For On Farm Mentors


PDF File On Farm Workstays Project Report
(PDF FILE: 106 kb)

PDF File Mentor Sample Worksheet 1
(PDF FILE: 44 kb)

PDF File Excerpt from the On Farm Mentors Guide
(PDF FILE: 27 kb)

PDF File Mentor Sample Worksheet 2
(PDF FILE: 35 kb)

HTML FileWork Stays Labor Law Summary Draft
(HTML FILE: 256 kb)

PDF File Mentor Evaluation Questionaire
(PDF FILE: 87 kb)

PDF File Workstays Report
(PDF FILE: 253 kb)

Whether you currently host trainees on your farm or hope to in the future, we plan to provide helpful resources here.  From tools to help aspiring mentors decide if it’s something they really want to do, to information about teaching adult learners, managing employees, and complying with state and federal regulations – our On Farm Mentor’s Toolbox will offer a wealth of information not readily found elsewhere. * Note: We are currently expanding this section.* 

Why Mentor?

Over and over again, participants in NESFI’s beginning farmer focus groups have made one thing clear – if they have a choice, they prefer to gain farming knowledge and skills “from those who are doing it.”  We think they’re on the right track.  We believe that well-prepared farmers are the very best farming teachers.  They know—and can teach by example—what a new farmer needs to know and be able to do.  But just as it takes a great deal of work, over a long period of time, to become an excellent farmer, it also takes effort and practice to become a skilled farm teacher and mentor. 

Who are On-Farm Mentors?

“On-farm mentors are skilled and experienced farmers who offer education, guidance, moral support and encouragement to trainees that they host on their farms.  They teach knowledge and skills in a structured, supervised way, and have the following qualities in common:
• They are good farmers.
• They are good teachers.
• They offer a well-planned educational program that includes both conceptual information and hands-on instruction in practical skills.
• They set up their farms to serve as “teaching laboratories.”
• They recruit and select only those trainees that are a good match for their personal skills and their farms.”

This definition was developed by the team of experienced mentors that helped create the resource material offered here.  It sets a high standard!  But transferring knowledge and skills to the next farming generation is serious business.  We hope you agree, and that, one way or another, you’ll join us in this important task.

We offer the following publications for Mentors, available through our Bookstore:

Cultivating a New Crop of Farmers: Is On-Farm Mentoring Right for Your and Your Farm?

This decision-making workbook is intended for two audiences: established farmers who want to add a training program to their operations and prospective farmers who are at the planning stage and want to include mentoring in their future farms.  The workbook format is designed to help you decide whether or not hosting full-season “trainees” is right for you, for your farm family, and for your farming operation.  As used here, “trainees” means those who will view their stay on your farm as an important learning experience, not as simply having a job. 

View sample worksheets from the guide:

Worksheet #1

Worksheet #3

The On-Farm Mentor’s Guide: Practical Approaches to Teaching on the Farm

“You may believe that on-farm mentoring is a simple, straightforward job—you bring people to the farm, house them in a spare bedroom or a tent by the creek, and then put them to work with you, doing roughly what your are doing, the next morning and every day thereafter.  Experienced on-farm mentors suggest that, more often than not, this sort of casual approach creates painful experiences – and, quite possibly, situations that are neither safe nor in compliance with the law….  No one, mentor or trainee, wants to go through a painful experience, so it’s useful to learn about the elements that make a mentoring program successful.”  This Guide has been developed with that in mind.

Read more:   From Chapter 1.1, The Fine Art of Teaching – Principles and Practices

 We are in the process of expanding this section. View our PDFs (Left) of the mentor evaluation questionaire, and the on-farm workstays project report. 

Our mission is to promote small farm development by providing information and training for aspiring, beginning and transitioning farmers. We maintain an extensive resource collection; produce publications; develop and offer innovative, farmer-guided programs; and advocate for policies that encourage sustainable small-scale agriculture. We seek collaborative program-delivery partnerships with service providers-associates, on-farm mentors, organizations and agencies-throughout the Northeast and nationwide.