Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry has a new resource to help farmers. The PA Agriculture Mentorship Program includes five mentors with extensive agricultural experience to help beginning farmers, agribusiness entrepreneurs, and farmers solve new strategies and ideas for their agricultural businesses.

Led by a group of Pennsylvania farm organizations interested in the future of farming, the program is powered by SCORE, a 501©(3) nonprofit organization and resource partner of US Small Business Development Center. Mentoring is free and confidential.

“The voice and wisdom of an experienced mentor can be one of your most valuable assets in a new operation,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding. “The Agricultural Enterprise Development Center (agriculture.pa.gov) was created as part of the PA Farm Bill to connect the next generation of farmers to the resources they need to feed Pennsylvania’s future. We are happy to support the new Ag Mentor program and are grateful for the generosity of this group of mentors who are willing to share their time and expertise.

PA Agriculture Mentorship Program Mentors:

• John Berry, Emmaus, Pennsylvania — John is a former Penn State Extension educator who has spent more than 20 years helping farmers on a variety of marketing and financial management topics. Recognized nationally for his expertise in agricultural retail marketing, he is an internationally certified agricultural business transition coordinator. Prior to joining Extension, John had a 20 year career in dairy farming. In retirement, John works seasonally for a U-pick orchard, restaurant and agritourism business in his local community and enjoys volunteering with USAID overseas missions.

• Richard Crouse, Biglerville — Rick was raised on a fruit farm and spent summers in college working as an orchard specialist at the Penn State Fruit Research Laboratory in Biglerville. Rick spent 30 years with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) as a loan officer, manager and specialist throughout Pennsylvania. For the last seven years of his career, he was a business development specialist with AgChoice Farm Credit in Adams County.

• Jim Hoge, Waterford, PA — Jim is retired from AgChoice Farm Credit, after 34 years as a loan officer and regional manager in western Pennsylvania. As a loan officer, he worked with dairy, grape and forest products clients. He has often served as a trusted advisor for start-up and expansion projects. Prior to his career at AgChoice, Jim and his brother operated a small dairy farm in Washington County. Jim and his wife currently have a small farm, growing blueberries for pick-your-own and local farmer’s markets.

• Winifred McGee, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania — Winifred is passionate about helping agriculture and food businesses get started and currently works part-time for the University of Scranton’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC). She previously worked for Penn State Extension and spent more than 30 years teaching subjects such as business planning, financial analysis, and business feasibility.

• Alan Zepp, New Oxford — Alan has a long history in the dairy industry. He operated his own dairy farm for over 30 years, then helped other Pennsylvania dairy farmers as a risk management coordinator at the Center for Dairy Excellence. Alan now operates an agricultural farm and raises heifers for a nearby farm.

Individuals seeking mentorship can apply online at www.score.org. In the application, note your involvement in an agricultural or food business, and you can also identify a specific mentor you would like to work with.

The following organizations supported the development and launch of the PA Agriculture Mentor program: AgChoice Farm Credit, Center for Dairy Excellence, Farm Progress, Pasa Sustainable Agriculture, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania Farm Link, and Penn State Extension.

Sarah Klinefelter is a loan officer at AgChoice Farm Credit. AgChoice Farm Credit specializes in providing farm and rural real estate loans and financial services to help our clients in Adams and York Counties achieve their dreams with confidence. To learn more about AgChoice and our 105 years of experience, contact us at 717-792-2641 or visit AgChoice.com.