The Tomorrow’s Top Agricultural Producers Program: An Illustration of a Mentor Program


The Tomorrow’s Top Agricultural

Producers Program:

An Illustration of a Mentor Program for Participatory Assistance

Jason Johnson, Stan Bevers, Blake Bennett

Bill Thompson, Wade Polk, Brenda Duckworth

Presentation Outline

TTAP Mission Statement

Objectives / Description of Participants

Review of the Course Curriculum / Logistics

Evaluation of Knowledge Gained

Design of the Mentor Program

Recruitment of Mentors

Training Program for Mentors

Tracking the Interaction / Contact

Lessons Learned

Measuring the Impact

TTAP Mission Statement

TTAP is a management development program to train targeted agricultural producers with the skills necessary to develop successful businesses that will survive and prosper in current and future economic environments.

Targeted agricultural producers include those that plan to take over existing operations, those that are developing new operations and those seeking funding for existing or start-up operations.

TTAP Objectives

During the course of the program, each participant will develop a comprehensive written business plan for their individual operation.

Participants will be taught the skills necessary to implement and adjust their business plan over time.

Following completion of the curriculum, follow-up assistance will be provided by a mentor committee.

The Participants

24 Operations: Texas and Oklahoma.

Mostly commercial operations, a few small operations; 300 - 5,000 acres.

Diverse production, cow-calf, crops, rice and timber.

$1,000 registration fee; $5-6,000 total expenses.

Ages ranged from 23 to 69 years old.

Typically less than 10 years of operational experience.

TTAP Programming Logistics

Four Sessions around Texas over 15 months.

Session I: Amarillo, November 2002;

“Developing the Basics”

Session II: College Station, January 2003;

“Financial Planning & Analysis”

Session III: Dallas, November 2003;

“Agricultural Marketing”

Session IV: Kerrville, January 2004;

“Tying It All Together”

Mentor Program – January 2004 – January 2005

Session I:

Developing the Basics

Sources of Risk

Business Plans and Planning

Mission Statement

Business Structure

Resource Inventories


Financial Statements and Analysis

Producer Panel Perspective

Session II:

Financial Planning & Analysis

Personality Test and Interpretation

Defining Your Objectives and Goals

Role of Enterprise Budgets

Farm Assistance Overview

Cash Flow Development

How to be a Good Analyst

Producer Panel Prospective

Implementation into the Business Plan

Between Session II and III:

Producers completed their accounting for 2002

Financial Analysis was reviewed by TCE


Farm Assistance was completed by Risk

Management Specialists.

Futures and Options Leveling Workshop

Session III:

Agricultural Marketing

Futures and Options Review

Advanced Futures and Options

Technical Analysis

Commodity Insurance


Commodity-specific Sessions


Producer Panel Perspective

Session IV:

Tying It All Together

Legal & Liability Issues

Personnel Management

Intergenerational Transfer

Developing the Executive Summary

Introduction to Mentor Committee

Presentation of Business Plans

Characteristics of a Good Manager


Evaluation Results of Preand Post-Session Knowledge












Integration Overall

Pre-test 39.6%

Post-test 69.0%







Change 74.4% 54.0% 103.6%

Average Score (% of 100)





TTAP Mentor

Committee Composition

TTAP Graduate

Primary Mentor

Secondary Mentor

Lender Mentor

TCE Lead Economist




Recruiting Mentors

Two producers and one lender per participant.

Each participant was assigned a Lead Economist from TCE.

Targeted mentors at least 60 miles away from participant.

Searched for Mentors possessing complementary production, geographical, or family dynamic interests and other common motivations.

Recruiting Mentors

Once participants were known, solicited nominations from County Extension Agents for mentors “fitting the profile” for a specific participant.

Also identified mentors from 600+ Master

Marketer program and 50+ MM for Lender program graduates.

Individuals were targeted and solicited for participation via invitation and phone call.

Success rate for recruiting 1 was roughly 60%.

st choice of mentor

TTAP Mentor Training Agenda

DAY ONE – (3 rd

Day, Session IV)

Background info and address sheet

Why you were chosen to be a TTAP Mentor

TTAP program description of curriculum/participants

Introduction of fellow TTAP Mentors

Mentor Training

Role of Mentors and Participants

Schedule of business plan presentations

Presentation of business plans to Mentor Committees

TTAP social


Family issues / Characteristics of good managers

Graduation of TTAP Participants

TTAP Mentor Training

Recognizing the impact that others have had on your own success.

Event #1


Event #2



Individual who assisted in your development

Individual who assisted in your development

TTAP Mentor Training

Key Issues

Mentor as Ally, Catalyst, and/or Strategist

Listening with Empathy

Asking “High Gain” Questions

Communication Tips

Listening Habits

Mentoring a Problem Situation

Giving Feedback

Keys to the Mentoring Dialogue

TTAP Mentor Training

Roles and Responsibilities

TTAP Participants to TTAP Mentors

Contact Mentors on a regular basis to inform them of their progress on the business plan.

Contact should be made on a quarterly basis.

Seek advice from Mentors on issues as they arise.

Host their Primary Mentor at their operation for a follow-up visit and discussion of progress.

Report contact with Mentors and material changes to their business plan to TCE Lead


TTAP Mentor Training

Roles and Responsibilities

TTAP Mentors to TTAP Participants

Primary Mentors contact participants at least quarterly to monitor progress.

All members of the mentor committee provide advice to the graduate when solicited.

Conduct follow-up visit at the participant’s operation within one year of completion of classroom activities.

Report contact and material changes to the business plans of participants to TCE Lead


TTAP Mentor and Participant


1 yr post introduction

3/21 (14% of participants) had no further contact.

Of the 18 participants who did maintain contact:

Approximately 90 hours of on-site visit contact;

Over 111 hours of other contact was cited (by phone, email, face-to-face conversations);

Avg. of 11+ hours of follow-up contact with mentor committee members per participant;

6/18 (33% of participants) utilized their lender mentor for information and guidance; and

Figures do not include contact with TCE Lead Economists.

Agricultural Producer Mentor


- Lessons Learned

Mentor training must emphasize that mentors were not recruited to solve someone else’s problems.

Mentors must be given flexibility in their approach, but a clear explanation of their task.

Mentor committee composition must be pragmatic.

Mentees should help define the desired outcomes from the mentor process.

Introductions and initial contact are critical.

The process needs a chaperone.

Measuring the Impact

(in progress)

Measuring Improvements in Knowledge - complete

Sample Testimonials from Graduates

Financial Performance (pre- vs. post- program)

Non-financial Measures

Continued benefits

Influence on Mentor’s operations

The dilemma of defining “success”

Questions or Comments….