West Virginia Beginning Farmer Mentorship Program

Higher demand for local foods in West Virginia has created new opportunities for the state’s producers, survey data suggest that information and experience gaps limit entry and business success for West Virginia producers. A needs assessment showed that 92% of beginning farmers (n=29), 100% of aspiring farmers (n=19) and 87% of agricultural service providers (ASPs) (n=57) indicated strong interest in expanding production, product development/value-adding or market development; however, training and support in whole-farm planning and risk management are needed to help farmers identify and mitigate business risks in these new markets.

Respondents also indicated a desire to learn from more experienced ‘mentor’ farmers. Informal mentoring opportunities are available in the state but training farmer mentors can better create a mutually beneficial experience for both mentor and mentee.

This one-year project, conducted by the West Virginia University state SARE coordinator, is better serving beginning farmers by creating a unique partnership of the state’s agricultural service providers to leverage available resources and build upon best-practices to enhance overall impact. It will ASPs and farm mentors/farmer leaders in West Virginia to work with beginning farmers on whole-farm planning and risk management, and support these farmers in their early years of operation through mentoring, community partnerships and networking opportunities.

Want more information? See the related SARE grant: