Sustainable Agriculture Mentor Program

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1993: $77,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1996
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Timothy Powell
University of Nebraska

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn, cotton, potatoes, soybeans, wheat
  • Additional Plants: ornamentals
  • Animals: bees, bovine, poultry, sheep
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Crop Production: crop rotation, cover crops
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, mentoring, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, agricultural finance
  • Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement
  • Pest Management: biological control
  • Sustainable Communities: social psychological indicators


    [Note to online version: The report for this project includes tables and appendices that could not be included here. The regional SARE office will mail a hard copy of the entire report at your request. Just contact North Central SARE at (402) 472-7081 or]

    We recruited 18 mentors at the start of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Mentor Project. These mentors reflected a geographical and subject expertise dispersion. During the remaining years we did not actively recruit additional mentors but added mentors when a need existed, either through a contact and need from a mentee farmer or through a perceived gap in coverage, geographical or subject area (see Appendix, Attachment #2 for current mentor list). We lost a few mentors over the life of the project but also added a few to end with 20 mentors. A mentor handbook was developed in year 1. It was used throughout the project as a reference for mentors in the project process and procedures.

    Contact was made with the mentors from time-to-time to check on progress of the mentoring process and to inform them about professional improvement (PI) activities (meetings, farm tours, and other educational activities and opportunities). Some of the mentors took advantage of the PI aspect of the project and some did not. Time was given as the most limiting resources or constraints by mentors to attending educational activities.

    Project publicity and promotional efforts were conducted throughout the life of the project. Efforts included newsletters (Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society newsletter, Center for Rural Affairs newsletter, and the Center for Sustainable Agricultural Systems newsletter), newspaper articles and popular magazines (Norfolk Daily News, The New Farm, Nebraska Farmer, others). Project brochures were sent to all the major agriculture agencies (fmha, SCS, ASCS, [old names],and Extension). See Appendix, Attachment #3 for a sampling of promotional and press coverage of the project. The project was also promoted at a number of agriculture meetings by UNL Extension and Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society (NSAS) staff B NSAS Western and Annual meetings, and the Nebraska Cooperative Extension Association annual meetings. Mentors were encouraged to give presentations at agriculture meetings and some of them did so. Mentors were also encouraged to give farm tours that highlight their operations. Again, many of them did so.

    Results from evaluation of program participants conducted at the end of the project showed that farmers like one-on-one mentoring (rated good by mentors). Nearly ninety percent of the participants said that the project should continue, even if no further funding was secured. Participants in general were very pleased with the project. Almost 70% of the mentee farmers said that they changed their operation as a result of working with a project mentor. Of those that didn't change their operation the most common answer was timing was not right for change. Only thirty-five percent of the farmer mentees said that they changed their thinking about sustainable agriculture due to working with a project mentor. Those that didn't change their thinking went on to say that they already were in agreement with sustainable agriculture.

    Project objectives:

    The project had two main objectives:

    1. Create a mentoring program to help farm families implement sustainable agriculture practices and technology.

    2. Evaluate the mentor program and share progress with others.

    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.