Massachusetts: Simple Gifts Farm seeks Apprentices

23 Jan
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 perhaps more importantly, building soil fertility for the vegetable operation.

Our total land base is about 50 acres, of which 15 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.  We also have season-extension hoophouses and a greenhouse heated by used vegetable oil and solar hot-water that is used to produce early crops for farmer’s markets and some greens for sale during the winter, both through a winter share program, and through a new winter farmer’s market.  We are also working to increase our supply of winter produce by canning and freezing summer vegetables through a few different co-packers.

The livestock operation is still in a rapid growth phase.  We have about 250 organic laying hens which are rotationally grazed on pasture.  Our swine herd has recently expanded to include a boar and sows, so that we can farrow our own piglets on the farm.  We have also recently added a mixed herd of Scottish Highlander, Galloway, and Angus beef cattle, and will have our first lambs born on the farm in spring of 2011.  All of the livestock are grazed on a section of vegetable land which is rotated out of production for a season, as well as on crop aftermath, and on a neighboring parcel which we have recently leased

Work Arrangements

We are seeking three interns to work from April 1st to November 18th.  There will be the option of extending into late November or even December for several of the interns.  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 work is often very tedious, and we spend long hours in hot sun and cold rain.  However, the rewards of seeing the very tangible and delicious fruits of your labors are great (at least we think so).

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 $600/ 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; so 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.

Positions will be filled on a rolling basis.  Please send a resume and a list of at least three work references.  We will contact candidates by phone or email to arrange an interview.  Farm visits are strongly recommended, though phone interviews can work for those living further away.

Further Questions Contact:

Jeremy Barker Plotkin

Simple Gifts Farm

P.O. Box 9631

North Amherst, MA 01059

(413) 549-1585

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