Reaching back to the Middle Ages young adults have become first apprentices and then journeymen in order to learn their profession from master craftsmen. In an effort to reach out and educate young farmers, MOFGA has instituted the Apprenticeship Program, which is a program where young aspiring farmers can learn the craft of farming first-hand by living and working on a farm.
These apprentices will live on their chosen farm for a season while receiving varying provision, including housing as well as any farm food. Each farm is different; some will take on multiple apprentices while others are only looking for a single apprentice or even a couple. These apprentices are then housed, either in the main house, in cabins, or a set-up apprentice community and paid at a weekly rate. They will work hard on the farm covering most jobs including, seeding, transplanting, watering, weeding, harvesting, chores, and whatever else the farm needs done.
During this process these apprentices will not only learn how to run a farm, but will discover if farming is something that they would like to pursue. Running a full-time farm is not just a job- it is a lifestyle. This program makes sure that these apprentices are well prepared to go into the world and start their own farms.
Beyond the education of just living on a farm this program has meetings for the apprentices called, “Farm Training Project Workshops”, where all the apprentices from participating farms are invited to a specific farm each week to mingle, make contacts, and learn a specified lesson tailored to the farm visit. Bahner Farm housed the meeting on becoming Journeymen and taking the next step to becoming a farmer since they are one of the newer farms still working their way into living solely off the land. The meeting on horse-power farming was held at New Beat Farm in Knox, a well established horse power farm.
These meetings include demonstrations. A weeding seminar at Fisher Farm in Winterport introduced apprentices to new and old weeding tools, allowing the apprentices to test them and see which tools fit them best. Professionals in the field, such as experts and professors of Sustainable Agriculture teach these meetings. Any individual is welcome to attend these meetings and take part in its activities.
After the apprenticeship program a striving farmer can continue their study of sustainable agriculture through the journeyperson program. In this program, the journeyperson chooses a mentor who will watch over and check up on the new farmer. The journey people begin to work on their own farm, if applicable, and crop within this program. There are many benefits to this program including, mentorship, technical assistance, business planning, and help with getting established.
The journey people are provided with free access to any of MOFGA’s resources including, events, workshops, and conferences. They also receive an educational stipend of $500 per year, which can be spent on supplementary classes, workshops, conferences, reference books, and anything that is educational and useful to a farmer. The journey people also receive a group discount at FEDCO and Organic Growers Supply, as well as have access to MOFGA’s Organic Farmers’ Loan Fund.
I have witnessed the apprenticeship and journeyperson programs influence striving farmers by helping them to get started. These programs are very beneficial and allow a farmer to learn farming techniques before having to purchase land. This program is a great way for a farmer to prepare and discover whether farming is the right lifestyle and path for them.
By: Anna Mueller