Colquitt County farmers ready to mentor new ones
A four-member team of experienced ag professionals in Colquitt County are trained and eager to mentor people thinking about starting a farm or agribusiness. Thomas Coleman, P.L. Jowers, Stan Savage and Harry Thompson answered the call when Service Core of Retired Executives (SCORE) Moultrie Co-Chair Bob Montgomery and the USDA kicked off an effort last fall to establish a team of ag professionals to advise would-be-farmers and agribusiness owners the way SCORE volunteers have helped small business owners since 1964.
Coleman, a full-time farmer; Jowers, who is retired from the ag finance industry; Savage, a retired Extension poultry specialist who raises cattle; and Thompson, a retired ag teacher who raises timber and cattle, are ready to share their expertise.
The effort underway in Colquitt County is one of eight pilot programs in Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, New York and Washington where the USDA is partnering with established SCORE chapters to match farmers and ag professionals with people who want to farm.
“Our market is veterans coming out of service, young people looking to get into niche farming with small pieces of land looking to grow blueberries or microgreens, or retirees who have some land and want to grow something on it as a second career,” Montgomery said.
On Sept. 18 Moultrie SCORE will kick off a series of fall workshops for people interested in farming with a noon lunch at the Colquitt County Ag Center. Georgia Department of Agriculture Marketing Division Director Jack Spruill will share how a farm/agribusiness can participate in the Georgia Grown program and review opportunities for specialty crops and small animal farms, such as sheep and goats, to participate in the program. Andy Harrison, manager of the Georgia Agricultural Commodity Commissions, will highlight new and emerging specialty crops, such as citrus and microgreens. The event is free but those interested in attending should notify SCORE Moultrie by Sept. 12 by emailing email@example.com or calling the Moultrie-Colquitt County Chamber of Commerce at 229-985-2131 and asking for SCORE.
A second workshop will be held Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. at the Moultrie Ag Center featuring Kim Jones, owner/operator of Florida-Georgia Citrus, who will share the opportunities and realities of operating a citrus farm, and Mike Evans, with the Georgia Department of Agriculture, who will discuss rules and regulations for citrus growers and nurseries.
The third workshop on Nov. 13, also set for 6 p.m. at the Moultrie Ag Center, will feature Sam Watson of Chill C Farms and David Hopkins of Hopkins Farms in Cairo, who will both discuss rules and regulations vegetable growers face, especially for small farm-to-table producers.
“I was fortunate enough to have a father and grandfather teach me how to farm,” Coleman said. “You take someone today who may want to farm but they don’t know anything about it. I want to pass a little bit of knowledge on to someone else because I want other people to be able to help feed and clothe my grandchildren. I want the ag section of the economy to continue to prosper because without food and fiber we’re nothing.”
Anyone interested in being paired with one of the SCORE Moultrie ag mentors can participate in the program. It isn’t just for Colquitt County residents. Montgomery and Coleman said the majority of the 22 clients who have reached out for help have been from other counties, several from other states.
“We’re trying to get the word out that we can help and are offering these mentoring services,” Savage said. “There’s a lot of possibilities for small farmers who want to do niche farming as a second income like grass-fed beef or Christmas trees. The type of person we can help is someone who has 20 to 30 hours a week to devote to raising produce or livestock on a small scale.”
For more information about the Ag Mentor program SCORE Moultrie is offering, call 229-985-2131 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.