We are no longer accepting applications for our 2023 Apprenticeship Program.
Please check back next year.
2023 Apprenticeship Description
Meet Our Past Apprentices
The objective of the College Farm Apprenticeship is to prepare recent graduates for leadership positions in farming, food systems, or sustainability related careers. We aim to provide apprentices with the skills, experience, and knowledge needed to advance toward management roles whether on a production farm or within sustainable food systems initiatives. The experience is also applicable should apprentices choose to return to academic studies or seek other employment related to food, sustainability, and education. There are two program tracks: vegetable production focused and livestock & bioenergy focused. Both focus areas are part of the farm team and there is some overlap in experiences within each area. All farm team members have opportunities to be involved in foodservice activities associated with various farm to table events.
Work Environment & Program Structure
The majority of farm apprenticeship training is hands-on, supplemented by educational sessions, field trips, and optional readings. During the summer months, apprentices will be part of a team made up of student employees, full-time farm staff, and fellow apprentices. Apprentices will be asked to take the lead on work assignments, as well as work as a team member. When classes resume in the fall, apprentices will take much more of a leadership role on the farm, leading students and volunteers on tasks and work projects. The goal of this program is to equip apprentices with the knowledge and skills to do their work well, and to help them progress in their roles as leaders. At times this will require the farm managers to provide respectful constructive feedback. We value open communication and request that applicants be receptive to the idea of receiving feedback in an effort to improve upon their work and overall experience. Communication happens in both directions – managers will work to develop a relationship of trust where apprentices feel comfortable expressing their needs and feelings pertaining to all happenings on the farm as well. Work ethic and the culture of the Dickinson Farm: Success in any business, but especially agriculture, is dependent on hustle, efficient workflow, and attention to detail from all participants. The farm management team love the work they do and find beauty and joy on the farm nearly every day, yet they have learned through experience that achieving good harvests and a healthy agroecosystem requires constantly pushing themselves to be faster, smarter and more organized. Farmers do not sleep well at night if the crops and livestock are not properly cared for in a timely fashion. The Dickinson College Farm sets ambitious goals for vegetable and livestock production and health, as well as for a diversity of education and outreach programming. Meeting these goals will require all team members to pay attention to details, think about efficiency of movement, and push themselves to develop a fast pace in repetitive tasks. Apprentice candidates should be prepared to be pushed to develop their speed as a core skill set that will benefit them in any future employment. Everyone can learn to work like a successful professional farmer if they approach the role with an open mind and a positive attitude. Since apprentices play an important role in sharing the culture of hustle and efficiency with students and volunteers on the farm, this will be a recurring theme in the apprentice training program throughout the season. We hope apprentices will embrace this mentality as part of the fun of “winning” at the game of farming. Apprentices will be encouraged to participate in group-text communications and read weekly job lists shared online. These forums help inform the goals of the day and week plus allow opportunities to discuss needs or concerns. Additional study through reading and research on your own time is encouraged but not required. The farm has an extensive library of useful farming books on many topics that will be available upon request.
Areas of Focus
Vegetable Production focused track: The farm plants about ten acres of certified organic vegetables for sale through our CSA (co-op), the College dining hall, farm store, value added product line and donation to the food bank. Major activities under the veg track include seedling production in the greenhouses, planting, crop care (weeding, trellising, covering, irrigation, pest management), harvesting, produce wash and pack, food preservation, and pizza production at farmers market. Daily work for all veg apprentices will vary within the above activities depending on the season and the needs of the farm. The veg production team is larger than the livestock group – about ten people in summer and four to six in fall. Each apprentice will be assigned an area(s) of responsibility at the farm in addition to the day to day workload. These responsibilities are designed to give each apprentice “ownership” of a particular aspect of the farm operation. Some of the responsibilities require daily attention while others need only weekly oversight though continual attention to detail remains essential. Examples of focused areas of responsibility for veg track apprentices include irrigation, crew leaders/harvest leader, farmers’ market manager, machine operations, education assistant, foodservice events, and packing house assistant.
Livestock and Bioenergy focused track: The farm raises grass fed beef cattle (10-20 animals), grass fed sheep for lambs and wool (20-40 animals) and pastured laying hens for eggs (~40 hens). The sheep and cattle are certified grass-fed and Animal Welfare Approved reflecting our efforts at humane and sustainable management practices. The livestock area also overlaps with food waste management for the farm’s compost and bioenergy initiatives. Food waste from Dickinson campus and several local commercial entities is brought to the farm on a regular basis for conversion to soil improving compost and/or renewable energy through the farm’s biogas system. In 2023 the farm will construct a commercial food waste and manure digester to generate renewable electricity from these waste streams. Daily activities of the livestock and bioenergy apprentice will include feeding, watering, and moving animals, and assisting with food waste management. Regularly occurring activities will include animal handling, preventative veterinary care, care for acute health issues, fence construction and maintenance, washing eggs, packing meat orders, recording animal and pasture data, handling food waste, turning compost piles, and applying compost to fields. The livestock and bioenergy apprentice will also help with care, feeding and maintenance of the new waste to energy biodigester. The apprentice will be trained to operate tractors and loaders needed to accomplish their responsibilities. The livestock team is small, consisting of the livestock manager (Matt), livestock apprentice (you), and 1-2 student helpers. Applicants should be prepared to work alone or in small groups. Attention to detail, flexibility, communication skills and self-motivation are key to success in this role. Livestock also presents the opportunity (and need) for flexible scheduling – for example doing some evening work during lambing season or when animal health emergencies arise and sharing weekend animal care responsibilities. Hours worked outside of the normal weekday schedule described below will be compensated with time off (normally) or overtime (limited).
A week in the life…
The basic “work and learn” day is from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday thru Friday, with one hour for lunch (times may adjust seasonally or to accommodate weather). Each Monday afternoon in the summer, apprentices join student employees for a farm meeting and educational program. On occasion, apprentices may be invited to lead an educational program. A separate meeting between apprentices and managers will occur each week to go over farm to-do lists, provide management training and discuss any other pertinent matters including team cohesion. Apprentices can expect to be exposed to ongoing experimental and investigative projects at the farm, ancient grain
production, seed saving, renewable energy projects and innovative farm systems management. Apprentices may also choose to assist with and at times lead educational outreach events and public tours. Weekends and evenings: Some farm responsibilities occur on weekends or require work outside of the normal 7:30-4:30 M-F work week. These include daily livestock care, irrigation during the dry season, greenhouse management, farmers’ market, and food service events (Pizza on the Plaza, GATHER pop-up restaurant, etc.). All apprentices will be asked to share weekend responsibilities with the farm managers on a rotating basis. Weekend or evening work can be traded for time off during the normal work week to accommodate doctors’ appointments, long weekends or other personal needs. The farm has a small budget for overtime hours (paid at time and a half after 40 hours per week). Overtime and time-swaps must be pre-approved by the farm director.
Yurts and other FAQ’s
All four interns live in traditional Mongolian-style huts called yurts, which are located on the farm right next to the irrigation pond and farm house. Probably the single-most asked question of apprentices is what it’s like to live in a yurt! Our answer is that it’s exactly like living in a regular house except that it’s round, and that the average yurt-dweller listens to more sheep and chicken noises than the average person. As a whole, we really enjoy living in them; it gives us a certain connectedness to the cycle of seasons not easily achieved by standard air-conditioned dwelling. Yurt life is very comfortable, spacious, energy-saving (they are run through solar panels that are off-the-grid), and great for the (lack of) commute. Living in a yurt involves a greater intimacy with the outdoors than living in a typical house due to the temperature extremes, brightness of the sun (and moon sometimes), and pitter-patter of the rain.
Are there any amenities? Apprentices will share a kitchen, common room, and bathroom facility. Food raised on the farm is up for grabs to our apprentices, including free produce and discounted access to retail items such as meat and eggs from the farm. The farm provides free wifi, utilities, and household necessities such as toilet paper and cleaning products.
Is farming difficult? In regards to this, our job is no more difficult than the average desk job, in our humble opinion; we might get a little more dirty or sweaty but the reward of growing vegetables for one’s community while working with a great crew of other students and apprentices makes that completely worth it. We’re also more tan than the average office worker!
What are your expectations? In a nutshell, an underlying goal of the Apprenticeship Program is to allow for opportunities that build skillsets and confidence through hands-on learning. We will do our best to facilitate chances for learning both on and off the College Farm. Off-farm activities will include occasional fieldtrips during the paid work week, as well as optional social or educational visits to other farms during evening or weekend hours. Past apprentices have commented that they gained a well-rounded experience by proactively connecting with other farmers outside of the regular work week – these activities are optional but encouraged so long as apprentices maintain the stamina needed to complete their core roles on the College Farm. The Apprenticeship Program is also a chance to live and work on a farm – witnessing the seasonal transitions and other discoveries of place-based living that can only been experienced through on-site residency. By living on the farm, this program aims to cultivate a sense of community among the farm residents. Residents are expected to contribute to keeping shared spaces sanitary and tidy. The farm also appreciates shared efforts towards energy conservation by turning off lights and appliances when not in use. the opportunity to work at the farm for this six-month apprenticeship presents multiple opportunities for aspiring farmers to fully immerse themselves in sustainable food production, renewable energy, and community service work. While the projects at the farm are diverse in their scope, the day to day work demands a positive attitude, team work, and perseverance. The Apprenticeship Program is also a chance to live and work on a farm – witnessing the seasonal transitions and other discoveries of place-based living that can only been experienced by on-farm residents. We, the farm staff, aim to make the work experience at the farm both fun and educational.