Farmer Mentor Toolkit
Cultivating Success™ Farmer Mentor Responsibilities
Farmer Mentors instruct interns in the practical skills and concepts of intensive, small acreage farming and/or ranching and market gardening. This instruction should occur primarily through hands-on activities on the farm, but may also include some time in a classroom setting, depending on the preferences of the Farmer Mentor.
At the beginning of an internship, Farmer Mentors work with Cultivating Success students to determine an educational plan and a plan of work that includes expectations for the student’s participation. Once the internship is underway, the Farmer Mentor directs the daily activities of interns in production, marketing, and maintenance of the small acreage farm, ranch or market garden.
Farmer Mentors use monthly progress reports and an end-of-season report to evaluate each student’s performance and determine whether the student has earned Continuing Education Units (CEUs). Farmer Mentors should share end-of season reports with the Washington Cultivating Success Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org) and also contact them for the correct CEU form to use each year. Please note that the CEU form entails a small fee per student. Find the current CEU form and more CEU information under Resources for Farmer Mentors below.
Beyond the information listed here and any requirements of the state, county, or town where the farm, ranch, or market garden is located, Farmer Mentors are free to determine their own internship program offerings and curriculum, any program fees or costs for participants, living arrangements for participants, and their own application process, beyond the Cultivating Success Internship Application Form.
Cultivating Success™ Farmer Mentor Requirements
Please note that only individual farmers (not entire farms) can become Farmer Mentors. The Farmer Mentor on a given farm, ranch, or market garden should be the primary person working with Cultivating Success interns and should be the one who submits the Farmer Mentor application. If that person permanently leaves the farm, a new application needs to be submitted and approved in order for the farm, ranch, or market garden to continuing being a host-site for Cultivating Success interns.
Farmer Mentors should have the following:
- A minimum of three years of experience farming or ranching and the ability to provide three references with direct knowledge of their experience and practices (peers, Extension staff, former interns, etc.).
- Willingness to work with Cultivating Success interns to develop an educational plan and plan of work and potentially other on-farm academic projects.
- Experience teaching or a strong desire to teach in a garden or field setting. It is important to have the ability to deliver information and instruction in a clear and thorough manner both verbally, in writing, and by demonstration.
- Knowledge of organizational and time management skills sufficient to independently set priorities and to coordinate and complete a number of concurrent tasks in both farm management and intern instruction.
- Experience and knowledge in operations involved with maintaining all aspects of their production system.
- Experience in record keeping for planning, production, and marketing.
- Experience in the maintenance of the equipment utilized in their production system.
- Participation in the annual survey of Cultivating Success Farmer Mentors.
- Participation in any training sessions or workshops offered for Cultivating Success Farmer Mentors.
- Willingness to complete and send in Continuing Education Unit forms on behalf of interns.
- Willingness to share end-of-season internship reports and evaluations to the Washington Cultivating Success Coordinator.
- Willingness to have a site visit from a Cultivating Success Representative.
Resources for Farmer Mentors
Farmer Mentor Applications are adjudicated once a year in February or March. The 2015 deadline for Farmer Mentor applications is February 28, 2015. The current application form for becoming a Cultivating Success Farmer Mentor is available here: Farm Mentor Application 2015
Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are available to interns of Cultivating Success Farmer Mentors. WSU will award 6 CEUs to interns that complete at least 60 learning hours for a fee of $10 per intern. At the end of each internship, Farmer Mentors should submit a CEU form and a $10 check for each intern. The current CEU form is available here: CEU Form Internship 2015-16. Interns should complete Section I and Farmer Mentors should complete Section II and then send it by post with a check to Marcy Ostrom at WSU TFREC, 1100 N. Western Avenue, Wenatchee, WA 98801.
The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has a Farm Internship Program that includes various counties across the state. Please visit this website to learn more about whether this program applies to your farm, ranch, or market garden.
Several Cultivating Success resources are available to help Farmer Mentors prepare to host interns:
- Curriculum Development Exercise for Farmer Mentors
- Farm Activities Calendar for Farmer Mentors
- Lecture Topics Spreadsheet for Farmer Mentors
- In 2008, the Cultivating Success Team in Idaho created a Handbook for Cultivating Success Farmer Mentors. This handbook is available on Idaho’s Cultivating Success webpage. Please note that Cultivating Success information pertaining to Washington on that webpage may be outdated.
Many other resources for Farmer Mentors are available online. We recommend the following:
- The Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Farm Internship Curriculum and Handbook
- The University of California at Santa Cruz has a highly regarded internship program that may include components of interest to Farmer Mentors in Washington. Learn more about the program here.