Maryland FarmLINK Mentor Match Program: Frequently Asked Questions
How does the program work?
A beginning/transitioning farmer interested in one of the program's focus areas initiates the matching process by filling out the Mentee Application/Profile. The Mentor Match team uses the information from the profile and from a visit to the applicant's farm to identify a suitable mentor. [Note: acceptance in the program is contingent on the availability of a mentor and funding. Not all applicants can be matched with mentors.]
If a match is made, the mentorship process consists of several farm visits and follow-up communication by phone (or e-mail) between the mentor and mentee. The FarmLINK Mentor Match Team provides additional support, tracks progress and recommends related avenues of training to supplement the mentoring experience. The mentorship lasts approximately one year.
How much does it cost to be in the program?
- There is no charge to apply
- There is no charge to be a mentee if you are matched with a mentor
- If you are a mentor, a modest stipend is availale ($750 in 2014) available to cover expenses and time
What types of farm production will be covered in 2014?
- Vegetable production (organic or conventional)
- Pasture-raised poultry and rabbits
- Wine grapes
(NOTE: If a mentee requests an area outside these areas and funding permits, FarmLINK will attempt to match the mentee with an appropriate mentor. If you are interested in seeking a mentor in ruminant grazing we recommend that you contact the Maryland Grazers Network.)
How is the program funded and administered?
- Maryland FarmLINK, a program of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission [SMADC] administers the program.
- The stipend is partially funded by a USDA grant and is primarily designed to benefit beginning farmers.
- The Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC) is providing additional funding to new and transitioning farmers in Southern Maryland (experienced farmers who are in the process of switching to or adding new production methods on their farms).
- Transitioning farmers in other areas of Maryland (outside of Southern Maryland) may apply and SMADC will attempt to secure funding.
- The program is administered by SMADC's Maryland FarmLINK.
What are the benefits to me as a mentee?
- Access to the knowledge and experience of a successful working farmer; you can request and receive advice tailored to your specific situation, experience level, needs and goals.
- A customized, guided tour of the mentor's farm -- a successful, working farm in your specific area of interest.
- The opportunity to host the mentor at your farm and receive feedback specific to your farm.
- The opportunity to get ongoing, expert advice throughout the year.
- Individualized supplemental support from the FarmLINK Mentor Match Team.
Who is eligible to be a mentee?
- Beginning farmers in Maryland who have operated a farm for 10 years or fewer and are currently farming. They must own or work on a farm that earns $1,000 or more from agricultural products.
- Experienced farmers (operators for more than ten years) in Southern Maryland who are transitioning into new specialty areas (funded by SMADC.)
- Experienced farmers (operators for more than ten years) OUTSIDE of Southern Maryland who are transitioning into new specialty areas are accepted on a case-by-case basis, contingent on funding. (The FarmLINK Mentor Match Team will seek supplemental funding for transitioning farmers in other regions of Maryland upon request.)
What factors are considered when matching me with a mentor?
- Your overall goals for your farm.
- Driving distance (proximity) to the mentor's farm.
- Type of information you need (marketing? technical?)
- Your current level of skill/knowledge.
- Your preferred communication style (email? phone?)
- Your preferred learning style.
(NOTE: At certain times, the number of mentee applicants may exceed the pool of mentors. The Mentor Match Team is recruiting mentors on an ongoing basis, but there is no guarantee that a mentor will be found for every mentee.)
How do I apply to be a mentee?
Fill out the mentee application. Click here for a link to the application.
What happens after I apply?
You will be contacted by the Mentor Match Team within two weeks of submitting your Mentee application. If you meet the program criteria, the Mentor Match Team will contact you and set up an initial visit to your farm to and begin the process of matching you with a mentor.
If I am matched with a mentor, what happens next?
- First, you and your mentor will schedule a visit your mentor's farm. The mentor will explain his/her farm processes. You will have the opportunity to ask questions, some of which may require follow-up or referrals to guides.
- Next, you and your mentor will arrange a date/time for your mentor to visit your farm. You can discuss your own business plan, your current farm processes, marketing strategies, goals, etc. and ask for specific advice or feedback from your mentor.
- Once reciprocal farm visits are complete, you are welcome to call (or email) your mentor as needed throughout the remainder of the mentorship with specific questions. [Most mentors will respond within 48 hours, often less. Please remember that your mentor is usually a working farmer and be respectful of his or her time and schedule.]
- You and your mentor may schedule follow-up farm visits if needed, but they are not required.
- Every few weeks, someone from your FarmLINK Mentor Match Team will call you to track progress and make suggestions as needed.
- At the end of the year, you will be required to participate in a survey so that FarmLINK can evaluate and improve the program.
On what basis does the Mentor Match Team evaluate MENTORS for the program?
- Have owned or operated a farm in Maryland.
- Have a track record of success in his or her area of expertise.
- Are knowledgeable about successful techniques and strategies.
- Are recognized by peers as a skilled farmer, leader, and teacher.
- Possess strong communication skills.
- Are willing to share information and knowledge.
Who/what is the FarmLINK Mentor Match Team?
Your FLMM Team will include ag professionals including extension agents, permitting and zoning experts, and an expert in your area of interest.
Can I apply to be a MENTOR?
Yes, if you are interested in completing a MENTOR application, contact the firstname.lastname@example.org.