GREENSBURG, Pa. — Beginning farmers may face challenges such as lack of experience and capital, confusion on regulatory requirements, or developing marketing or business skills. The PA Veteran Farming Project, the Commonwealth’s home-grown network of veterans and military who farm or operate agribusinesses, can help.
If you’re just starting out in farming, an experienced mentor who’s walked in your (combat) boots can:
- help you navigate obstacles,
- act as a coach and sounding board,
- provide encouragement and support,
- help you learn production and management techniques,
- troubleshoot on-farm and equipment issues,
- offer unvarnished feedback as you scale your farm up.
Mentor partnerships are flexible and during the Covid-19 crisis can even be virtual. Ag Allies partnerships and can be structured to fit just about any circumstance and need: farm visits when it’s safe again to do so, phone calls, email, or text. Mentor matches may be for a short duration to work on a specific project, or can be on-going, as needed.
Ag Allies mentors aren’t substitutes for accounting, banking, or legal professionals, but share their experience and encouragement with farmers who could use some guidance based on experience. Mentors are not compensated—they’re “paid” with the knowledge that they’ve helped a fellow veteran farmer grow.
Who can apply for a mentor? Verified military/veterans/spouses who have been farming for less than 3-5 years can apply for an Ag Allies mentor.
If you’re a veteran with farming experience, you can help a beginning farmer get off to a strong start. Veterans with 3 or more years experience farming in one or more areas—meat or vegetable production, business planning, marketing, farm management, for example—may apply to volunteer as an Ag Allies mentor.
How does it work?
- Fill out a short form at troopstotractors.org/ag-allies-mentoring
- Complete a short self-assessment.
- Verify your military service and join our network (there is no cost for membership).
- Project staff will match Ag Allies within ag discipline and, when possible, in your county or region.
- Resources and support is provided by Project staff whenever needed.
PA Veteran Farming Project member farmers include veterans, Guard, Reserve, and their dependents who raise fruits, vegetables, crops, and flowers; livestock including beef and dairy, hogs, and goats; manage apiaries; raise and board horses; grow hops and brew beer or wine—and more. Membership in the network is open to those planning to farm, just starting out, and successful proprietors of small farms or agribusinesses.
–Mimi Thomas-Brooker, PA Veteran Farming Project