The Tennessee Beginning Farmer Program Seeks Mentors & Mentees
The Tennessee Beginning Farmer Program is taking applications for their beginning farmer mentorship-mentee program. This program aims to bring together beginning and experienced farmers in an effort to provide hands on education and support.

If you’re interested in being a Mentor or a Mentee, please see TBFOP Mentee Application or the TBFOP Mentor Application. If you have any questions or would like to submit an application, please contact. Hannah Wright directly at hwrigh13@utk.edu.

The Tennessee Beginning Farmer Outreach Mentorship Program aims to support the next generation of beginning farmers to succeed in starting a new farm or agribusiness through education and training, on-farm mentoring, and technical assistance. The goal of our mentoring program is hands-on training is that enhances participants knowledge of production practices and that assists the mentee in creating a draft business plan for their farm (which addresses cash flow, marketing, legal requirements, employee supervision, and growth).
This is a 6-9-month training program based on the mentor farm’s production cycle. The training program consists of seven full-day instructional sessions held at a Tennessee New Farmer Academy, and 160-200 hours of on-farm mentorship from a successful farmer. Students will be matched with a successful farmer to gain hands-on agricultural production, business management, and marketing experience. Mentorship schedules will be negotiated between the mentor and student and approved by the program director. The length of the mentorship will be based on the mentor farm’s production cycle and their marketing schedule. Upon completion of the program, mentors will receive an honorarium for their participation. This is not an employment or farm labor program; students are expected to work on farms as apprentices, committing to broadening their agricultural knowledge under the direction of a successful farmer.
The program will start with an introductory overview and resource panel for beginning farmers-ranchers and mentors. Mentors will receive a separate orientation to review the requirements, logistics, and expectations of the mentorship program. Program applicants will be accepted based on the successful pairing of a mentor farmer and a beginning farmer.
Beginning Farmers and Ranchers (“Students”)
By pairing students with experienced farmers who are not their employers, the Beginning Farmer-Rancher Mentorship Program enables students to gain valuable farm experience, skills, and perspectives through day-to-day work that they otherwise might not learn.
The goal of the mentorship component of this program is to provide mutually beneficial experiences between mentors and students by exposing students to multiple facets of agricultural business operations. Students will be expected to do a certain amount of menial labor throughout the mentorship. Successful students will be committed to broadening their agricultural educations by learning from a seasoned farmer.
Expectations for Students:
• Attend monthly full-day classroom and hands-on instructional sessions at the Tennessee New Farmer Academy in Nashville, Memphis, or Wartburg (required);
• Articulate what you are interested in learning through a mentoring relationship;
• Create a Business Plan;
• Commit to working under the guidance of mentor for no less than 160 hours, but no more than 200 hours over the 6-9-month program period depending on the mentor farm’s production cycle program period in a professional manner;
• Check in monthly (at a minimum) with the program director;
• Students are responsible for their own transportation to and from the mentor’s farm; and
• Complete a short evaluation at the end of the program.
Mentor Farmers (“Mentors”)
The goal of the mentorship component of this program is to provide mutually beneficial experiences between mentors and mentees by exposing beginning farmers to multiple facets of agricultural business operations. Assigning a certain amount of menial labor is warranted, however this is not an employment program. Mentors should be prepared to work with mentees in the areas of farm and ranch production, harvesting, marketing, distribution, and other areas of business development. Mentors must have at least ten years of successful commercial production farming experience to qualify for the program. Mentors must have participated in UT-TSU Extension activities in the past and have a working relationship with your county agricultural extension agent.
The decision to become a mentor should be made carefully, with the understanding that mentors will be expected to share their time and knowledge with a beginning farmer. Our hope is that the process and relationship will prove as rewarding for the mentor as the student. Mentors are welcome to attend the monthly full-day classroom and hands-on instructional sessions with the Tennessee New Farmer Academy held in Nashville, Memphis, or Wartburg. UT-TSU Extension is available to assist farmers.
Mentors who successfully complete no less than 160 hours, but no more than 200 hours of mentoring to their beginning farmer mentee and will receive a $200-400 honorarium from UT-TSU Tennessee Beginning Farmer Outreach Program. Please note honorariums are not guaranteed. The honorariums will be awarded if all the criteria/expectations of the mentor have been fulfilled.
Expectations for Mentors:
• Make a commitment to serve as a mentor, providing no less than 160 hours, but no more than 200 hours of mentorship to a student over the 6-9-month program period depending on the mentor farm’s production cycle (approximately 20 hours per month);
• Attend at least one Tennessee Beginning Farmer Outreach Program meeting of program participants; and
• Share advice, technical assistance, wisdom, and philosophies over the course of the mentoring program.
• Mentors will be responsible for obtaining liability insurance coverage if not already included under your farm’s policy.
• Mentors will provide a safe working environment.