Direct Farm Manitoba will look at developing a mentoring program for its membership this year.
The need for a formal program that links new and existing farmers was raised when members met before Christmas to discuss priorities needs and direction for the organization in 2018.
They’ve asked the DFM board to place organizing a formal program high on its to-do list for 2018, said DFM spokesman Phil Veldhuis.
Informal mentoring is already happening to a certain extent but not all members have access to those opportunities and their members say they also want more than informal arrangements.
“We need to take that informal success and make it more accessible to people,” said Veldhuis. “Clearly it isn’t something that everyone is benefiting from.”
DFM’s membership, which hovers around 150 at this time, is looking for places to learn more about all aspects of running farm businesses from production to marketing, he said.
“Few people have all those abilities and skills right from the start,” he said.
Starting such a program could be a significant undertaking, he added.
Until members raised the need this wasn’t something the board had spent much time thinking about so this may take some time and effort.
They’ll look at what else is already offered in Manitoba including the Young Farmer program offered through Keystone Agricultural producers and a newer program that began last fall in University of Manitoba’s faculty of agricultural and food science department, pairing female students with female professionals.
“There’s stuff happening out there. We don’t want to replicate that but to collaborate with what’s already happening.”
Another shorter-lived farm mentorship program supported through the Organic Food Council of Manitoba started up in 2009, pairing new entrants with existing farmers for some knowledge and skills transfer.
That program also offered a ‘land link’ opportunity where landowners with parcels of land were matched with those looking for some land to get started.
There was significant uptake for the opportunities the program supported but it ended in 2012 due to lack of operating funds, carrying on informally after that.