Bulletin #4807, Farm Coaching to Support Farm-Team Communication: Pre-Planning

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Key Activities

Coach selection. Key competencies of coaches:

  • Listen: Exemplary listening skills
  • Clarify: Asks follow-up and probing questions
  • Synthesize: Ability to bring various issues, feelings and needs together
  • Reflect: Fluent in reflective language that reinforces farmers’ voices/needs
  • Model: Efficient, on-point, kind, curious, reflective
  • Teach: Introduce and practice communication (interpersonal) tools and strategies

Preparation of coaches.

  • Coach orientation and team building
    • Learn about each team member’s skills and offerings
    • Learn about each team member’s challenges/growing edges
    • Learn about each team member’s life and work
    • Skill building: Based on assets identified above, individual coaches (or the whole team) might attend a workshop, discuss a paper, article or book to gain more skills in a particular subject area
    • Discuss as a team the various pertinent modalities: mediation, teaching, modeling, support, providing resources, coaching, referrals.
  • Decide on a working definition of “coach” for this program (see key competencies above)
  • Discuss as a team how the coaches will:
    • plan
    • collaborate
    • communicate
    • offer feedback
    • handle conflict

Farmer Recruitment. Our project used these (not exhaustive) efforts, all of which were effective:

  • Offer 1-3 hour communication workshops and recruit participants who were interested in a deeper dive into this work
  • Promote coaching through list-servs and existing service provider networks
  • Direct referrals from the Maine Beginning Farmer Resource Network network of service providers

Coach-to-Farmer Matching. We considered:

  • Conflict of interests between coaches and farmers (e.g. same markets, towns, or industries)
  • Farmers’ goals
  • Coaches’ experience
  • Geographic location of farmer and coach(es)

Logistics.

  • One coach makes all scheduling calls/emails based on a shared online document that had all coaches’ availability
  • Download and familiarize coaching team with Zoom (or other videoconference) platform
  • Scout meeting places should farmers prefer to meet off-site
  • Acquire flipcharts, markers
  • Develop farmer intake form
  • Request that farmer complete intake form by mail, email or phone
  • Preliminary prep amongst coaches (review intake forms, finalize Session 1 (S1) agendas)
  • Prepare notebooks for each farm family with resources
    • How to design an agenda
    • Roles on the farm
    • Decision making
    • Basic communication handouts
    • More as decided by coaching team
  • Schedule S1 with each farm
  • Send out pre-work to farmers
    • Strength/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Challenges (SWOC – Self Assessment) Document (done individually, not shared until S1)
    • Time Management & The Eisenhower Box
    • Send out S1 Agenda 5-7 days before S1