HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry has a new resource available to help farmers. The PA Agriculture Mentor Program includes five mentors with extensive agricultural backgrounds to assist beginning farmers, agribusiness entrepreneurs and farmers in troubleshooting new strategies and ideas for their farm businesses.
Spearheaded by a group of Pennsylvania agricultural organizations with an interest in the future of agriculture, the program leverages SCORE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Development Center. The mentoring is free and confidential.
“The voice and wisdom of an experienced mentor can be one of your most valuable assets in a new operation,” Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. “The Agricultural Business Development Center [agriculture.pa.gov] was created under the PA Farm Bill to connect the next generation of farmers to the resources they need to feed Pennsylvania’s future. We are pleased to support the new Ag Mentor Program and are grateful for the generosity of this group of mentors who are willing to share their time and expertise.”
Mentors in the PA Agriculture Mentor Program:
- John Berry, Emmaus, PA – John is a former Penn State Extension educator who spent more than 20 years helping farmers on a variety of marketing and financial management topics. Known nationally for his retail farm marketing expertise, he is an internationally certified Farm Business Transition Coordinator. Prior to joining Extension, John had a 20-year dairy farming career. In retirement, John works seasonally for a pick-your-own orchard, food and agritourism business in his local community and enjoys volunteering on USAID foreign assignments.
- Richard Crouse, Biglerville, PA – Rick was raised on a tree fruit-growing operation and spent summers in college working as an orchard specialist at the Penn State Fruit Research Laboratory in Biglerville. Rick dedicated 30 years with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) as a loan officer, manager and specialist throughout Pennsylvania. The last seven years of his career, he served as a business development specialist with AgChoice Farm Credit in Adams County.
- Jim Hoge, Waterford, PA – Jim is retired from AgChoice Farm Credit, after 34 years as a loan officer and regional manager in western Pennsylvania. As a loan officer, he worked with dairy, grapes, and forest products customers. He often served as a trusted advisor for start-up and expansion projects. Prior to his AgChoice career, Jim and his brother operated a small dairy farm in Washington County. Jim and his wife currently have a small farm, growing blueberries for pick-your-own and local farm markets.
- Winifred McGee, Elizabethtown, PA – Winifred has a passion for helping farm and food businesses get started and currently works part-time for University of Scranton Small Business Development Center (SBDC). She is formerly with Penn State Extension and spent more than 30 years teaching topics such as business planning, financial analysis and business feasibility.
- Alan Zepp, New Oxford, PA – Alan has a lifelong background in the dairy industry. He operated his own dairy farm for more than 30 years, and then helped other Pennsylvania dairy farmers as risk management coordinator at the Center for Dairy Excellence. Alan now operates a crop farm and raises heifers for a neighboring farm.
Individuals seeking mentorship can apply online at www.score.org. Within the application, note your involvement in a farm or food business, and you may also identify a specific mentor you would like to work with.
To learn more about the PA Agriculture Mentor Program and its mentors, visit https://pafarmlink.org/mentor/.
The following organizations supported the development and launch of the PA Agriculture Mentor Program: AgChoice Farm Credit, Center for Dairy Excellence, Farm Progress, Pasa Sustainable Agriculture, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania Farm Link and Penn State Extension.
–AgChoice Farm Credit