Imagine yourself as an Olympic athlete. You are getting ready to perform a balance beam routine in the gymnastics arena, do a pole vault on the track, or ski down the slope in a slalom.
To get to this point, you would have had to put in many long hours filled with hard work. You would have practiced repeatedly — for years. And of course, you have a seasoned professional coach — perhaps a former champion themselves. You can’t just get to the Olympics fueled only by raw talent. That talent has to be directed and honed under the direction of a coach.
Farming is no different, especially when implementing a new practice like cover planting crops. Out of the many growers I’ve talked to, those who have achieved success have a mentor, or multiple mentors to show them the ropes and get them moving in the right direction.
I know from personal experience that finding a mentor can be challenging. You want to find someone you click with, who has the right experience and who can give you good advice in a way that makes you feel good. But once you find that person, that relationship can be critical to helping you make good decisions and reaching success.
How do you find a mentor? There are several different ways. Maybe you hear a great speaker at an event like the National Cover Crop Summit, National No-Tillage Conference or National Strip-Tillage Conference.
Maybe you meet another grower from your state through a state organization like Farm Bureau. Maybe you connect with another grower at a local field day. Or maybe your mentor is one of your neighbors down the road or a family member.
I recently read an article about a 35-page directory that lists 160 volunteer mentors by county in the state of South Dakota. Each mentor has experience with building soil health, diverse crop rotations, cover crops and more.
This free resource is available through the South Dakota Natural Resources Conservation Service, in conjunction with the South Dakota Grassland Coalition, the South Dakota No-Till Association, the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, South Dakota State University Extension and South Dakota’s conservation districts. If you are interested in receiving this directory, email Colette.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 605-352-1200.
If you are an experienced cover crop grower, consider becoming a mentor to someone who’s just getting started with the practice. Not only is mentoring a great way to give back, but you just might learn something, too!