SMADC has launched a new webpage called Tomorrow’s Harvest showcasing a series of stories about farmers in SMADC’s Mentor Match Program. Eight mentee farmers of the inaugural program agreed to share their stories in hopes that their experiences will be useful to others just beginning the journey.
As the age of the average farmer continues to rise, programs like the Mentor Match are in place to keep farming alive in our region. High cost of land and necessary infrastructure to get started prevent many new farmers, and especially young farmers, from being profitable. During their time in the program, mentees work with an experienced mentor farmer who agreed to help grow the next generation of farmers in the region. The mentee visits the mentors farm and vice versa. They are encouraged to call the mentor with questions and occasionally the mentor contacts the mentee to see how things are going.
“I was trying to find more experienced people so I don’t make the same mistakes, especially as I’m scaling up…That’s one of the reasons to have someone in your region versus the Internet. The Internet doesn’t ask you how you’re doing. It doesn’t empathize,” Emma Jagoz of Moon Valley Farm says of her experience with the Mentor Match. “I wanted to be in the program forever.”
Generations ago, a parent or neighbor who lived on the adjacent farm could answer the questions of a new farmer. Today, the parent of a new farmer may not have farmed, the closest farm might be miles away, and a farmer with experience in a specific crop might be several counties away. A mentee can lean on someone with expert knowledge and wisdom, providing the new farmer with information that can prevent costly mistakes.“It has been such a joy to learn about and work with our farm mentees. They exhibit a passion for growing food and a quiet resolve to make a difference in their communities. Through the Mentor Match Program, mentees learn about tricks of the trade from a farmer experienced in their line of work, while mentors get to see farming through new eyes. The matches often form great relationships where both parties learn something,” said Greg Bowen, former Maryland FarmLINK Director at SMADC.
The beginning farmer stories are available online here. The next round of stories will be added in the fall. If you are interested in the Mentor Match program, we have rolling application process for mentees, you can fill out the form here. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301-274-1922 x1 to become a mentor!