Partnering with farmers informally can be an invaluable experience for new entrants, the next generation and those wishing to take their careers to the next step.
Steph Wetherell, mentoring programme co-ordinator for the Landworkers’ Alliance, says mentors can help support new farmers become established and share their experiences.
Ms Wetherell says: “There are some incredibly knowledgeable and experienced practitioners and the mentoring relationship helps people use their experience to guide people,
while supporting them to make their own decisions.
“For new entrants, it can be really challenging getting started in agriculture. For agroecological farming there is little appropriate training and, as a result, it can be really difficult to build a viable business which can be sustainable in the long-term.
“Mentoring offers a way for experienced practitioners to help guide new entrants through the challenging first few years of setting up a business and help them make the right decisions for their situation.”
Alana Black, project and communications officer at Rural Youth Project, says only 13 per cent of young people in rural areas feel they have a say in their community, adding it was vital to foster an environment for rural youths to access a network of experienced leaders.
She says: “The Rural Youth Project provides opportunities, such as our ideas festivals and inter-generational learning journeys, held in partnership with the Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Programme, for young people and older leaders to come together to learn, support and consider solutions to the biggest issues which plague rural areas.
“Utilising the skills of experienced leaders is vital to developing the leadership, enterprise and communications skills of rural youth and, in turn, empowering them to play an integral part in making rural places attractive and viable for young people to build their lives and their futures there.”
Sarah Palmer, National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs agri and PR manager, says there is mutual respect between those who have a track record within the industry and those who are passionate to progress, with exchanges of experience, ideas, practicalities, knowledge and a listening ear good for young people.
She says the club, county, area and national structure of the organisation was an established example of informal mentoring.
She says: “Young Farmers’ Club [YFC] members are encouraged to take part, learn skills, optimise training offered for the range and levels of officeholder roles and share their knowledge and experience with fellow YFC members.
“There is continual succession of active leadership practice, which ranges from administration, organisation, governance and compliance, to programme and event development, training and industry collaboration.
“All this takes place voluntarily and in addition to study and work.”
She says governance and compliance for charities helps YFC officeholders learn and practise the levels of responsibility and knowledge needed, which is then passed on while staying connected and offering support.