Beginning Farmer Role Models

The Northeast Beginning Farmer Project is working with the Greenhorns to locate and partner with outstanding beginning farmer role models interested in sharing their farming experience with high school students. 

In school year 2010-2011 we will be identifying 16 beginning farmer role models to work with our 8 test schools.  This outreach will expand in school year 2011-2012 in order to identify additional farmers with great stories to share.

The Importance of Role Models—Finding Farmers

Building a strong agricultural future for our country, and our world, requires active and on-going     recruitment of young people into farming careers.  Showcasing successful beginning farmers from your community to your students can help interest a new generation of youth to explore careers in agriculture.

What makes a great beginning farmer role model?

Not all young agricultural entrepreneurs make great public speakers.  By selecting carefully, you can help your students to connect with vibrant people who are willing to share details about their career process, business, and farm life.  A great role model will be positive about their career experience, have more than three (3) years of experience, and be willing to answer questions.   A friendly attitude and a respect for students can really help a speaker connect with their audience.

Youthfulness is not a requirement, however many students find it easier to relate to younger farmers who are in the process of developing and growing their business rather than successful or retiring farmers.  Role models can come in all shapes and sizes—current students with a successful SAE or small business, former students who have started up a farm or agribusiness of their own, youngsters with 4-H projects, or mature individuals starting up a new enterprise. 

Students often have probing questions—how much money does the farmer earn, how many hours a day do they work, what is their family life like?  Prepare  farmers (and students) as best you can, but make sure to ask farmers if any     particular topic should be off-limits.  Encourage students to journal their thoughts about the speaker and their career choice.  Host a follow up discussion to review the classes thoughts about a career in farming.

But I don’t know any beginning farmers!

Think of your past, do you know any students who went into farming, or are in the midst of learning about how to farm?  Do you have a farmer who is a neighbor?  Do you have a favorite locally produced product you can track back to a local farm?  Call your local extension educator to ask if they know any good candidates.  Check with the Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Program or the Greenhorns and ask if they have any volunteers to speak to classes.  Check down at your local grange, feed store, or farmer’s market.   The Cornell Small Farms Program can also assist you in finding farmers to speak at your school.   Feel free to give us a call if you get stuck at 607-255-9911

How can I help?

Are you a farmer?  Do you love to farm, and love to talk about how much you enjoy your job?  Are you willing to work with students and teachers?  You might be a good Young Famer Role Model!


  • Availability  Do you have the time to mentor an agriculture class, speak to a group visiting your farm, or make a quick video about your career to share?  Teachers often need a long lead time to plan classroom visits, field trips, and other get-togethers. 
  • Honesty  Kids like to ask  hard questions about your career.  Be prepared to answer questions like:  How much money do you make?  Do you like what you do?  Is this what you always wanted to do?  Being honest with kids, parents, and teachers is the best way to share what you do, and encourage youngsters to follow your career path.
  • Desire to Keep Farming   Loving what you do is what will help us raise up a new generation of enthusiastic farmers.  You might not be a full-time farmer, but if you enjoy farming and intend to keep on doing it, you are a good canidate!
  • Positive Attitude  Enthusiasm for what you do, energy to do it, and a cheerful demeanor will help keep your audience entertained and engaged.


  • Call ahead  Prepare a simple outline of what you would like to talk about.  Share the outline and any props or samples you’d like to bring with with the teacher or leader beforehand.  They can help you develop questions you might ask the students or suggest ways to use your props and samples to best effect.
  • Arrive early and check in with the administrative office – many schools now require visitor badges.
  • Bring some samples taste testing is as popular with young adults as it is with their parents.  Think of this as an oportunity to talk directly to your future customers, neighbors, and potential peers about the awesome products available at your farm.
  • Keep it simple  Talk about how you became interested in farming, what types of things you needed to learn, how you got your land, some of your challenges, and some of your most rewarding activities.  Save technical details for later field trips.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words  Use a photo album, powerpoint presentation, your website, or a video to share details about your farm and life with the students. 
  • Don’t be nervous!  Public speaking can be awkward for anyone, but you’ve got a great story to share – the story of your awesome farming career!

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