Are You A Mentor?

November 12, 2013 06:32 PM
Are You A Mentor?

Success is measured by the people you help.

The agricultural community is full of aspiring farmers who dream of an opportunity to work with an experienced person. They want to learn from the wisdom of others and employ the proven methods of yesterday that pass from one generation to the next.

"It’s no secret that our industry is full of aging farmers who are willing to share information and knowledge to help aspiring farmers get started," says Kevin Spafford, Farm Journal’s succession planning expert. "In a good mentor/mentee relationship, both parties learn from the other."

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Spafford says a successful mentor/mentee relationship should exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Individuals with the education, experience and commitmentnecessary to succeed
  • A relationship based on trust, respect and an open dialogue
  • Common interests, similar approach and specific goals
  • The maturity to disagree and discuss differences of opinion and approach to business matters  without dissolving into dispute
  • Long-term perspective, as growing into a better person and professional is a work in progress

David Eby, a farmer turned aerial applicator in Wakarusa, Ind., can speak to the personal satisfaction of mentoring another individual.

In 1973, Eby was searching for a way to pay for his flying hobby. Naturally, he combined his love of flying with farming and bought a Cessna AgTruck, and Agriflite was born. Eby taught himself the ropes and learned many lessons the hard way. Today, Agriflite employs four full-time pilots, support staff and office crew. Eby also hires many contract flyers on a seasonal basis.

Who better to mentor the next generation? Eby has the experience, education and commitment to help other aerial applicators succeed.

"I enjoy this industry," Eby says. "It’s been a dream of mine to be able to do something like this. I’d like to pass it on to the next generation."

Aerial Education. Eby is teaching Kevin Marshall of Illinois the ropes and helping him avoid the pitfalls of starting a business.

Just as Eby started as a farmer, Marshall also started as a farmer with about 2,000 acres. When the two first met, Eby says he felt like Marshall was a person he could trust and was committed to learning the profession of aerial application. After buying an airplane, Marshall began building up his air time and advancing through the ratings.

"When Kevin was ready to start flying ag, we had a 301, a piston-driven air tractor, which we let him fly," Eby says. "We helped him for the first year, and he helped us."

Key to professional success and personal satisfaction are the deep relationships we build with the people around us, Spafford says.

"We remember and admire the people who help us, or whom we help," Spafford explains. "It doesn’t cost a dime, yet its value can’t be measured in dollars and cents."

Eby agrees that it’s been a very positive experience. "Encouraging him to fulfill his dream allows me to achieve mine," Eby says.

Spafford advises farmers to find either a mentee or mentor. "Each of us has the opportunity to give and receive in this type of relationship, he says. "Both parties can share
valuable insight and wisdom." 

Learn more about Agriflite and how David Eby helps others pursue their dreams at

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