|Apprentice at Henry's|
For general information about the farm, please browse though the website.
This page gives specific information about the position.
This is a small and very diverse farm. At larger farms or farms that specialize in fewer products, apprentices often get stuck doing pretty much the same thing day in and day out. Not here. You will never be stuck hoeing carrots for eight hours or picking tomatoes every day for a week. Every day is different.
Another advantage at this farm is that the apprentice is my right hand. Assorted members of my three-generational family help out on harvest days and other major jobs, but day in and day out it is just me and the apprentices trying to keep up with ten acres of vegetables. This is an advantage for the apprentice because we will spend most of our time working together, which allows the apprentice to learn from watching. A healthy portion of farming is best learned by watching a farmer do it.
The basic categories of work are planting and transplanting, weeding, mulching, harvesting and selling. Almost all of the work is done by hand or with hand tools. I have one small tractor for tilling, making beds and some cultivation.
A day on the farm is long, hot and hard--full of sweat, pain and bugs. I love it. But most people don't. I once had someone quit after three hours and never come back. I have also had apprentices who decided to stay on for another year. One former apprentice stayed on as my farmhand and has been here for six years now.
A season on the farm should feel like time spent in a foreign country. It should feel like a completely new environment. You will make the shift from a consumer of food to a producer of food. There is so much to learn, to observe, to absorb. There are the details, a rainshower of details--how to wield a hoe, how big to make a bunch of carrots, how far apart to thin the lettuce, how thick to lay the mulch, which is the tatsoi and which is the mei qing choi. The details, while overwhelming in sheer number, are relatively easy to learn and easy to teach.
Then there is the overall picture. The overall picture is harder to grasp and perhaps impossible to teach. Understanding the overall picture means having a feel for the weather, the seasons, the soil, the landscape. It means having a feel for the way nature works. Actually, I don't know what understanding the overall picture means. It is impossible to explain. The only way I know to learn about it is to become part of it. When you wake up with birds singing in the predawn and go to bed when it gets dark; when you are exposed day-long to the elements; when you are wet when it rains, oily with sweat when it is hot, shivering when it is cold; when your hands are stained with soil; when you eat what you grow--when you feel the days get longer and longer and then shorter and shorter--then you start to get a feel for the overall picture.
The Ideal Apprentice/Farmer Relationship:
My idea of the ideal relationship between an apprentice and farmer is one where the apprentice asks the farmer as many questions as they have. Why do you do it this way? What happens if you do it this way instead? What happens next?
Just as important as asking questions, however, is watching the farmer closely and trying to learn as much as possible just from observing him. You will be doing new and different tasks almost every day for the entire time you are here. I, on the other hand, will be doing tasks that I have done so many times that they are (sometimes) second nature to me. If the way I do something doesn't make sense to you, ask me about it. Chances are that I have a reason for doing it that way (although sometimes it is hard for me to remember what the reason was).
The other thing that you as an apprentice should be trying to learn is whether the farming life is for you. I can't help you there except by giving you the total immersion experience. By the time you leave here, you will have become an integral part of this farm.
The Living Arrangements:
The apprentice is provided with free lodging in a 14 x 60 foot mobile home located on the farm. The home has a full kitchen, bathroom, living room and three bedrooms. You will share the home with my farmhand Matt and another apprentice if I have one this year.
The Pay:The apprenticeship is not meant to be a job and you won't be paid wages. Apprentices will receive a stipend of $150 per week to help you cover expenses while you are here. Housing is free (including utilities except for phone). All vegetables are free, of course, as are the fruit, meat, eggs and milk we grow for our own use.