California Farm Academy Apprenticeship Program

Program Background

For the past decade, Soil Born Farms has run its own apprenticeship program for beginner farmers in the region and trained over fifty people. In 2016 Soil Born Farms teamed up with the Center for Land-Based Learning to create the first accredited apprenticeship program in beginning farm and ranch management in California and the country. The California Farm Academy apprenticeship program is a collaboration between the Center for Land-Based Learning, Soil Born Farms, the Department of Apprenticeship Standards (DAS) and Los Rios Community College District. The goal of this apprenticeship program is to equip beginning farmers with sufficient training, work experience, and business management skills to obtain a secure management position with established farms, or be successful at starting and sustaining their own small farm businesses. Note: Application is available in the How to Apply section below >>

Program Details

The California Farm Academy apprenticeship program requires completion of 3,000 hours of on-the-job training (OJT) and 250 hours of Related Supplemental Instruction(RSI) coursework. We are expecting that it will take apprentices around 24 months to complete the program.

On-the-Job Training

To receive their on-the-job training (OJT), apprentices will be employed at a production farm. Soil Born Farms is one of the participating farms. The program pays an hourly wage starting at minimum wage and increasing by $0.50 every six months.

While completing their OJT, apprentices will learn a diverse set of skills from farmers and farm. Apprentices will be required to complete a minimum number of hours in the following areas during their 3,000 total OJT hours: soil management, tractor skills, planting, pest and weed management, irrigation and water management, harvest, post-harvest and packing, sales and marketing, regulations, equipment repair and fabrication. The other time will be allocated based on the apprentice’s learning goals and the farmer’s needs on the farm depending on the time of year and labor available. More details on the OJT experience at Soil Born Farms are below.

Related and Supplemental Instruction

During the first year, apprentices will be part of Center for Land-Based Learning’s Beginning Farmer Training Program. During the second year of the program, apprentices will have less class hours and more hours of on the job training at their master farm. This will be a time for apprentices to continue learning alongside their farm mentors and fulfill the 3,000 hours of required OTJ training. During their second year, apprentices will also attend classes, workshops and meetings that relate to their personal interests to expand on their knowledge gained through the CFA training program. Apprentices are not responsible for paying tuition for the Beginning Farmer Training Program and all other courses they attend.

Being an Apprentice at Soil Born Farms

At Soil Born Farms, apprentices will be exposed to all aspects of food production and learn about propagation, greenhouse management, irrigation, soil management, harvesting, marketing and many other associated skills. 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 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 have other specialized responsibilities throughout the season such as orchard care, pest management, post-harvest handling and Farmstand shifts. As a non-profit farm and education center, Soil Born Farms also requires apprentices to occasionally participate in site events and other related educational programs that support food access and food education goals.

Our produce is processed and packed for distribution to several outlets in the county of Sacramento including a weekly onsite Farmstand, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and retail and restaurant sales.

Each apprentice will receive a compilation of readings on sustainable agriculture topics which parallel topics covered in the classroom and out in the field. These readings are meant to strengthen and support apprentices’ learning throughout the season

Other Information

Apprentices will be responsible for Sunday chores once every 4 to 6 weeks. This includes irrigation and greenhouse duties. Apprentices will also be expected to work some weekends in the case of special events at the farm. 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 testimonials from some of our former apprentices >>

How To Apply

Information and application for 2020 will be available the beginning of October. Questions, contact the Apprenticeship Program Staff or 530-795-4146.