Training and Support Groups for Educators of Aspiring and Beginning Farmers

Progress report for ENE20-162

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $158,265.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2023
Grant Recipients: Trustees of Tufts College / New Entry Sustainable Farming Project; University of Maryland
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Jennifer Hashley
Trustees of Tufts College / New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
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Project Information

Performance Target:

20 Northeast agricultural service providers train 75 farm mentors to adopt relational practices and increase competence to communicate, set expectations, facilitate self-directed learning, and effectively mentor at least 250 aspiring and beginning farmers in crop production, marketing, business planning, resource linkages, and grow emotional intelligence.

Introduction:

Problem and Justification:  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.   There are few agriculture-specific mentor training resources and agricultural service providers seek 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.

Solution and Approach: For agricultural service providers and beginning farmer trainers, 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 project will develop and deliver robust mentor trainings and facilitate mentor peer support groups.  Content delivery will include: 1) regional standalone 2-day professional development workshops targeting agricultural 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; and 5) materials posted on New Entry’s website.  A Mentor Training Toolkit and Resource Guide for agricultural service providers will include 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 Northeast SARE state will help prioritize future educational resource development. 

Milestones:  Project outreach informs at least 1,000 producers about mentor training resources and solicits input through listening sessions to solicit desired mentor training topics.  Three in-person mentor trainings for 75 participant are designed and held throughout the Northeast Region with follow up webinar presentations sharing content and resources more broadly.  At least 20 Agricultural Service Providers establish peer-to-peer mentor support groups to facilitate ongoing professional development and continued mentor training.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Meredith Epstein (Educator)
  • Ryan Dennett (Educator)
  • Shannon Algiere (Educator)
  • Natalie Hughes (Educator)
  • Dave Llewelyn (Educator)
  • Leah Ricci (Educator)

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

Education Plan
Participant Recruitment: New Entry accesses 15+ Northeast agricultural networks and listservs that reach over 10,000 agricultural professionals and farmers. Our Ag Apprenticeship Learning Network (AgALN) has 160+ organizations collaborating to improve apprenticeship training. A regional advisory group will outreach to recruit and enroll ag service providers and farm mentors. Mentor listening sessions and a survey in Maryland (2020) helped develop priorities for trainings.  Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) conducted focus groups in 2021 with farm mentors to develop educational priorities for the 2022 mentor trainings. Virtual trainings enable national outreach for online programming.  Project partners assessed and developed educational resources.
Curriculum Topics: Monthly project team planning conversations suggest prioritizing both novice and experienced mentor topics on: leadership development; effective communications and relational health (active listening; nonviolent communication; conflict resolution); setting goals and expectations; experiential curriculum development; understanding adult learning styles; fostering values around quality education and learning; developing self-directed learners using the Ladder of Inference and protocols for skillful inquiry; balancing work and education; delegating responsibilities; working across intergenerational difference; fostering Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and safe learning spaces on the farm; creating positive workplace culture; addressing gender and harassment; and centering worker experience and facilitating “community” with farm workers, owners, managers, interns working together, and more. Other topics (farm labor/employment law, disaster preparedness/planning) were identified through listening sessions.

Methods to Facilitate Learning: This project has two phases: planning/content development and content delivery. The project team researched existing resources, assessed delivery approaches (moved to online/virtual for MD and ME trainings due to COVID-19), and in 2020 conducted Maryland mentor listening sessions to gather feedback and input on mentor challenges, opportunities, best practices, and peer learning goals. The UMD team created training agendas, selected qualified trainers, and engaged service providers and mentors through outreach. Content delivery for January 2021 (the first scheduled mentor training) included: 1) three, half-day (2-5 pm) virtual professional development workshops targeting ag service providers and farmers interested in mentoring or training beginning farmers (Year 1: Maryland host; planned for Year 2: Maine, Year 3: New York); 2) webinar versions and recordings of trainings were posted on New Entry and UMD’s websites.  To create an interactive, multi-media learning module, a story map video project was created to capture the experiences of learners on farm and the value of agricultural mentorship.  The Advisory Council and collaborators recruited apprentices and farm mentors to share their stories and ideals for mentorship.  A mentor training session was also presented at the NOFA Summer Conference virtual session on July 31, 2021 to present best practices in agricultural mentorship and review the Mentor Training Toolkit resources.   The MOFGA team hosted focus groups and farm mentor input sessions in fall 2021 to support design and development of the January/February 2022 virtual farm labor management series.  This series will be 2-3 hours virtual workshops from 3-6 or 4-6 pm on Mondays throughout the months of January and February 2022.  All sessions will be recorded (the presentation/content component only and farmer/worker panels will not be recorded to facilitate open and honest conversation) and posted to the New Entry website.  We are continuing to seek opportunities to provide regional winter conference presentations; mentor discussion / peer groups and individualized training sessions; and resource materials are continually posted on New Entry’s website and the online resource library.

Methods to Plan and Act: A Mentor Training Toolkit and Resource Guide for agriculture service providers was published in November 2020 and includes training agendas, fact sheets, activities, annotated resources, and facilitation guides for supporting peer-to-peer mentor groups through low-cost approaches. The Value of Agricultural Mentorship story map was created and published to capture the perspectives and experiences of quality mentorship by farmer trainees.  Mentor support networks in each NESARE state have been convened by each collaborating partner to help prioritize ongoing educational resource development. Participating mentors are receiving updated resources and materials, have been invited to present at conferences and webinars, and will report new on-farm communications/curriculum approaches that improve mentee relationships and beneficial outcomes.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

100 Northeast farmers and agricultural service providers respond to an apprenticeship survey to prioritize topics important to farm mentors and service providers facilitating mentoring programs. Results are analyzed and shared with members of Project Team to focus research on desired training materials and priorities

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
80
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
120
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
24
Proposed Completion Date:
April 30, 2020
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

In May 2020, New Entry circulated the National Apprenticeship Annual Survey to the national listservs to collect information on apprenticeship training programs, mentor resources, and professional development training topics desired. We received 25 responses to the National survey, with 11 farmer respondents and 14 service providers responding.

Additionally, in mid-June 2020, we circulated a "topic of interest poll" to our national networks to elicit training and professional development topics for our national FIELD School to be held in November 2020.  We had 43 respondents with 10 service providers demonstrating interest in apprenticeship topics, 16 in incubator topics and 17 who selected both.  A key priority that surfaced in this poll was service providers asking for more training on diversity, equity, and inclusion and to address racial justice in beginning farmer training programs.  We did offer a session on Racial Equity at our National FIELD School which was the most well-attended of the 12 sessions we hosted at the conference (98 people attended the session).

In preparation for our 2021 University of Maryland Farm Mentorship Training Program, UMD circulated a needs assessment survey in August 2020 and received 16 responses from farmers who indicated willingness to attend a virtual training in 2021, to indicate days of week, times of day for the training, and to select which training topics were of most interest to participants.  The feedback from this survey informed development of the Maryland mentor training topics.

Other program partners were reluctant to circulate additional surveys to their farmers and colleagues during the spring/summer/fall of 2020 or 2021 to solicit more formal feedback on mentor professional development.  Due to COVID-19 and the many pivots and stresses that farmers (and service providers) were making it was determined that additional surveys may not be well received.  Program staff in ME, NY, and other partners felt that they could incorporate feedback and elicit mentor needs more "organically" through conversations and existing programming through their normal feedback sessions, focus groups, or other ongoing interaction with farm mentors rather than launch a formal survey.  Both Glynwood, Groundswell, and MOFGA completed individual mentor/farmer needs assessments and collaborators brainstromed shared questions to "norm" the input and feedback across programs.  This approach resulted in less ability to formally "count" the target number of "respondents" we anticipated receiving, but the project team is confident that the input and professional development topics that we have selected for the trainings are relevant, necessary, and are important to mentors.  We developed and administered pre-training surveys in both Maryland (2020) and Maine (2021) and we will plan to for New York to support content development for those trainings. 

Results from the 2021 Maine pre-assessment surveys for the 2022 trainings (responses of 93 out of over 100 registrants) indicated that 78% of respondents considered themselves a farm mentor, though the majority - 54% - had less than five years as a mentor; 29% had mentored between 6-10 years and 16% for over 10 years.  On a self-assessment rating scale, the skill areas that mentors had the most variation in feeling skilled or unskilled included:  helping mentees develop strategies to meet goals; working with mentees to set farming goals; negotiating a path to farm ownership or careers in agriculture; helping mentees network effectively; helping mentees balance work with professional life; understanding impact as a role model; and helping mentees acquire resources.  (120 = 27 + 93; *not clear if all 93 respondents in 2021 are farmers since this was not a question on pre-survey, so we will "count" them as farmers for reporting purposes).

Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Five farmers with experience in mentorship join the Advisory Team which includes Project Team members and team initiates monthly calls to plan Northeast listening sessions in collaboration with service providers, conducts initial educational resource research and assessment, and begins planning Year 1 Workshop in Maryland.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
5
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
1
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
14
Proposed Completion Date:
May 31, 2023
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

The project team (collaborators) and project advisors have been meeting monthly (second Tuesdays of the month at 3pm EST) since the project launched and have continued to meet monthly through 2021 and will plan to meet throughout 2022.  Average monthly attendance at meetings have 8-10 attendees participating. For the Project Advisory team, several have been unable to engage in the project due to COVID-19 constraints/overwhelm.  They have been consulted individually to inform about project progress and several participated in the national FIELD Schools (2020 and 2021), attended the Mentor Training Toolkit launch in December 2020, participated in the UMD Mentor Trainings in January 2021, contributed outreach to recruit participants for the StoryMap project, and supported development and input to the MOFGA trainings starting in January 2022.  We will continue to assess their ability to participate moving forward.  Four of the five proposed Advisory Team members are farmers and their time is limited, though several have been incorporated as speakers to the educational programs offered.

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

At least 1,000 producers and 60 agricultural service providers become aware of or exposed to at least ten existing mentor resources collected from either the Northeast or other regions featuring mentoring best practices. Resources are shared through posts and targeted outreach by service providers to at least 15 listservs in the Northeast region, along with an advertisement asking for participation of mentors in state listening sessions hosted by project team.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
1000
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
60
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
6
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
129
Proposed Completion Date:
August 31, 2023
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

New Entry hosted a webinar on the new Mentor Training Toolkit on December 15, 2020.  Over 52 people registered for the webinar and received access to the recording; 26 attended the live webinar.  The educational resources were promoted at the November 2020 and October 2021 national FIELD Schools, and an announcement about the Toolkit was emailed to three New Entry listservs (AgALN, NIFTI, and Combined National Programs lists) in 2020 and during the UMD Mentor Trainings in January 2021 reaching an estimated additional 1,100 people, in addition to posting the resource on New Entry's social media accounts. 

31 service providers attended the 2020 FIELD School sessions on Registering Apprenticeship and Mentorship Training topics.  For our 2021 FIELD School, we hosted sessions as part of the overall National Farm Viability Conference virtually.  It was more difficult to track attendance and participant demographics, but the conference was targeted to services providers and in the registration data, 27% (103/378) of participants that registered said they planned to participate in sessions that are part of the FIELD School track. 158/378 were undecided about this when they registered, so they may have participated.  We earmarked at least 8 FIELD School sessions at the conference were largely focused on topics relevant to mentors and trainers.

New Entry also hosted a Mentor Training workshop at the NOFA 2021 Summer Conference on July 31, 2021.  This workshop reached 6 participants live and others who may have watched the recording virtually.  Concepts of mentorship and an introduction to the Mentor Toolkit was covered.

The Mentor Training webpage has received 252 page views between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021.

Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

At least 60 mentors participate and provide input on mentor training needs through organized state listening sessions, focus groups, or field days about the benefits and challenges of mentorship and resources they would like developed. Service providers debrief feedback from listening sessions. Listening sessions will also disseminate existing mentor resources.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
60
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
194
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
22
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

University of Maryland issued a survey to mentors in the state to gain input as to a virtual training session in winter 2021 and identify the training topics that most interested them.  17 farmers responded to the survey to inform training topics for the January 2021 training event.

A pre-assessment survey was also issue to participants registering for the Maryland 2021 winter mentor training series and 74 of the 96 participants completed the pre-assessment survey which informed topic areas for the training sessions.

Results from the 2021 Maine pre-assessment surveys for the 2022 trainings captured input and desired training topics from 93 registrants for the training sessions.  Unfortunately, the pre-assessment survey did not capture the "role" of participants other than to inquire about mentorship experience, so it is unclear if these respondents are all farmers or service providers or a combination.  For purposes of reporting, we will "count" all the respondents as farmers.  Feedback and information on learning needs and assessments was shared with speakers/presenters for the January/February 2022 training sessions to support content development and address learning needs.

Project partners hosting future trainings in New York (Glynwood, Groundswell, Stone Barns) will issue separate surveys to mentors prior to planning the 2022 or 2023 event.  We will better clarify respondents as farmers or service providers for future input surveys to ensure more accurate reporting.

Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Resource Development: Based on input from listening sessions, Project Team and Advisors will prepare multi-day training workshop content, invite speakers, and develop participatory curriculum, and schedule field trip to Terp Farm for a mentor training attended by 40 participants (10 service providers and 30 farm mentors) to be held in Maryland; 40 participants complete the training and agree to incorporate at least three new practices with their trainees in 2021.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
30
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
96
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
22
Proposed Completion Date:
January 29, 2021
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
January 29, 2021
Accomplishments:

The January 11 - 13, 2021 training was hosted virtually by University of Maryland and had a total of 96 registrants who completed registration forms on the website.  Workshops were held from 2 - 5pm each day over three days in an online format (Zoom) and attendance followed as such:  1/11 - 207 minutes duration with 116 participants; 1/12 - 199 minutes duration with 77 participants; and 1/13 - 198 minutes duration with 89 participants.  We will issued a pre-survey to registrants and 74 responded to the pre-survey.  We also issued a "pre-question survey" for presenters and had 42 responses.  A post-survey was issued to all attendees and we received 34 post-survey responses.  The workshop registration page, speakers, and agenda can be found at this website:  https://iaa.umd.edu/farm-mentorship-training.

A presentation with all of the outcomes and evaluation data for the Maryland training can also be found here.  Results of the survey indicate that participants increased their knowledge by 20%. Respondents reported a 27% increase in quality of mentoring as a result of the training;100% of respondents plan to make changes in their mentoring as a result of the training;100% of respondents said that attending the training was a valuable use of their time; and 88% of respondents are interested in further training opportunities.  Additionally, for the vast majority of participants (83.3%), this was their first time participating in a formal mentor training program.

 

Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Three follow up webinars share content of training topics held in Maryland to at least 45 additional producers and service providers [April 2021]. At least 30 mentors present or attend one of 9 webinars (three per regional training) to share best practices and model use of resources developed via toolkit.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
45
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
9
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
6
Proposed Completion Date:
December 30, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

A conference presentation on Mentor Training and Resources was offered a the NOFA Summer Conference on July 31, 2021.  A total of 6 farmers participated and gained skills on mentorship strategies, resources, and learned about the Mentor Training Toolkit for additional support.

Additional webinars have not been coordinated to follow up with specific content from the Maryland trainings to date, though feedback from those sessions have informed development of the January 2022 Maine trainings which are focused on farm labor management and workplace culture. 

Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

A mentor support group and training facilitation toolkit will be developed and shared with at least 20 ag service providers and producers who provide feedback and suggested revisions.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
5
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2023
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

Planning for mentor network development will begin in 2022. 

Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Based on evaluations from the Maryland training and webinars, Project Team and Advisors will prepare for a Maine multi-day workshop session attended by at least 30 participants and a New York multi-day training with 30 participants, 18 are agricultural service providers and 42 are farm mentors.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
42
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
18
Proposed Completion Date:
January 28, 2023
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

Based on feedback from the Maryland Mentor Trainings held in January 2021 and from focus groups and input sessions from farm mentors held in Maine in Fall 2021, the focus of the Maine 2022 Mentor Trainings centered around farm labor management and workplace culture.  In January and February, 2022, our partner, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association will host a virtual, 5-part farm mentor training and labor management series designed for farmers and farm mentors that employ workers or host apprentices. This series centers farm workers' stories and guides farm managers and mentor farmers through crucial aspects of managing and mentoring including communication, building inclusive workplace cultures, and empowering staff and trainees. A keynote presentation by Not Our Farm, a national farm worker visibility project, will kick off the series with a human resources training led by career farmers who have spent many years working on farms. The program agenda for this virtual training series will cover the following specific topics (for detailed workshop descriptions see links below):

The team will revisit the Maryland and Maine workshop evaluations, feedback from organizers, and post-survey results to inform planning for the New York fall 2022 or winter 2023 event.

Milestone #9 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

At least 25 mentors and 5 agricultural service providers will attend at least one regional conference session that highlights skills and resources featured in the mentor toolkit to improve communications and teaching/learning strategies.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
25
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
5
Proposed Completion Date:
January 28, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

We will target regional conferences to present highlights from the mentor trainings moving forward.  2020 and 2021 were challenging years to figure out appropriate conference partners given it was the first time many winter agricultural conferences are shifting to virtual/online formats and or with the Delta (and now Omicron) variant surges, conferences have shifted from in-person to continued virtual programming.  Two conferences that were scheduled to attend by partners were canceled due to illness and/or lack of COVID precautions at the in-person venue.

Milestone #10 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

At least 5 agricultural service providers will support at least 75 mentors who will be reached through attendance at trainings and via invitations to continue to network and share resources and feedback regarding existing toolkit and other challenges and opportunities and best practices resources for mentors through regular (quarterly or monthly) state-level peer-to-peer mentor support groups.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
75
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
5
Proposed Completion Date:
December 30, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

We will begin development of mentor support groups in 2022 when it is safe to resume in-person programming.  We learned through conversations with mentors that face-to-face is the preferred method for facilitation of support groups.

Milestone #11 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

75 mentors report improved educational outcomes for 250 mentees through follow up evaluations and interviews conducted by agricultural service providers facilitating mentor networks.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
250
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
75
Proposed Completion Date:
May 26, 2023
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

We will develop a follow up evaluation with attendees of the three regional trainings at the end of the project (2023).

Milestone #12 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

30 farm mentors remain engaged in either formal or informal regional mentor support networks through regular (quarterly or monthly) state-level peer-to-peer mentor support groups beyond the project.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
30
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
5
Proposed Completion Date:
May 26, 2023
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

We will develop a follow up evaluation with mentor support groups at the end of the project (2023).

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities and events conducted by the project team:

3 Consultations
2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 Online trainings
3 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participants in the project’s educational activities:

19 Extension
14 Researchers
71 Nonprofit
1 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
27 Farmers/ranchers
78 Others
10 Farmers
185 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities

Learning Outcomes

22 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills and/or attitudes as a result of their participation.
34 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
22 Ag service providers intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned through this project in their educational activities and services for farmers
Key areas in which the service providers (and farmers if indicated above) reported a change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness::

We did not issue formal evaluations for the online trainings related to mentorship or apprenticeship in 2020. The online trainings conducted and related to this SARE project were not specific mentor trainings where we administered pre- and post-survey data as we will be capturing in 2021 and beyond.

For our mentor-specific trainings in MD, ME, and NY, we issue a pre-training skills assessment and a post-training skills assessment. The assessment asked questions about rating skills BEFORE the training and NOW (after the training) across 25 topics such as: active listening; providing constructive feedback; establishing relationships based on trust; identifying and accommodating different communication styles; employing strategies to improve communications; coordinating effectively with your mentees' other mentors; Working with mentees/workers to set clear expectations of the mentoring relationship; Aligning your expectations with your mentees’; Considering how personal and professional differences may impact expectations; Working with mentees/workers to set farming goals; Helping mentees/workers develop strategies to meet goals; Accurately estimating your mentees’/workers' level of farming knowledge; Accurately estimating your mentees’/workers' ability to execute farm tasks; Employing strategies to enhance your mentees’/workers' knowledge and abilities; Motivating your mentees/workers; Building mentees’/workers' confidence; Stimulating your mentees’/workers' creativity; Acknowledging your mentees’/workers' contributions to the farm; Negotiating a path to self-directed learning with your mentees/workers; Taking into account the biases and prejudices you bring to the mentor/mentee or employer/worker relationship; Working effectively with mentees/workers whose personal background is different from your own (age, race, gender, class, region, culture, religion, family composition etc.); Helping your mentees/workers network effectively; Helping your mentees/workers set career goals; Helping your mentees/workers balance work with their personal life; and Understanding your impact as a role model.

We also asked about the overall quality of their mentoring before and after the training, and asked participants to describe any changes they made in their mentoring or plan to make as a result of the training.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

Target #1

Target: number of service providers who will take action to educate/advise farmers:
20
Target: actions the service providers will take:

20 agricultural service providers provide training to farm mentors through conference sessions, webinars, curriculum development, peer learning groups, and resource toolkit dissemination to 75 farm mentors.

Target: number of farmers the service providers will educate/advise:
75
Target: amount of production these farmers manage:

150 acres

Target #2

Target: number of service providers who will take action to educate/advise farmers:
75
Target: actions the service providers will take:

75 farm mentors adopt relational practices and increase competence to communicate, set expectations, facilitate self-directed learning, and effectively mentor at least 250 aspiring and beginning farmers.

Target: number of farmers the service providers will educate/advise:
250
Target: amount of production these farmers manage:

These represent aspiring or beginning farmers who may or may not be farming independently.

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

We did not conduct formal evaluations or pre-/post-training evaluations at our webinars, Toolkit launch, or National FIELD School sessions. We did issue a pre-survey questionnaire completed by 74/94 registrants and a post-training survey of the 2021 Maryland training completed by 34/116 participants which provided data about service providers and farmers who reported intentions to use the materials presented in the trainings and who rated their skills before and after the training across 25 skills areas.  There is currently a feedback form embedded in the online Mentor Toolkit, though we realistically do not expect much input to that form.

Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers

Performance target outcome for farmers narrative:

For the 2021 Maryland training, 100% of respondents to our evaluation/post-session survey responded that attending the training was a valuable use of time.  93% were likely or very likely to recommend the training to a colleague.  88% were interested in follow up sessions and 100% made or plan to make changes to their mentoring as a result of the training.  When asked specifically what type of changes you have made in your mentoring, or plan to make as a result of the training, narrative responses included:

  • Being encouraged to set goals with mentees for what they want to learn and the tangible steps along the way to measure progress was a huge help for me in creating a healthy relationship
  • I want to make a point of taking more time to communicate with the mentor from the get go. Be clearer with expectations.
  • be more patient
  • Set clear expectations
  • Implementing a pre-evaluation to determine current skill level and areas for focus; strategies for eliminating confusion in on farm production
  • Listening techniques and response mechanics
  • I've become more thoughtful about questions of race and farming. I'm developing a more complex and reasoned approach to goal setting with participants.
  • I plan to start trying to think financially ahead, even without being a big part of those decisions. I plan on studying more about conflict resolution in order to contribute as an HR asset, as well as looking into UMD's free and very passionate program. I also plan on further inducing thought processes in mentees and co-workers.
  • Make a greater effort to get to know mentee on all levels and be more patient while teaching
  • Developing legal structures on the farm around employees, interns, apprentices, etc.  Continued development of SOP or signage to help assist in communication. Changes in verbiage when talking with folks (like assertive vs aggressive, etc)

Comments about the Maryland training in general:

  • It was a very well run and informative conference. I do think that for me personally, zoom is a very difficult medium to watch, absorb, ie retain information. Covid fatigue. Not your fault.
  • Make available on weekends
  • I made several long term changes in conflict resolution due to the training.  It also made me view disparity in social class and labor very differently.
  • I loved the whole meeting, my only thing is that it seemed like the first few topics were almost hard to grasp onto, especially because it felt like something more valuable for farm owners. Though, now I do realize that it's never too early to start thinking about those things. I think the meetings on the last day were more palatable information wise because the presenters were not afraid to use more humor. I think the humor involved was purposeful and put our minds in real life situations that really made us think.
  • This training was incredible. Thank you for hosting!
  • I would have been happy to learn the accounting steps I need to take to employ someone as a paid mentee.
  • Thanks, that was top-notch.
  • I thought that there was way too much moral/political exhortation and not enough about specifically farming and ranching mentorships. I guess it's a sign of the times in academia today that any subject matter has to be veneered and overloaded with politically correct jargon and virtue signaling. I had hoped for more about how to train, teach and protect your mentee in specific cropping, irrigating, animal husbandry and farming practices generally.
  • Such a great program. I did not know I needed it till listening and learning so much more.

Additional Project Outcomes

1 Grant applied for that built upon this project
2 New working collaborations
Additional Outcomes Narrative:

None to report as yet.

Success stories:

"I made several long term changes in conflict resolution due to the training.  It also made me view disparity in social class and labor very differently."

"Such a great program. I did not know I needed it till listening and learning so much more."

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

The project was originally conceived to host mentor trainings in person in each region of the Northeast (MD, ME, and NY).  Due to COVID and public health concerns in both 2020 and 2021, we moved both the MD and ME trainings to a virtual environment.  The MD training in January 2021 was held over three consecutive days from 1- 4 pm each day (3 hours).  This 9-hour session sustained interest and allowed organizers to capture pre-session questions for presenters, pre-assessment surveys of skills and knowledge, and a clear post-assessment survey.  The ME training in 2022 will again be virtual, but will be spread out over 5 online sessions focused on farm labor management to capture a broader audience than farm "mentors" and service providers as more and more farms are shifting away from a traditional mentor-apprentice relationship to more of an employer-worker relationship.  The virtual environment makes it challenging to develop peer networks who are able to convene in person and build connections and relationships to support ongoing peer networking.  We have had challenges getting peer networks formed and getting buy in from mentors during the pandemic.  We are anticipating being able to resume the in-person mentor training format in fall 2022/winter 2023 for the New York training program.

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