Apprenticeship – Simple Gifts Farm
We are the stewards of the North Amherst Community Farm (NACF), community-owned land preserved in perpetuity for farming. The nonprofit NACF brought us in as farmers to ensure that the land remains an organic community farm, a wildlife corridor, and a place for local residents to enjoy nature and walking trails. We run the farm as an ecological unit, integrating vegetable crops and livestock, and connecting our members with their food supply. We also train the next generation of organic farmers through our apprenticeship program.
Simple Gifts Farm is a small, diverse market farm located in Western Massachusetts. We market most of our crops through a 300-member CSA program, along with vending at the Amherst Farmer’s Market. While vegetables are the main crop, we also integrate livestock into our production system, producing meat and eggs, but more importantly building soil fertility for the vegetable operation.
Our total land base is about 50 acres, of which 18 is in vegetable production, 5 is growing forage crops in rotation with the vegetables, and approximately 25 is in more permanent pasture. Much of the vegetable operation is mechanized, though most of the harvesting occurs by hand. We grow dozens of crops, but have worked to put them into only a few basic production systems in order to streamline our production processes. We also have season-extension hoophouses and a greenhouse heated by wood pellets and solar hot-water that is used to produce early crops for farmer’s markets and greens for sale during the winter, both through a winter share program, and through a winter farmer’s market.
Seeking one motivated, task-oriented and dedicated individuals with a strong sense of fun to apprentice at Simple Gifts Farm for the 2016 farm season. Our apprentices are trained in all aspects of the farm operation. The successful applicant for this position will be trained in our production systems starting in April 2016, and will stay through Thanksgiving of 2016. The work week consists of approximately 50 hours, with 9-hour days on weekdays, and rotating Saturday market days, weekend chore duty and evening weekday CSA staffing. We start work as early as 6 A.M., especially during the heat of summer. Work outside of normal work hours will be required for some projects. For example, the apprentices are responsible on a rotating basis for greenhouse and livestock chores, including weekends. There are also be regular evening times when interns will mind the CSA distribution or the farm stand.
The apprentices will be housed at the site, in a historic farmhouse. The farm site is in Amherst, within walking distance to conservation land, a swimming hole, restaurants and other businesses. Downtown Amherst is an easy bike or bus ride away and hosts a plethora of cultural activities. Apprentices will be responsible for whatever food they need in addition to the bounty of vegetables produced at the farm. Farm meat and eggs will available at reduced price, along with several local food products that we sell to the CSA members. A stipend of $750/ month will be paid to the apprentices. Worker’s compensation will be provided; health insurance is provided through the Massachusetts state program. A higher stipend may be negotiable for applicants with at least one full season’s prior farm experience.
The apprenticeship is best viewed as a work-training program, rather than an exclusively “educational” experience. Apprentices will mostly learn through working on projects and through taking on responsibilities for managing aspects of the farm. The fact that we are a small and relatively young operation means that apprentices remain very close to the decision-making process, and will be assigned independent work assignments as they demonstrate ability to complete them well. Apprentices will find that they will gain the most if they show initiative, attention to detail, a good work ethic and the ability to know when to ask for help. Strong communications skills are also an important part of prospering within a small hardworking group such as we have at the farm. Being small also means that we all end up doing almost everything; apprentices will be exposed to a diverse array of activities. Apprentices are given semi-independent projects in the area of marketing, mechanical work, and crop pest management. This allows people to take a sense of ownership in one facet of the larger whole. Tractor work will be one of the apprentice’s responsibilities.
We are members of the CRAFT program, which brings apprentices to nearby farms for farm visits on a biweekly basis.
Compensation: This position is PAID: stipend
How to Apply
The position will be filled immediately when we find a suitable candidate. Please send a resume, a list of at least three work references, and a cover letter that explains your interest in farming in general and our farm in particular. We will contact candidates by phone or email to arrange an interview. Farm visits are strongly recommended