With a network of more than 10,000 existing volunteer mentors, including 200 agribusiness people, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, or SCORE, can match business professionals and entrepreneurs with new business owners, including farmers and ranchers, to navigate starting and maintaining a business, according to USDA, which entered into a memorandum of understanding with the organization Aug. 5.
For its part, USDA will contribute its expertise and presence in agriculture communities to bring these services to rural and agricultural entrepreneurs at no cost to them.
It will do this in part by connecting SCORE mentors with other groups already serving farmers and ranchers, such as 4-H, cooperative extension and land grant universities, nonprofits and others, USDA explained.
It adds, “These partnerships will expand and integrate outreach and technical assistance between current and retired farmers and agri-business experts and new farmers.”
USDA Sec. Sonny Perdue said at the Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines that the MOU with SCORE is necessary because many young farmers and ranchers might have a business idea, but not know the capital requirements – or how to meet them – or fully understand budgeting and creating sustainable business plan.
The program initially will operate only in Iowa and select areas, but eventually will expand through the corn belt.
Farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs interested in taking advantage of the confidential, one-on-one mentorship that SCORE offers can request a mentor online after outlining specific questions about which they need guidance or flagging general areas of concern, such as marketing strategies or cash flow management.
Within three days, entrepreneurs will be paired with a new mentor who will help them create a plan for the future, according to SCORE.
Likewise, experienced farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs can lend a hand to the effort by volunteering to be a mentor with SCORE.