When I told people that I’d be moving back South to take over my family farm, a lot of people reacted in ways I hadn’t quite anticipated – with a sincere interest to help or come visit! Over the years, I heard more and more people say, "Put me to work!" They would go on to say that they wanted to quit their jobs and just move to the country, start their own farm, live off the land. Not a bad idea. But is it for everyone?
I think sometimes there is a sense of romance about living on the farm or land, versus what it can really be like. I’m not saying it’s not exciting, rewarding and wonderful, but there are some aspects of it that are really unpleasant, difficult and so challenging and exhausting that it would make you want to scurry back to your desk job! However, for those who’ve stuck it out, through the good and the bad, they wildly proclaim that they wouldn’t change a thing. There’s no place better in the world than right there where they are.
If you ever wondered if this is what you’d like to do, too, I’d recommend getting some hands-on experience. Lucky for you there are many farms out there who welcome interns and can help you learn the ropes and get your feet wet (muddy even) and give you the real dirt on what it’s like. Of course, you can take a workshop or go on a daily tour, but if you really want the full-on experience, you might want to consider an internship.
The process requires that you fill out an application, get an interview and provide references. It is just like applying for a job, with many people clamoring to get the very few positions. Do you have to already be a fabulous Farmer John or Farmer Jane? Not necessarily. Attitude makes all of the difference – but you need to sell yourself.
We spoke to some farms and wanted to know what made them select some interns over others. Here’s what A Way of Life Farm in North Carolina said, “We just really want people who have some experience and some sense of what its like, and with a goal to have a farm one day.”
But not all farms need you to have any experience. “It’s more about who you are as a person, as well as your can-do attitude and willingness to learn,” according to Vida Verde Farm in Albuquerque, NM. “Your first season is magical, and you’ll take so much away from this first magical season.” Yes, it is - and yes, you will. Growing and seeing what you’ve been sowing actually come to life, literally, is pretty exhilarating.
Where will you stay? Many will provide you with a place so that you can stay on their farm, like Rain Crow Farms in Colorado, even paying you a stipend as well as providing meals. But don’t get your hopes up with all internships. It differs from farm to farm.
Most farms will seek 2 – 5 interns, most require you to stay between 2 - 6 months, some for a full season. Most will require your own transportation as well, but most of all they just need you to be willing to work! Physically challenging work at that, so just forget about the gym – you may never need it again!
No matter what, be rest assured that you will know after embarking on one of these internships whether farming is for you or not. That’s why investing your time in an internship may be a smart move - especially before you’ve quit that day job!
A few we found on the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website to consider:
Living Roots Ecovillage
5907 W. County Road 375 South French Lick, IN 47432
Internship Starts: year round
Internship Ends: year round
Number of Interns: 6
App Deadline: Anytime, but by late winter is the best.
Minimum Length of Stay: 2.5 Months
Happy Hollow Farm, LLC
17199 Happy Hollow Road
Jamestown, MO 65046
Internship Starts: April 1
Internship Ends: October 31
Number of Interns: 2
App Deadline: Applications will be accepted until all positions have been filled
Minimum Length of Stay: 7 Months
A Way of Life Farm
Sunshine, NC 28018
Internship Starts: March 1
Internship Ends: November 24
Number of Interns: 3
Minimum Length of Stay: full season preferred
Vida Verde Farm
Albuquerque, NM 87107
Internship Starts: March 3rd, 2014
Internship Ends: November 30th, 2014
Number of Interns: 3
App Deadline: Rolling
Minimum Length of Stay: 9 month preference
Full Belly Farm Guinda, CA Minimum Length of Stay: 1 year Living quarters avail, hire on a rolling basis http://fullbellyfarm.com/
Frog Holler Farm Brooklyn, MI Internship Starts: April or may
www.froghollerorganic.com Internship Ends: October or November NOTE: workers stay in trailers, rustic cabin or a treehouse