Anational mentorship program linking Canadian farm families with young entrants is expanding to add the Canadian 4-H Council and three other partners.
As well, prospective participants will no longer be required to be enrolled in an agricultural course, a previous criteria for participation. They can now be anyone new to farming, or someone wanting to retrain and refocus in an area of agriculture.
“In previous years we’ve had a focus on the young farmer,” said Jennifer Hardy Parr, the program co-ordinator.
By linking up with other partners, including the Canadian Young Farmers’ Forum and Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers’ Program, they’re also casting a wider net to increase participation.
The Canadian Farm Business Management Council has been matching farmers with young men and women who want to learn to farm through its Step-Up on-farm learning placement for the last three years.
It has been piloting the mentorship program, and learning how to offer mentorship training so that it is essentially that, and not merely a work program, Hardy Parr said.
This spring Step-Up has also expanded its website information, posting several past mentor and mentee profiles, plus links and resources that list other mentorship programs in Canada.
The goal is 10 matches this year. Any interested farm families should contact their program right away, Hardy Parr said.
Mentors are expected to help the mentee learn by involving them in tasks related to farm business management. Mentors are also expected to pay a compensation wage to the mentee for working on the farm.
Mentors are paid a $2,000 honorarium and are expected to submit progress reports. Past mentors say mentees often bring new ideas and fresh perspectives to their farm business, Hardy Parr said.
Mentees also speak positively about the program. In online testimonials posted on the Step-Up website, one mentee describes going over record-keeping, pricing and other business strategies which proved “extremely valuable,” while another describes developing a clearer vision of the farm they wanted.
Step-Up mentees are required to participate for a minimum of eight continuous weeks but can potentially stay much longer if both parties desire.
Step-Up program links potential pairs by first reviewing applications, and then providing mentors with information about mentee applicants. The mentee applicant is also informed of the potential mentor match. If both parties express interest, the program arranges an introductory conference call between the two. If it is a go, details of the placement are drawn up.
This is also when a learning contract is drawn up where the mentee sets out goals and expectations for what he or she wants to learn during the experience.
“We want to formalize what’s going to be addressed during the mentorship,” said Hardy Parr. “If a mentee is interested, say, in marketing or budgeting or bookkeeping or any type of farm skill, this would be where they’d say ‘this is where my interest lies.’”
Any salary, accommodations and working/training conditions are also negotiated in the learning contract.
Mentees also each receive a $2,000 honorarium at the end of the program and help with travel expenses.
Mentees must be 18 years of age or older.
For more information about the Step-Up program log on to www.farmcentre.com
“Wewanttoformalize what’sgoingtobe addressedduring thementorship.”
– JENNIFER HARDY PARR, STEP-UP PROGRAM CO-ORDINATOR