Farmer-to-Farmer Mentorship Program
Want to help beginning farmers find solid footing in the sustainable agriculture world?
If you answered “yes” to one of these questions, consider signing up for NOFA-NY’s Mentorship Program or the Technical Consultancy Program! Beginning farmers in the program have called the advice and availability of their mentors “an invaluable help” and “a real comfort and confidence booster.” Farmers already engaging in mentorship have also joined the program, nominated by the new farmers that want to celebrate the long-standing relationships they’ve built with such leaders and experts.
NOTE: You may sign up at any time to be included in the next available round of matching. The deadline to be included in the Spring 2014 round of matching is 1/31/14 at 12:00pm. For more information on the matching process, click this link or scroll down the page.
The NOFA-NY Mentorship Program is geared toward supporting beginning farmers in a role of farm start-up, ownership, leadership, management or transition-to-Organic as well as the farmers who train and educate them. The Mentorship Program offers several forms of support:
- A matchmaking process, three times a year, to help beginning and experienced farmers find each other and form long-term advisory relationships
- A connection to peers (other new farmers or other experienced farmers who take an active role in training new farmers)
- Useful information and education to support experienced farmers’ abilities as teachers and guides.
Note: If you are interested in hosting or being an on-farm apprentice, please look up the NOFA-NY Farm Apprenticeship Program.
The sign up process is designed to respect the time and privacy of farmers as well as to ensure that farmers seeking mentors are taking an active role in finding their best-suited mentor. Communication with NOFA-NY is built into the process, providing for assistance and anticipation of your needs, but giving you the decision-making power. Once you have filled out the sign-up form, NOFA-NY will ensure you know of each subsequent step involved in the process, and you will automatically become part of the growing community of new farmers and mentors engaged with us through this program. Read on to find out how it all works!
The Matching Process for a Beginning Farmer:
Though you, as a new farmer, already have experience and hands-on training, you’re likely to want the additional perspective and guidance of a farmer you can call upon. If you’re not sure who in the New York farm community would be open to this sort of relationship, the mentorship program can help you find that right mentor.
- After you have signed up, you will be sent information about currently available mentor farmers starting at the next matching period and continuing for a year, until you secure a mentor. Out of fairness to mentor farmers, their names and contact information are kept private until you, the new farmer, identify your top selections to NOFA-NY. You can see information about their farming background, location and preferred communication methods as a way to narrow your choices.
- You will select up to 5 top candidates whom you will contact as a potential year-long mentor, telling NOFA-NY these mentors' ID numbers within two weeks of receiving the list of available mentors.
- NOFA-NY will send you the full contact information for your selected candidates. You can then contact those farmers, who will also receive some advance information about you, the new farmer interested in mentorship.
- At this point, you should interview farmers to find out whether a mentorship would suit you both, then finalize the details of a year-long mentorship with one of those farmers using the Mentorship Agreement and Plan that NOFA-NY provides you.
- Let NOFA-NY know that you have found a mentor.
If you have ever received the support of a mentor or advisor, you already know the value you could be providing to a newer farmer. Signing up as an available mentor allows our growing group of interested new farmers to find and connect with you to discuss a possible mentorship. The selection process allows you to consider engaging in meaningful mentorship that fits your and the new farmer’s specifications.
- After you have filled out a Sign Up Form, NOFA-NY will alert you to the timing of matching periods, during which you may expect to be contacted by beginning farmers. If a beginning farmer requests your contact information, you will receive details about that farmer to help provide some context and background before the first contact.
- The beginning farmers have a specified amount of time (2-3 weeks, generally) to contact experienced farmers by phone or e-mail. The point of this contact is to decide whether you want to work together, and to come up with a tentative plan for a year of mentorship.
- If you and a beginning farmer agree to a year-long mentorship, your signed working plan serves as the documentation to NOFA-NY to remove you from the next list of available mentors and begin to support you as a current mentor.
- You will be asked to renew your involvement with either program on a yearly basis, and to provide NOFA-NY feedback about the program on an annual basis.
Already Mentoring or Being Mentored? NOFA-NY still wants to support you!
If you’re already working with a mentor, or if you’re a farmer who regularly provides advice to others, consider taking part in the community and education provided by this program. To join the growing group, simply use the same sign-up form, and select that you are already working with another farmer. By selecting that option, NOFA-NY is able to give you any benefits that other participants receive, but you will never be placed on an “eligible mentor” or “seeking mentorship” list. In other words, you bypass the matchmaking process outlined above.
Anyone who is interested in the program and can make the commitment.
How Long does the Program Run?
Mentorship relationships are one year commitments, renewable indefinitely. Participants will be prompted to remain in the program and update their information one year from their initial enrollment, or at the one-year mark of their mentoring relationship, whichever comes later.
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We do not currently have the technology to make a preview of the actual listings available. The information listed will include a brief background given by the farmer on their history, their areas of experience, forms of contact they'd use with a mentee, their location in New York, and an identifying number. When you choose your mentors for potential matching, you will be given their full name, farm name, address and contact information. Click to view or download a .pdf example of this information.
How do I Participate in the Technical Consultancy Program? The same application form is used for the Mentorship Program and the Technical Consultancy Program. Click here for further information about the Technical Consultancy Program. If you indicate interest in both programs when you first sign up, you will automatically receive the most recent list of consultants alongside the list of available long-term mentors, as well as subsequent updates. If you are already a part of the Mentorship Program (with or without a mentor), you can e-mail email@example.com to request the current list of Technical Consultants.
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When Should I Sign Up?
If you are planning your farm, starting your farm or responding to what’s happening on your farm and wishing for a consistent contact for your regular and sudden questions, then perhaps it is time to find a long-term mentor. Mentorship of this sort works best if you have had hands-on farm experience. If you desire to help other farmers along through the lessons you’ve learned from years of experience (and from other farmers), then it’s time to make yourself available to mentor beginning farmers. Applications for mentors and mentees are accepted on an ongoing basis, but there are certain “matching periods” during which the actual match-ups happen. This mentor-finding and -matching process works much like an enrollment period for college courses, concentrated at three different months of the year in which the beginning farmer will receive information about available mentors, make their top choices and then receive those mentors’ contact information. The next matching periods will be July 2013 (mentor relationships will begin in late July) and September 2013 (mentorships will begin in October 2013).
NOFA-NY provides logistical support and information about best practices for a functional and fulfilling mentor-mentee relationship. Published mentorship resource materials provide ideas and examples through case studies and best practices lists. Further, NOFA-NY can assist mentors and mentees in using a progress evaluation tool such as
The NOFA-NY Beginning Farmer Core Competencies Tracking Tool. Participants have an instant connection to other Beginning Farmer Program resources, networks and activities.
Page last updated: 3/28/14
This program is supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, USDA, #2011-49400-30510 and #2011-49400-30307. For more information on the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, click here. For other Beginning Farmer-related information, visit the National Agriculture Library Clearinghouse at start2farm.gov.