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

Project Overview

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

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: apprentice/intern training, farm succession, labor/employment
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, employment opportunities, leadership development, local and regional food systems, quality of life, social networks

    Proposal abstract:

    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 NESARE 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.

    Performance Target:  20 Northeast agricultural service providers facilitate mentor training and support networks and 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 in crop production, marketing, business planning, resource linkages. 

    Performance targets from proposal:

    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.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.