Apprentices

There are four main components to being an apprentice.

1. Work on your host farm

Once you are paired with a host farmer (click here to read more about the matching process), you’ll come to an agreement about what kind of work you’ll do with and for them over the course of the year. These kinds of expectations will vary between host farms and between apprentices – it’ll be important to hammer out these details at the beginning, even though responsibilities will likely shift and adapt as the season moves along.

By working alongside your host farmer, you’ll gain practical, hands-on knowledge about specific growing techniques, equipment they use, processes that help them track planting and harvesting schedules, and more. These hours that you spend working for your host farmer may be paid or unpaid – each host farm has a different situation. Regardless, there’s no substitute in farming for actually getting down in the dirt to see how things work.

 

2. Mentorship with your host farm

What makes an apprenticeship different from working as a regular farm hand is the mentorship you’ll get from your host farm. The program compensates your host farm to provide you with at least eight hours of one-on-one mentoring, where you’ll be able to cover more of the big picture, background concepts that go into running a farm. From seed ordering to crop planning to recordkeeping to business management considerations – this is where you’ll have the chance to ask all sorts of questions about the less obvious parts of farming.

3. Training at workshops

Since our program is connected to and run through K-State Research and Extension – Sedgwick County, we have the opportunity to provide knowledge-packed, high-quality, resource-filled workshops for our apprentices, as well as for the interested public. The topics include: soil management, crop planning and seedling production, small farm equipment and irrigation, pest, disease, and insect management, postharvest handling and food safety, and farm business planning. Click here for a full list of workshops.

Farm tours often accompany the workshops, giving participants the opportunity to see some of the workshop material in action, as well as the chance to see a great diversity of farming operations and ask all sorts of questions. Apprentices are required to attend at least four of the six workshops, but of course we hope that you would prioritize to coming to all of them. You’ll receive at least one book along with each workshop, as well as a variety of other relevant publications. Books that have previously accompanied workshops have included: “Sustainable Market Farming” by Pam Dawling, “The Market Gardener” by Jean-Martin Fortier, “The New Organic Grower” by Elliot Coleman, “Building Healthy Soils for Healthy Crops” by Fred Magdoff and Harold Van Es, “The Farmer’s Office” by Julia Shanks, and more.

4. Volunteering with Common Ground Mobile Market

Part of the challenges that growers in our region face is meeting the needs of low-income consumers who often have very little access to fresh, healthy, and especially local produce options. Donna Pearson McClish is addressing this challenge with her work running the Common Ground Mobile Market. She takes produce from local growers and sets up “lightning” markets at various locations around the region, particularly at senior centers. The Mobile Market accepts all kinds of assistance programs to ensure the greatest level of access for these consumers, and she is filling such a need in the market that she is nearly maxed out on space and time.

Serving low-income, low-access consumers takes some unique skills and abilities, and we ask Growing Growers apprentices to volunteer with the Mobile Market for three days over the course of the growing season in order to gain a better understanding of what it takes to serve these populations. Shifts are usually less than one hour, often during mid-day and early afternoon, and take place at a variety of locations around the region. Check out the Mobile Market’s Facebook page for a calendar of previous markets. (These won’t necessarily be exactly the same, but you’d get a good idea of what they’re like.)

Program participation fee

It costs $500 for apprentices to participate in the program. This fee may seem high, but it is actually much lower than comparable programs elsewhere in the country. This fee covers costs to run the program, a serious plethora of resources that you will receive at workshops, and it contributes to the long-term sustainability of the program. A payment plan can be established if needed.

There are a limited number of scholarships available for individuals who come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and who demonstrate financial need. Please contact the program manager if you have questions about the fee.

Questions?

Contact Lyndsay Feather, program manager:

(316) 660-0145 | lfeather@k-state.edu