Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Farming Internship, Part Two

Now that I've changed directions (again), I find myself back to square one. And as I mentioned in my last update, a lot of my considerations for WWOOF-ing transfer quite well into the realm of farming internships - the desire to travel, task variety, learning about organic agriculture and sustainability, and so on.
I've come up with a handy little To Do list that's helped me stay organized as I wade through the scores of farming internships that are out there. Here it is, for your viewing pleasure.

Research. Using sites like ATTRA, Tilth Producers of Washington, Back Door Jobs, the Sustainable Food Jobs blog, Google, and personal recommendations from friends and acquaintances, I've managed to acquire a tidy little list of farming internships that seems to fit the bill. These are farms that match my list of requirements - a blend of learning opportunities, including work with livestock and produce; room and board included; at least a small stipend to cover my student loan payments and stuff like toothpaste (I take oral hygiene very seriously); some company in the form of a couple other interns; and not in my usual stomping grounds, a.k.a. the Midwest. Setting these parameters helps to narrow the field considerably.

Despite their similarities, the farms have a lot of differences. Their locations, housing (Camping? Cabins? Yurts?), benefits, and to a certain extent,  how their internships operate are all wildly different. Some farms have very detailed, organized internships, with the growing season broken down week by week according to what they'll be doing. Others describe themselves as "learn by doing", which I interpret as a more "by the seat of your pants" approach. Some farms have years of experience with interns and apprentices... others, not so much. Some work with other organizations and farms to give their interns a broader education.

Bring on the email. After I'd filled out my WWOOF Farm Internship spreadsheet, I started contacting each and every farm on there. For the most part, this involved something to the effect of, "Hi, I've never farmed before but I'd really like to learn. How do I apply to your lovely farm?" I started this part over a month ago, and I'm still getting responses from farmers who were on vacation, or perhaps just don't check their email that often.

For the most part, it involves sending them my resume and three references, so once I had those updated, it's a pretty simple process. In some cases, their websites had instructions for the application process, in which case I went ahead and sent them in without peppering their email with questions.

To date, I've sent in applications to (I think) one farm in California, three in Washington, three in Maryland, one in Massachusetts, and one in Virginia, with more to come.

Visits and Interviews. This is the step that I'm just beginning. Thanks to the weather (we're smack dab in the middle of an ice storm), I had to cancel a visit to White Rose Farm in Taneytown, Maryland that was supposed to take place tomorrow. I should be able to make it to the Brightwood Vineyard and Farm in Brightwood, Virginia on Friday, however. For interested farms that I can't visit, hopefully we should soon be setting up phone interviews. Naturally I will post the results of my visits on here.

Start the internship. The sooner, the better!

And that's that. I'm continuing to research and apply to farms I find interesting, and following up with those who haven't gotten back to me yet.

Look for an update next week, detailing my road trip out east, with pit stops in Perry Point, Maryland to visit some AmeriCorps friends; Brightwood Vineyard and Farm; and Chatham University in Pittsburgh, where I'm checking out their new Masters program in Food Studies.

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