Just 4 percent of America’s family farms have principal operators younger than 35, while nearly a third are led by someone age 65 or older, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 Agricultural Resource Management Survey. Clearly, more young farmers are needed. But starting a new agricultural operation is an intensive and expensive endeavour. Aspiring farmers face an uphill battle. That's where mentoring comes in.
With years comes knowledge.
Farming is one of those industries where much of it can be taught. However, having someone to guide you provides an edge that you cannot get from classes, webinars, or field days.
Connecting experienced farmers with beginning farmers in a mentor/mentee relationship is a great way to transfer institutional knowledge that would otherwise leave the industry along with the retiring farmer.
It's about creating relationships
The MiFarmLink Project wants to help create more mentor/mentee relationships among Michigan farmers. Mentors gain the peace of knowing the industry they love will continue to thrive, and mentees will gain knowledge that will help them farm more successfully for their families and communities. Mentor-mentee relationships are often established organically, but there are also programs that can match mentor mentee pairs. The MiFarmLink land listings also note whether the current farm owner is interested is being a mentor.
"Anytime you can do networking between farmers - it’s a good thing! The reason we got going in our operation is because we networked when we first started and that really helped us along. I’m hoping I can give back to these young farmers like that so they can move forward with their farm operation." Mike Fusilier, row crop farmer and mentor
Becoming a mentor or mentee can seem daunting, but we believe it can be a rewarding, fulfilling, and effective way to help protect the industry that feeds your family and feeds the world. Here are some programs that match mentor-mentee pairs: