Developing Mentor Networks for Enhanced Outreach in the Range Livestock Industry
The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program goals and ideals are our guidelines for Nebraska’s Ranch Mentoring Network. We are comprised of older experienced ranchers, innovative new ranchers, educators, agencies, and agricultural college students who intern with various mentors.
Ten successful ranch families came together to start a pilot mentoring program. These people share their knowledge with peers. A website and chat room, University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Ranch Practicum, and over one hundred and fifty mentor / mentee relationships contribute to ideas exchange, which benefit both the mentor and mentee.
Three participants finished a summer internship program. The internship program places college students with successful ranchers to provide hands-on experience of ranch management and the resources that come with it to supplement their college courses. Five state colleges have inquired about participation of their students as interns for next year.
Twenty-one plus talks have been given at Nebraska drought meetings, the Governor’s Grazing Conference, the Tri-State Grazing Symposium, Conservation Security Programs, Nebraska Society of Range Management annual meeting, the National SARE Conference, and intern / mentees mentoring to peers.
Two thousand people were reached.
“American Angus Journal”, “Western Livestock Journal”, and “Nebraska Farmer” magazines printed news releases concerning our projects. University of Nebraska-Lincoln gave us great billing through diverse media. A three-night-series on mentoring, rotational grazing / conservation, and ranch management was aired by KNOP-TV North Platte, NE. KNOP-TV broadcast to ten thousand homes. This feed was picked up by RFD-TV and run on the American Agriculture program.
A ranch tour was conducted at Mike Kelly’s ranch near Sutherland, NE, and a tour was carried on for a range short course at Chadron State College, Chadron, NE. Mentors reached two hundred fifty people.
The program has accomplished everything and more than what we originally set out to do. WE all learn from each other…exactly what a mentoring program is established for. Society now has a better understanding of stewardship, management practices, and what it means to be neighbors. Great friendships have developed. WE have found it wasn’t necessary to implement some of the tools we’d planned to get the program off the ground. What makes the program work is: a good advertising pamphlet; a quality website (www.ranchmentors.org) with a chat room; a quality educational program (UNL Ranch Practicum); willing and open-minded participants; genuine neighbor-to-neighbor attitudes of sharing; and money to pay for travel and mileage expenses, website establishment and maintenance, and advertising.
The concept is too good to not be successful. Where we go from here is to expand statewide, from there, on to regional and national mentoring. The following states have expressed interest in developing their own mentoring program using basic SARE guidelines: Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Utah and California.