Published Nov 26, 2014

Mentors Pay-It-Forward to Beginning Farmers

By Julie Wheelock

We are quickly getting the new 2016 Savings Incentive Program Class through the enrollment process. Next step, mentor matching! Current SIP participants have told me over and over that the mentoring part of the program has been the most beneficial aspect. Learning from someone else’s successes and challenges can save a new farmer seasons of trial and error.  This equates to a higher likelihood of a profitable, solid farm business. Mentors – new farmers are eager and thirsty for your knowledge!

Beginning farmer mentor

Learning from a mentor can save a beginning farmer seasons of trial and error.

What’s involved in becoming a mentor? SIP participants and mentors will be responsible for communicating and setting up three meetings during year one of the program; one meeting at the mentor’s farm, one meeting at the beginning farmer’s farm, and one meeting at a place of their choice. During these meetings, mentors are asked to freely share information and advice that can help beginning farmers get off on the right foot with their farm business.

Gary Guthrie

Gary Guthrie was able to pay it forward to the beginning farmers he mentored. As beginning farmers transition to experienced farmers, they are encouraged to do the same.

Gary Guthrie of Growing Harmony Farm in Nevada has served as a mentor for our Savings Incentive Program for a couple of participants.  “It’s been exciting to see these beginning farmers succeed and be able to avoid some of the problems I faced when I started. With my experience, it’s nice to assure them when challenges do come up that they will get through it, don’t worry.”  Gary also enjoys the chance to stay involved with beginning farmers.  “At my stage in life, being a mentor keeps me young. I like being involved to share my knowledge and support those that are starting out. I will continue to be a mentor and stay in touch with those I have worked with for as long as I can. It’s my chance to pay-it-forward.”

Andy and Melissa Dunham of Grinnell Heritage Farm echoed Gary thoughts. “We’ve been SIP mentors twice and we’ve learned that beginning farmers all have different farm plans and are looking to get something different out of their SIP experiences.  We feel fortunate to be able to pay-it-forward because a number of Wisconsin growers helped us by giving time and advice as we grew.”

PFI staff works hard to make a complementary mentor match based upon the beginning farmers’ enterprises, needs and location. We try to keep travel time between the mentor’s and mentee’s farm to not more than an hour. However, mentor’s are compensated for their time and travel.

beginning farmer mentor_3

Connecting with mentors keeps beginners excited to keep learning and moving forward.

Rory Van Wyk, a 2015 SIP participant feels the mentoring side of the program keeps him motivated to try new things and continue learning. “It’s been great to connect with another farmer who has years of experience and still has a desire to learn. PFI members have an excitement to accept new challenges and gain from them. Getting to know my mentor has shown me that.”

Rory hit it right on with that. I submitted a request for mentor volunteers on our discussion list last week and within ten minutes I had four responses of experienced farmers who wanted to be part of the program.  PFI members, I am proud to be part of a group that is genuinely supportive and enthusiastic about a new farmer’s success!

If you are interested in becoming mentor for our Savings Incentive Program, please call me (712)830-2402 or shoot me an email at Include your name, location, and enterprises with which you have experience. Thank you!