East Bay Farmer & Rancher Mentorship Program
Are you a new farmer or rancher looking for advice on your operation? Interested in learning from someone with years of experience?
Are you a seasoned farmer or rancher interested in sharing your experience and helping a new producer get off on the right foot?
If you answered yes to either of these questions, then the East Bay Farmer and Rancher Mentorship Program, hosted by the Alameda County Conservation Partnership and Sustainable Agriculture and Education (SAGE) may be for you. Sign up today to participate.
What is the Mentorship Program?
The East Bay Farmer and Rancher Mentorship Program pairs beginning producers during the challenging first years of production, with more experienced farmers and ranchers in an effort to enhance knowledge, skill sharing, and to promote success of the next generation. The program helps to establish working relationships between seasoned producers (mentors) and producers with ten years or less experience (mentees) through an anonymous matching process. Once connected, mentors and mentees agree to meet (over coffee/at the ranch/wherever) to discuss questions identified by the beginning famer or rancher and begin sharing information and experience.
Mentor and mentee participants agree to the following over the year long program:
- A minimum of three in-person meetings, including but not limited to:
- A visit to the mentor’s farm/ranch
- A visit to the mentee’s farm/ranch
- A brief evaluation of the mentorship experience
Participants will receive the following benefits:
- Shared insight, experience, and a greater connection to the local agricultural community
- Free admission to any Beginning Farmer or Rancher workshops or field days hosted by the Alameda Conservation Partnership or SAGE
Mentees will receive:
Essential new skills to enhance the sustainability of your farm or ranch;
- Access to technical assistance provided by the Alameda County Conservation Partnership
Please note: This is not an apprenticeship program.
How does it work?
1. The Mentorship program begins with your application. When filling out the application, you will be asked for information about your farming goals, production system (ie. cattle, olives, vegetables) and geographic location to help find the best match. Download an application here by clicking on this link.
2. Beginning farmer/rancher mentees will be contacted by the Conservation Partnership with a list of potential mentors - if more than one suitable option is available - from which to pick his or her best fit.
3. Then it’s up to the mentee to make contact and initiate a relationship that is of benefit to both parties. Mentorship may take the form of in-person meetings, phone or email consultation, joint participation in local workshops/field days or visits to each other’s production site. You may even find that your mentor-mentee relationship develops into an apprenticeship or land leasing/management opportunity.
4. There are few requirements, other than your three meetings, your evaluation of the program, and an openness and willingness to learn. Mentors and mentees must decide together how much time they have to devote to the relationship, and should check-in frequently to make sure the time commitment is still working.
Who should apply?
A Mentee applicant is any new farmer or rancher (in the first ten years of production) eager to learn from more experienced producers in the region. A Mentor applicant is an experienced producer with time, experience, skill and insight to share with the next generation. Mentors and mentees from Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties are encouraged to apply. See below for more detail on the expectation for mentors and mentees.
Mentors are expected to provide the following:
·Interest in supporting the next generation of farmers or ranchers
·A willingness to meet with mentee a minimum of three times, but potentially more, depending on mutual agreement
·A willingness to host mentee at your farm or ranch and to visit his or her operation
·A deep knowledge of your production system and interest in sharing that knowledge and associated skills and contacts
·Patience, compassion and a sense of humor
·The ability to listen and communicate effectively, openly and honestly
·Receptiveness to new ideas
In return, mentors will enjoy the pleasure of helping a new farm or ranch to succeed while strengthening the fabric of the agricultural community in the East Bay.
Mentees are expected to provide the following:
·Interest in learning from and applying knowledge and skills provided by an established farmer or rancher
·A willingness to establish contact with and meet face-to-face with your assigned mentor at least three times
·A willingness to think about and articulate your questions and ideas to a mentor and listen to their feedback
·Patience, openness to new ideas, and a willingness to accept production-related advice
·A commitment to honest and open communication
Enrollment in the mentorship program is not a job or an apprenticeship. Unfortunately, the Alameda County Conservation Partnership and SAGE cannot provide compensation for participants at this time.
Mentorship Program Coordinator: Susan Ellsworth. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone: 925-371-0154 ext. 103
Does it cost anything to participate?
This program is supported by the USDA NIFA Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development Program Grant # 2011-49400-30641 and hosted in conjunction with Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE).
No! Participation is free, with support provided the Alameda Conservation Partnership and SAGE, and funded by a USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program Grant.
What is a beginning farmer or rancher?
A new farmer or rancher has 10 years or less of experience, and mentors will not be assigned to individuals who have not yet started farming or ranching.
Do I have to have more than 10 years of experience to be a mentor?
No, we rely on you to honestly assess the depth of your knowledge and skills and capacity to share this productively with a mentee.
What if it doesn’t work out?
We anticipate that, like any relationship, some mentorships may not end up working out, but that all participants will approach the program with an openness and willingness to try and make the relationship work. If it doesn’t, just let us know and we’ll do our best to support both parties in finding a better match.
Do I need to reside in Alameda County?
No! This program encompasses farmers and ranchers from Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara Counties. We will try to pair you with a mentor/mentee as close as possible but cannot guarantee they will be in the same county.