New USDA funding supports mentors for farmers transitioning to organic production

Sign up now to be a paid mentor or mentee in the Transition to Organic Partnership Program.

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Transition to Organic Partnership Program is a new USDA program to support new organic farmers.

A key component of the new United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Transition to Organic Partnership Program is mentorship for farmers transitioning to organic production. Farmers can now apply as a mentor or transitioning farmer mentee. Mentors will be paid $3,000 and mentees will receive a $500 stipend upon completing the mentorship.

Mentors and mentees meet for 40 hours each year, including visiting each other's farms at least once per year, monthly meetings, attending an educational event together and answering questions as needed. Mentors and mentees also commit to onboarding, trainings, evaluation, quarterly check-ins with the coordinator and tracking meeting hours. Mentees commit to pursuing organic certification and creating an organic system plan. Mentors must be a current or former certified organic farmer.

The Transition to Organic Partnership Program welcomes farmers from all backgrounds and encourages farmers of color, veterans, women, Spanish speakers, lower income farmers and young and beginning farmers to apply. All crops, livestock species and farm types qualify for this program. 

Applications are now available for mentors and transitioning farmer mentees, in addition to general information about the new USDA Transition to Organic Partnership Program. 

Michigan’s Transition to Organic Partnership Program

The Transition to Organic Partnership Program will connect 30 Michigan farmers transitioning to organic growing practices with experienced farm mentors each year. The program will also offer technical assistance to hundreds of farmers considering organic or transitioning to organic to ensure they can find answers to their questions. In addition, workshops on organic farming and the certification process will be offered online, on-farms and at conferences for transitioning farmers, experienced organic farmers and farm educators. Farmers will brainstorm topics and guest speakers for these workshops and field days at an annual Farmer Brain Trust event.

In addition, the project will fund six partner organizations around the state to coordinate events where farmers can discuss the benefits and challenges of organic certification with a network of farmers they trust. To begin to train the next generation of organic farmers, the Transition to Organic Partnership Program will also fund a webpage and monthly email of organic and sustainable farm job opportunities.

Michigan State University Extension, Michigan State University Organic Farmer Training Program, Grand Traverse Conservation District and Washtenaw County Conservation District are working together to co-lead this five-year project. It is an exciting effort to connect Michigan's future organic farmers with mentors, networks and education opportunities.

USDA’s Organic Transition Initiative

The Transition to Organic Partnership Program is part of the new USDA Organic Transition Initiative. This $300 million effort also funds direct payments to farmers through the new Natural Resources Conservation Service organic management standard and assistance with crop insurance premiums for transitioning farmers. A third focus area for the program will work to improve supply chains for marketing organic farm products.

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