Having years of wisdom and learning experiences to rely on can often turn stressful and impactful choices into simple yes-or-no decisions on a farm. While this knowledge and valuable insight isn’t gained overnight, in GreenStone’s Farm Forward Mentorship program, experienced farmers are paired with young, beginning or small farmers to be mentored and speed up the process of gaining wisdom through sharing lessons learned.
After launching in February, the nine pairings in GreenStone’s current Farm Forward Mentorship class continue to connect and strengthen their friendship. One of those pairings consist of Zac Soltvedt and Matt Wagenson, both from Outagamie County in Wisconsin.
Zac, a 27-year-old row crop farmer, didn’t have a strong support system to turn to for guidance for his farm. That is partially why he jumped at the chance to join the program as a mentee with a goal of gaining foresight on making tough decisions – something he was able to achieve with the help of his mentor Matt, who farms 2,000 acres and 400 head of cattle with his brother.
After meeting at each other’s farms, via phone conversations and now texting on a weekly basis, Matt and Zac have created a strong foundation based on honesty. Because Zac is usually farming by himself, without a partner or earlier generation to turn to with questions, Matt has helped fill in the gap by sharing advice and has been a reliable sounding board.
“It’s been like having another avenue to get information from or reassurance when I am thinking about new ideas,” Zac says. “To converse with someone else who maybe has already been through a similar situation has been very helpful.”
Matt, who joined the program to help the younger generation of upcoming farmers, has already made an impact with Zac by passing along some of his values.
“The message I really tried to drive home to Zac is that surrounding yourself with people you trust is so important,” Matt explains. “Our first loan officer with GreenStone was a family friend we had known forever. Our accountant, who is also a family friend, has been our accountant since 1993. Same with our crop insurance agent. The people you surround yourself with, not only personal friendships, but in business, want to see you succeed and building those strong relationships is extremely important.”
Like in many of the mentorship pairings, despite holding the role of mentor, Matt has also been reminded of important life lessons from Zac.
“What I like about Zac is that he doesn’t have the ‘This is how we’ve always done it’ mindset. He’s great about trying new things and figuring out what works for him,” Matt says. “It’s refreshing!”
Even after the program concludes, the foundation and trust built through the program will allow Zac and Matt to continue to meet and lean on one another for support, leading to a long-lasting friendship. For more information on GreenStone’s Farm Forward Mentorship, visit www.GreenStoneFCS.com/YBSF.
To view the article in the online 2021 Fall Partners Magazine, click here.