Apprenticeship FAQ

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the EarthDance Organic Farming Apprenticeship Program

What will I learn as an apprentice at EarthDance?
How much of a time commitment is the program?
I know I can’t commit to the full apprenticeship. Are there any other options?
I’m interested in learning more about organic farming/ gardening, but I don’t have any experience yet.  Is the EarthDance apprenticeship appropriate for me?
I already have a lot of experience growing vegetables organically. Is the EarthDance apprenticeship appropriate for me?
You mean you charge for people to work on your farm?
How much does the program cost?
Did tuition increase from 2015 to 2016?
Are scholarships available?
Is vacation time allowed?
What if I cannot complete the program?
Is my tuition refundable if I cannot complete the program?
Are there any animals on your farm?
What do your apprentices do after the program?

What will I learn as an apprentice at EarthDance?

First-year apprentices (aka Freshman Farmies) learn:

  • composting and methods of soil fertility management;
  • crop planning;
  • propagation of a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, and flowers;
  • organic pest and disease management;
  • proper harvest and post-harvest handling techniques;
  • farm-scale tool usage, including tractor training
  • growing in a greenhouse and high tunnels
  • selling and marketing via farmers markets
  • how to work effectively as a team player;
  • and more!

For more details about a typical apprenticeship experience, you can view 2015 Apprentice Sarah Bell’s blog about each field work, shift and class here!

How much of a time commitment is the program?

Apprentices commit to a total of 9.5 hours (minimum) per week to the program. This includes 8 hours of farm, garden and market labor (field work, harvest days, and selling at farmers’ market), and 1.5 hours of class per week. Classes include on-farm workshops, field walks, classroom sessions with guest lecturers, and field trips to local farms. And, since the Earth Dance mission entails community engagement, EarthDance apprentices have the option to represent Earth Dance at one community event – such as at the St. Louis Earth Day festival, our Pesto Festo Celebration, health fairs, etc.

Every apprentice is entitled to 2 weeks off of the program during the season.

We wish to emphasize that the EarthDance apprenticeship is a serious commitment.  The 2017 program spans from mid-April – September.  While 9.5 hours per week of your presence is required, keep in mind that the commute and any at-home reading and additional learning you wish to do will add to the amount of time this will take up in your life.  As with anything, the more you’re able to put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.

I know I can’t commit to the full apprenticeship. Are there any other options?

Yes. EarthDance welcomes volunteers. Please consult our page about volunteering. If you have a specific interest or skill, please contact us to let us know when you would like to help out, and in what capacity. Some skills could also lead to unpaid internships.

Additionally, many of EarthDance’s classes are open to the public.  Individuals may choose to attend any of the weekly classes, at a cost of $20 per class. If you would like to be notified when the 2017 Class dates and sessions are scheduled, please email programs@earthdancefarms.org

I’m interested in learning more about organic farming/ gardening, but I don’t have any experience yet.  Is the EarthDance apprenticeship appropriate for me?

Farming and gardening experience is not a prerequisite to participating in the apprenticeship program. Our apprenticeship alumni have had a range of experience going into the program – from having worked on an organic farm for 4 seasons to having started a small garden in their backyard to never having planted a seed before. All of them came away from the program with new skills and knowledge. Something to keep in mind is that the program spans from mid-April – September,  so be honest with yourself about your tolerance for inhospitable weather conditions (farming happens in the cold, rain, heat, and sun!), and your aptitude for the hard (but rewarding!) physical labor that farming entails.

I already have a lot of experience growing vegetables organically. Is the EarthDance apprenticeship appropriate for me?

Experienced growers are welcome.  New learning experiences for the seasoned gardener include: marketing at farmers markets; deepening your understanding of the Saint Louis region’s food systems, visiting neighboring farms, and workshops with local organic farming experts.

You mean you charge for people to work on your farm?

Apprentices, while they pay a tuition fee, are more appropriately “students at the EarthDance Organic Farm School”. Tuition includes:

  • A full season of hands-on supervised instruction in all aspects of operating a production farm. Instruction is provided by farm managers with years of experience and given in a small group setting.  Apprentices are shown a myriad of “best practices” and given an opportunity to practice with the support of a group and teacher. Skills taught include techniques such as: bed preparation, using a seeder, proper transplanting and weeding methods, trellising systems, use of organic pest and disease controls, efficient harvest procedures, and use of both a walk-behind and riding tractor for disking, tilling, mowing and use of the bucket. Each farm shift also starts off with a field walk during which apprentices are shown and talked through the current state of the farm– which includes crops, weeds, pests, soil conditions, weather conditions etc.
  • 20+ classes throughout the year on all things food, farming and gardening.  (A $400+ value) Classes also include organized field trips to local farms.
  • A weekly share of the harvest.
  • Access to a staff who can facilitate connections to the local food and farming world.
  • Apprentices become part of a network of 200+ farmies who share a similar passion for changing the face of farming and gardening.

How much does the program cost?

The application fee is $25, nonrefundable. Thanks to the generosity of donors and foundations, enrollment in the apprenticeship program is only $1000 per person for the entire 5 1/2-month season, and includes a weekly food share during the harvest season (24 weeks). The full tuition is due by the last day of May; it can be paid in 3 installments of $334 (first due on the last day of March). Transportation costs for field trips are not included in this fee.

Are scholarships available?

A limited number of scholarships are available.   However, to make the EarthDance apprenticeship as accessible as possible, the $1000 tuition is less than the actual cost, per participant, of conducting the program.  Please ask to be considered for a scholarship only if the cost of tuition would represent a significant financial hardship.

Is vacation time allowed?

Yes! Every apprentice is entitled to two weeks of vacation time!  Please let us know several weeks in advance if you will be missing your usual shifts.  It may be necessary to find other apprentices to fill in. Once the farmers market schedule is made, you will be responsible for finding others to fill your shifts if you are unable to work on  your scheduled market day.

What if I cannot complete the program?

When possible, EarthDance will try to work with an apprentice whose participation is unexpectedly limited by unforeseen circumstances. For example, one 2010 apprentice injured his arm at home in early April, and therefore was unable to carry out any physical labor until late July. He remained a part of the program, though, and was able to fit in all of his required “graduation hours” (and then some) once his arm had healed. If apprentices are not able to remain in the program the following refund policy applies.

Is my tuition refundable if I cannot complete the program?

EarthDance Refund Policy

Your apprenticeship tuition is a crucial part of covering the operating costs of our educational apprenticeship program. Therefore, we must enact a refund policy to ensure that we do not suffer too many losses due to circumstances beyond our control. We are committed to providing an exceptional experience for our apprentices and strive to create additional opportunities beyond this program to ensure that our apprentices will grow the good food movement in our region. Please understand that it is with those commitments and goals in mind that we state:

  • If an apprentice chooses to forfeit participation in the program after payment has been made, but before April 12th, a 90% refund will be given.
  • If an apprentice decides to end her/his commitment to the program between April 13th and May 1st, a 50% refund will be given.
  • If an apprentice decides to end her/his commitment to the program after May 1st, no refund will be given.
  • If imprudence and misconduct deem it necessary for EarthDance staff to ask an apprentice to withdraw from the program at any point, no refund will be given.

Are there any animals on your farm?

Yes. Currently, EarthDance keeps a flock of 50 laying chickens, and we have experimented with goats on-site for invasive species removal.  Apprentices participate in chicken care.   Also, many of the farms we visit during field trips do include animals, so there will be opportunities for curious apprentices to learn a bit about keeping flocks and herds.

What do your apprentices do after the program?

Some are in the first stages of beginning a farm enterprise.  Others are working collaboratively to establish highly productive backyard gardens or youth gardening initiatives.  Some are rejoining the program as Sophomore or Junior Farmies!  Returning apprentices take on more responsibility at the farm, such as helping to lead a farm crew and participating in winter planning for next year’s growing season. Also, EarthDance staff regularly seek out opportunities, such as creative land lease agreements, marketing opportunities, and professional development workshops and conferences, that are applicable to both alumni and current apprentices’ interests and needs, and passes this information on via the apprenticeship listservs. EarthDance is strongly invested in contributing to the success of their alumni’s future agricultural endeavors!