Our farm apprenticeship has four aspects – the art and discipline of farming, educational study, developing inner growth, and working in community. Each week begins with a theme that is reinforced by reading or video, a class or field trip, and an assignment to share with the group. Students are expected to engage the subjects with emphasis on their own interests. Each apprentice is also given a 4′ X 100′ garden bed within which to experiment. Field trips to an array of local farms demonstrate the diversity within alternative agriculture. The apprentice season culminates is each apprentice’s presentation of their “Faux Farm” a project presented to the group designed to integrate the year’s learning and direct you to your next step in training.
The Art & Discipline of Farming
Most of apprentice time is spent in this domain learning how to sow seeds, plant, cultivate, harvest and prepare vegetables for market and CSA. Hands on work day to day is invaluable – it is also challenging, requiring the development of stamina, resilience, and great attention to detail. The vegetables are heavy, the sun is hot and the wash water is cold. Experiencing this for yourself is the necessary rite of passage for every new farmer.
Weekly topics on key aspects of a small scale farm include: Greenhouse & Plant Propagation, Healthy Soils, Composting,Weed Management, Organic Insect & Disease Control, Irrigation, Cover Crops, Marketing, Record Keeping & Business, and Emerging Models in Alternative Agriculture among others. Recommended assignments help engage this material adapted to student’s long term interests. Students sharing what they are learning with one another is an integral part of the experience.
Subjects for exploration supporting the inner growth of the new farmer include: Taking care of the body, introduction to meditation and mindfulness, intimacy with nature, ethics and farming, investigating the impact of diet, current issues in social justice, developing resilience in the age of climate crisis and more. These themes are offered throughout the season in classes, readings and discussion depending upon the topic.
Living in Community
Learning to live and work together in harmony is both essential for us and sometimes challenging! Our annual cohort organizes their own household with regular meetings, developing its own set of values, and creative group events to foster a balance of togetherness and independence. Nonviolent communication is taught as a means to field conflict.
Our region is incredibly rich in local farms and garden projects that demonstrate the wide array of possibilities new farmers have when they consider their own path. Our apprentices report being very inspired by these outings. Destinations include a new small organic farm, large Biodynamic CSA, heirloom seed producer, and food bank garden project among others. ***Due to Covid19, some field trips have been suspended***