Soil Born’s apprentices go on to do lots of interesting things. Many are farming, others are educators or chefs or world travelers, and others never left Soil Born! If you are a former apprentice, please email us and tell us what you’re doing, we’d love to hear from you!
I came to Soil Born looking for new skills to add to my tool belt. For me, the apprenticeship was an opportunity to hone in on specific concepts such as pasture rotation, handling and packing of vegetables, orchard pruning, drip irrigation, working with volunteers, and organic certification requirements. I like the multi-faceted structure of the apprenticeship; not only do we spend our time everyday in the field, but also we take business and environmental classes and tour a dozen different farms throughout the area. I think this provides the baseline for seeing beyond the borders of just “farm work” and brings in the aspects of community engagement and social enterprise to our apprenticeship.
My season here at Soil Born has been long and hot and fruitful. This comprehensive program has seen many amazing budding farmers over the years, whose input has molded this into one of the best farming apprenticeships in northern California. The combination of lecture-style classes and practical hands-on experience would give anyone considering farming not only a realistic introduction to what it means to have a small-scale organic farm, but also the basic skills to get going. From introductory tractor classes, to direct marketing at farmers markets, and general animal husbandry, apprentices get incredible amounts of information on wide and varied topics, including classes with skilled experts and intimate farm tours with some of the most successful and knowledgeable farmers in the greater Sacramento area. I am incredibly grateful not only for the skills I’ve learned here but also the amazing and inspiring people I’ve met. I look forward to continuing my farming education with the solid skill set and confidence in farming I’ve gained here.
My time as an apprentice at Soil Born Farms has been deeply meaningful. I am passionate about agriculture and hope to eventually have my own farm. I am equally passionate about working to help farmers. I came here wanting to learn as much about sustainable vegetable production, orchards, and livestock management as possible. I have found a wealth of diverse knowledge here in the farm managers I work under, in my fellow apprentices, in the classes we take, and in visits we make to other sustainable farms in the region. More than this, I have found a vibrant and loving community in Soil Born, starting with my fellow apprentices and extending throughout the staff, volunteer, and broader community. I am coming away from this season deeply motivated to continue farming and to work towards finding solutions for farmers that better preserve our soil and other agricultural and natural resources. I hope to eventually take this knowledge back to farming communities that are close to my heart, including those where I previously worked in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
In some ways, it seems like I have been here forever. I have seen so many crops from seed to harvest to till; spent countless hours in the barn cleaning and packing food for the CSA, restaurants, and food bank; attended several classes covering everything from soil management to orchard production to organic label certification; visited several other farms to learn how they operate; and spent so many evenings by the American River, dipping in its cool water or running or reading. In another way, it has flown by. I can’t believe I’m already reflecting on everything that I have gained this year and choosing my next step. This experience has been overwhelmingly gratifying and rewarding, and I am so thankful for the information it has bestowed that I will carry with me. It’s clear that this apprenticeship has been really well-thought through. Like I mentioned above, this experience not only offered hands-on experience but also formal classes to help familiarize us with ideas or practices we were encountering in the field. Staff also coordinated field trips to nearby farms, organized classes based on what our interests were, and were there to answer questions in person, by phone, or email nearly every day. They designed the apprenticeship so that we each had an opportunity to specialize in different areas such as animals and irrigation, orchard management, pest management, farm management, and pack and allowed us the opportunity to choose in our last month the area that interested us the most, to gain more depth and experience. This apprenticeship prepares one to begin working on a small-scale organic farm. While that’s what I see myself doing, I found myself this year really drawn to herbs, for medicinal and culinary purposes. I would like to incorporate that into the mission of my farm, using food and herbs to create whole-body health. So I have applied and have been accepted into the California School of Herbal Studies as part of their Roots of Herbalism/Foundations of Health course. I am thankful to Soil Born for everything that I have learned and gained this year and will take it with me as I make my dream a reality.
The apprenticeship has taught me vital skills necessary in all aspects in the world of farming. After completing a month focused on pest management, orchard care, pack and deliveries, farm management, animal care, and irrigation I have acquired enough knowledge to confidently start my next farming venture in Hawaii. Thanks to the excellent staff I feel capable in the fields and at market. I have watched my fellow apprentices successfully take on more responsibility over the months and they have all become dear friends that are very close to my heart. I consider Soil Born Farms home and I cannot thank them enough for the invaluable wisdom they provide to those who ask.
I signed up to be an apprentice because I wanted to learn how to grow food. I was in love with farmers’ markets, liked to cook, had studied Health Education in college and was looking to make a big change in my life. I was fascinated by the food world and was looking to get my hands dirty. Little did I know how sweaty and dirty I would actually get and how profoundly this apprenticeship would change my life. I feel more knowledgeable, physically fit, curious, and confident than ever before. Yes, there were days in the field when I was praying to get bit by a snake or pass out from dehydration, but I’ve made it through and I feel like a new person because of it. I’ll be leaving this apprenticeship with a deeper understanding of our food system and an even greater appreciation for farmers. My next adventure will be connecting a giant Internet company with food from local farms and educating their staff on how good food is grown and where it comes from. For me it’s a dream job, one that I wouldn’t have been qualified for if it weren’t for my experience as a Soil Born apprentice!
Diving head first into farming was my motivator behind doing the Soil Born apprenticeship. Looking back at my two years as an apprentice, the biggest lesson I’ve learned has been in the development of farming as a business. As Chris from Say Hay Farms put it at one of our farm tours, anyone can grow vegetables, but making money at it is a whole other thing. As “modern” farmers, it helps to be creative and adaptive, and to diverge from the status quo. Moving forward to the next chapter, my idealist beginnings are slightly tarnished, but they have been replaced with a practical set of business and farming skills, a humble attitude and a desire to use my creativity to make farming a viable career for myself (and others). After spending one year at the American River Ranch, and a second co-managing the Farm on Hurley Way, I feel equipped with the confidence and skills necessary to adapt to the changing world as a modern farmer.
Learn more about our Farming Apprentice program and get more information on how to apply >>