Mentor Training Program - for farm and ranch mentors

Mentor Training - supporting 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.

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

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.