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PFI seeks experienced farmers to mentor beginning farmers

By Staff | Nov 24, 2013

“With our business growing, the Labor4Learning program was our nudge to go to the next level.” —Mary Cory Elkhart-area cattle producer

AMES – (PFI) Farmers seeking a highly motivated farm employee or looking for a way to support the next generation of Iowa farmers by sharing their farming knowledge might consider becoming a trainer in Practical Farmers of Iowa’s Labor4Learning program.

The program, now entering its second year, is an effort to help beginning farmers receive paid, on-the-job training while helping experienced farmers attract high-quality, motivated farm employees.

Applications will be accepted through Dec. 9. Up to 15 trainer farms will be selected by a committee of Practical Farmers members.

Farms of all sizes, enterprises, production practices and regions in Iowa are encouraged to apply.

To be eligible to serve as a trainer, farmers must live or farm in Iowa and be Practical Farmers of Iowa members.

To become a member, visit practicalfarmers.org or call the PFI office at (515) 232-5661.

Tom and Mary Cory, who raise grass-based livestock at Cory Family Farm near Elkhart, took on their first longer-term employee, Rory Van Wyk, through the program last year and said they are pleased with the program.

“With our business growing,” said Mary Cory, “the Labor4Learning program was our nudge to go to the next level.” She said that in the past, they have only hired daily help during hay baling or other temporary periods of heavy workloads.

“They were always high school age,” Cory said, “whereas Rory is in his mid-30s not that age matters.

“But he had basic background experience, which was important in our situation. He’s also motivated, because his goal is to start a grass-based farm with his wife.

“Without PFI offering this program, I don’t know that we would have taken the leap.”

Program attributes include approved trainer farms will receive a payment of up to $200 per month, not to exceed $1,000 per year.

This money pays farmers to spend additional time educating trainees on farm business development – giving trainees knowledge and business insights beyond the experience they gain performing tasks as a farm laborer.

Training time may be flexible, on-the-job or of an informal nature, and should take about one to two hours per week.

Trainers will also receive support learning about farm labor regulations.

Trainees will receive other benefits, including one paid day off to attend Practical Farmers events, such as field days; a special student rate discount to Practical Farmers’ annual conference; and special consideration for free lodging at a PFI member’s home during the 2015 annual conference.

Practical Farmers of Iowa will assist in connecting trainees to employment opportunities at trainer farms; hiring decisions are made by the farm trainers.

An application is available at practicalfarmers.org, or request one by calling (515) 232-5661.

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