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USDA and SCORE Launch Innovative Mentorship Effort to Support New Farmers and Ranchers

Posted by Conaway Haskins on Aug 11, 2017

On Aug. 5, 2017, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a Memorandum of Understanding with officials from Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), the nation’s largest volunteer network of expert business mentors, to support new and beginning farmers. The agreement provides new help resources for beginning ranchers, veterans, women, socially disadvantaged Americans and others, providing new tools to help them both grow and thrive in agri-business.

“Shepherding one generation to the next is our responsibility. We want to help new farmers, veterans, and people transitioning from other industries to agriculture,” said Secretary Perdue. “They need land, equipment, and access to capital, but they also need advice and guidance. That's what SCORE is all about.”

SCORE matches business professionals and entrepreneurs with new business owners to mentor them through the process of starting-up and maintaining a new business. USDA and its partners across rural America are working with SCORE to support new farming and ranching operations, and identify and recruit mentors with a wealth of agricultural experience.

Secretary Perdue announced the new partnership in Des Moines during the Iowa Agriculture Summit. Perdue was joined by Steve Records, Vice-President of Field Operations for SCORE in signing a Memorandum of Understanding that will guide USDA and SCORE as they partner in the mentorship effort, which will soon expand to other states.

“SCORE’s mission to help people start and grow vibrant small businesses is boosted by this new partnership with USDA. America’s farmers, ranchers and agri-businesses will benefit from the business knowledge and expertise SCORE can offer,” said Records. “The partnership allows both SCORE and USDA to serve more people while providing America’s farmers added support to lead to more sound business operations, create profitable farms with sustainable growth and create new jobs. We are excited at the opportunity to extend SCORE’s impact to our farmers and the agriculture industry.”

SCORE mentors will partner with USDA and a wide array of groups already hard at work serving new and beginning farmers and ranchers, such as the FFA, 4-H, cooperative extension and land grant universities, nonprofits, legal aid groups, banks, technical and farm advisors. These partnerships will expand and integrate outreach and technical assistance between current and retired farmers and agri-business experts and new farmers.

This joint initiative leverages SCORE’s 10,000 existing volunteer mentors and USDA’s expertise and presence in agricultural communities to bring no-cost business mentoring to rural and agricultural entrepreneurs. This initiative will also be another tool to empower the work of many community-based organizations, cooperative extension and land grant universities working with beginning farmers in their communities. SCORE mentorship will also be available to current farmers and ranchers. Anyone interested in being a mentor can get more information and sign up on the USDA New Farmers’ website at https://newfarmers.usda.gov/mentorship

In Virginia, SCORE has nearly a dozen chapters available to assist entrepreneurs across the state. Their contact information is below:

Roanoke
105 Franklin Road SW, Suite 150
Roanoke, VA, 24011
Ph: (540) 857-2834

Shenandoah Valley
301 W. Main Street
Waynesboro, VA, 22980
Ph: (540) 949-4423

Williamsburg
Greater Williamsburg C of C & Tourism Alliance
421 N. Boundary St
Williamsburg, VA, 23185
Ph: (757) 229-6511

Greater Richmond
400 N. 8th St., Fed Bldg., Suite 1130
Richmond, VA, 23219
Ph: (804) 350-3569

Martinsville
115 Broad Street
Chamber of Commerce Building
Martinsville, VA, 24112
Ph: (276) 632-6401

Greater Lynchburg
147 Mill Ridge Road, Suite 122
Lynchburg, VA, 24502
Ph: (434) 582-4560

Norfolk
Main Office
838 Granby Street, Retail Alliance
Norfolk, VA, 23510
Ph: (757) 455-9338

Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach - Town Center Area
4525 Main St
Suite 700
Virginia Beach, VA, 23462
Ph: (757) 455-9338

Central Virginia
209 5th St NE, 2nd Floor
Charlottesville, VA, 22902
Ph: (434) 295-6712

DC Metro
Main Office
409 3rd Street, SW Suite 100A
Washington, DC, 20024
Ph: (202) 619-1000

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