New Farmer Training
Seed Farm apprentices take part in a 8-month program designed to train new farmers in all aspects of managing a diversified vegetable farm. Apprentices are given decision-making responsibility for our two-acre market garden at the Seed Farm site in Emmaus, PA, from seed to harvest to market. Participants learn a variety of skills, including: business and production planning, risk management, soil fertility management, safe operation of farm equipment, disease and insect management, harvest and post-harvest handling, and marketing. On-farm experiential learning is complemented by formal classes through Penn State Cooperative Extension.
Photo credit Allison Czapp.
Meet our 2015 apprentices!
Educational Components of our Program
- Develop a comprehensive crop plan.
- Each apprentice responsible for crop selection, fertility, pest management and marketing of a selected crop family.
- Tractor Safety and basic operation
- Small tools for efficiency
- Tractor based cultivation, seeding, etc
- Exploring the Small Farm Dream
- Introduction to Organic Vegetable Production
- Vegetable Business Planner
Business & Marketing
Apprentices receive an average of 20 hours of training per week from early March through the end of October. The weekly schedule consists of a full day of production training every Monday as well as two additional four-hour blocks during the week. Monday sessions are structured learning opportunities formulated for the whole group. Weekday on-farm work blocks will be dedicated to crop projects (i.e. planting, hoeing, managing diseases/pests and harvesting your crop), management areas and equipment training.
In addition to the standard weekly on-farm schedule, apprentices learn other important
aspects of running a farm business by participating in off-farm learning opportunities:
- Farmers' market shifts: six consecutive Sundays (moving from helper to manager over the course of the rotation)
- Exploring the Small Farm Dream: 4 weekday evenings in April
- Introduction to Organic Vegetable Production: 6 afternoon classes and 6 evening classes
- Vegetable Business Planner: 6 weekday evenings in September/October
Sample weekly schedule:
|7:00-11:00||All apprentice class||Harvest block (CSA)**||Harvest block (farmers' mkt)**||Farmers' Market^|
*Work blocks are scheduled by apprentices and Program Director at the beginning of the season.
**Apprentices choose one of the two harvest blocks to participate in each week.
^These training activities are not held every week.
Labor Hours: Apprentices have the opportunity to spend more time working at the farm while earning an hourly wage. Actual hours available depend on labor needs on the farm and apprentices' ability. Applicants interested in this option should complete a financial aid application.
- Commercial farming experience is preferred but not required.
- A site visit with our Program Director.
- The intention to start or manage a sustainable farm business.
- All apprentices are expected to have a strong work ethic, resourcefulness, ability to problem-solve and work independently when necessary.
- Demonstrated ability to perform hard, physical work.
- Dedication to cooperative working and sustainable agriculture.
- Ability to lift 50 pounds.
- Ability to work in all weather conditions, especially heat.
- 20+ hour per week availability.
- Access to reliable transportation.
- Applications due: Friday, November 13, 2015
- After November 13, applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.