Soil Born Farms offers a unique apprenticeship in sustainable agriculture on an urban community farm. Through a combination of hands-on field work, formal classes, field trips and reading discussion, this intensive experiential education aims to train the next generation of organic farmers in the Sacramento area. The farming apprenticeship also provides a valuable foundation for those interested in working to address issues of food security, social justice, and public health.
First Year Apprenticeship
The first year apprenticeship is an eight month-long, full-time position, from March through October. During the first year, apprentices are exposed to all aspects of food production. They learn about propagation, irrigation, soil management, harvesting, marketing and many other associated skills through a combination of hands-on field work and structured classes. Although most of the time is spent working directly with food production, apprentices also have the opportunity to work within the context of Soil Born Farms’ Education and Food Access programs. This blend of technical training, experiential field work, and community engagement makes our program a unique and powerful experience for all participants.
Apprentices work and live on the American River Ranch, a 55-acre ranch using field-scale agricultural techniques. At various times during the season, they also have the opportunity to work on our smaller Farm on Hurley Way, a one acre market garden, applying hand-scale bio-intensive gardening methods. Produce is processed and packed for distribution to several outlets in the county of Sacramento including a weekly on-site farm stand, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, a Saturday farmers’ market, and retail and restaurant sales. Additionally, a significant portion of our produce is grown for the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services.
Training and Instruction
Hands-on Training/Field Work (40-45 hours/week): Most of the instruction on organic farming techniques is in the form of traditional apprentice-style learning. Farm managers work closely with apprentices in the performance of daily farm activities. In this type of learning environment, apprentices have the ability to observe and ask questions during the work day about anything related to ecological farming. Priorities and problems are discussed during weekly field walks, and the farm managers give informal training on topics related to tasks as they arise. In addition to maintaining and harvesting crops and working as part of a field crew, apprentices will specialize in various responsibilities throughout the season during 4-5 week-long rotations: orchard management, animal husbandry, pest management, packing/farmstand, and farm management.
Classes & Workshops 30-40 hours throughout season: Taught by Soil Born Farms staff, sustainable agriculture experts and organic farmers from regional farms, these classes cover the technical and conceptual content relevant to the field work of the apprenticeship. Topics include soil science, site selection and design, crop planning, beekeeping, Integrated Pest Management, irrigation and water management, marketing and record keeping, goal setting and enterprise analysis, food safety, post-harvest handling, seed saving, seasonal fruit tree care and orchard management, and more. Classes are clustered during the spring and fall months, with fewer classes during the summer months, when field work demands are at their peak.
The second-year apprenticeship is designed to provide advanced training and farm management experience to deepen the training received in the first year. Apprentices who graduate from our first-year program have the opportunity to apply for a second year of apprenticeship at Soil Born Farms. While it is not required that those who apply for the first-year apprenticeship be interested in pursuing the second-year opportunity, applicants are encouraged to consider it. The focus of this apprenticeship is flexible based on interest and proclivity of the chosen candidate but two concrete opportunities exist every year:
Second Year Apprenticeship at the American River Ranch: This opportunity is designed for apprentices interested in deepening skills and competencies related to the management of an integrated livestock and specialty crop operation. Toward the end of the first year, the apprentice will work with the farm managers to define his or her interests, which will be crafted into a job description that incorporates the needs of the farm as well as the interests of the apprentice. The second year apprentice will take on increased responsibility while supporting the farm managers and serving as a leader and mentor to the first year apprentices.
The first-year apprenticeship runs from March 2 to October 31, 2015. The work/education week runs 45-60 hours per week over five days. Work days will be longer during the height of the season (June through early September). Apprentices also work an additional day every four weeks to cover irrigation and animal chores.
Housing & Compensation
10’x10’ canvas platform tents with access to indoor kitchen, shower, and common living room. Apprentices are compensated for a portion of the hours they work, the remainder of the hours worked are ‘volunteer hours’ and are considered to be the field work portion of the apprentice’s educational experience. Apprentices must have their own health care coverage to engage in this apprenticeship.
Farming Apprenticeship Testimonials
Get a first-hand glimpse into what it's like to be a Soil Born Farms apprentice by reading our past apprentice testimonials.
How To Apply
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