2024 EarthDance Apprentices – Midseason update

It’s nearly mid-season for the farm and for the Summer and Full Season Farm Apprentices, and we want to share some of what they’ve been digging into and learning!

The EarthDance Apprenticeship is our organic farm school’s flagship and longest running program. Since 2009, teaching people to grow food year-round in a hands-on, community-centered way has been at the heart of our work. More than 450 Apprentices have come to EarthDance to explore their agricultural dreams. Many of them have gone on to make a living growing food, to teach other people to grow food, and/or to be a part of the good food movement in other creative ways (visit the alumni page of our website to read about just a few of them at www.earthdancefarms.org/alumni).

Summer Apprentices

Marlan Davis (Teaching about herbs during an apprenticeship enrichment, while fellow apprentices listen and learn)

When I was a young child, I was always fascinated about plants. I had a garden at the age of 7. My father would take me to buy seeds and starter plants along with the bare minimum essentials needed to grow. It seemed my parents didn’t have the time on hand to help, so I had to go for what I knew, and that wasn’t much at all. After a couple of months of exhaustion, the weeds and rabbits defeated. However the next few summers ahead I found myself repeating the same cycle again, which went on for a few years.  

Years ahead, the summer before my senior year in high school, I moved to Arkansas to help my great grandmother with her land, and that’s where it started to all make more sense. Almost every family member along with family friends had a garden and/or farm which gave me my foundation and opportunity to really learn a lot. 

My passion for gardening, farming and plants also cultivated a passion for herbs. I have learned even much more now being an apprentice at EarthDance. I greatly enjoyed learning more about herbs and kombucha from farm volunteer and herbalist Kathleen (Rumme). I would love to work with her in the near future as well as have an ongoing connection with EarthDance! 

I’ve acquired an abundance of information here at EarthDance! It was a mouth dropper to know that plants in the nightshade or cucurbit family shouldn’t be compost due to the possibilities of causing more disease and insect issues, which I’ve learned from Farmer Will. Farmers Jena and Jo gave a thorough presentation about “the right time to harvest tomatoes”, which really stepped my understanding up in that area. I realize that EarthDance has not only helped me to learn more about farming but also has been an environment where I have been able to meet beautiful hearts, which has created a peaceful atmosphere to connect, heal and expand. I want to thank everyone at EarthDance for this opportunity! 

Mia Phutrakul (Holding a giant squash in the Harvest House)

There is so much that I have absorbed in just a short amount of time that I would have never thought I’d have the opportunity to learn about a farm in this way. I have always thought about the underlying systemic issues in our community, but after attending the field trip to Urban Buds and really shifting my mindset from non-profit to for profit and what it takes to make money and be a farmer while also paying workers a life able wage was a real light bulb moment. This led me to really think deeply about where my food comes from and whether or not it’s sustainable. Know your farmer!

I have always had a deep appreciation for the environment from playing in the dirt as a kid to studying systems to better support our world in college. I wanted to learn more about agriculture, but also connect more with the St. Louis community. I’ve always felt a disconnect from attending university in St. Louis and learning about food insecurity and food justice versus seeing how non-profits like EarthDance can help communities and make differences.

Brady Struckhoff (Right, pictured with apprentices Marlan [left] and Blake [middle] at an apprenticeship field trip to Urban Buds)

Working the summer apprenticeship at EarthDance has helped me already become significantly more confident in my abilities to grow food. I enjoy being taught how to think through situations instead of what to think. The approach here has helped me be able to understand and keep growing my interest and skills for farming. I want to eventually make a career out of growing food and providing it to communities in an affordable way for people. I see the difference it makes in peoples lives physically, mentally, and spiritually when they are being nourished by food that is healthy. I love being able to bridge the gap between health, community, and nature.

Something I didn’t know about myself before I started with EarthDance was that I had no idea how much of a difference working outside with the dirt and plants, how much of an effect it would have on my mental health. Being outside and working with nature and the community allows me to feel connected to the earth and feel whole because I know what is happening at EarthDance is special.

Showing up to work at EarthDance is motivating for me because I feel like a small part of a system that is contributing to not only restoring Earth but helping to restore the community as well, and being a part of that has helped me feel like I am able to make a difference as I am able.

Sy Oliver (Left, with fellow apprentice, Mia, at Urban Buds)

As an Afro-Indigenous woman with a deep ancestral connection to the land, I am eager to continue the tradition of honoring the earth and all its inhabitants through sustainable farming practices with my vision in combining agriculture art and music to create a healing space for women.

Growing up with the privilege to witness my grandparents tend to the land, I was immersed in the rhythms of nature from a young age. This experience instilled in me a deep respect for the land and the cycles of life. I learned the value of hard work, the importance of sustainable farming practices, and the joy of nurturing life from a tiny seed. These early experiences have shaped my worldview and ignited a passion for agriculture that has only grown stronger over the years.

My vision is to weave together the threads of agriculture, art and music to create healing spaces for women. Agriculture forms the foundation of this vision. It is not just about growing food but about nurturing life, understanding the cycles of nature, and fostering a deep connection with the earth. I believe working with the soil, planting and watching them grow can be a proudly healing and transformative experience that I want to offer once I am fully equipped to provide the opportunity. Being a part of this apprenticeship program is providing me with the opportunity to dive deeper into the world of agriculture and taking the steps towards turning this vision into reality.

Sarah Staab (Left, with [L to R] Full Season Apprentice Dani, Storytelling VISTA Sammy, and Farmer Will showing off a bountiful cucumber harvest)

I was drawn to working at EarthDance because I love gardening and wanted to be able to use my love of gardening to help fight food insecurity. I am interested in pursuing a career in agriculture and want to learn more. I started volunteering last summer and loved the community and farm so much that I decided to come back as a Summer Apprentice to continue to learn and have a bigger role on the farm.

An aha for me has been realizing the amount of math and work that goes into preparing our beds. I didn’t realize how many calculations would have to be made for the amount of fertilizer in each row and how precise the seed depth would need to be.

I now know that I want to continue to pursue a career in sustainable agriculture in some way and find a job that has a community like EarthDance.

Full Season Apprentices

Dani Fuhrman (left, pictured with fellow apprentice Mia)

My time so far at EarthDance has helped open my mind to lots of great ways to make food equitable and sustainable. First and foremost this apprenticeship has offered me confirmation that the path that I am on is going in the right direction. I want to do work that aligns with my interests and values as well as learning skills that were lost in previous generations in my family tree. I want to do work that is conscious and restorative to the land and the community. Transitioning from hair, an industry where I had lots of experience, to a field where much of what I am doing and learning is new to me has been challenging at times, but I’ve been steadily gaining confidence. I feel like the nurturing culture here really helps with that. As a hair stylist you mostly work independently, but here I’m always working as a team and I have really enjoyed that aspect of my experience.  I have learned lots of great skills and used lots of tools for market-style gardening that will be invaluable if I head in that direction. This is also my first time working for a non-profit, and I’m enjoying that as well. I want to continue to learn the different aspects of not-for-profit food production and food justice work.

Blake Riley (Holding pepper plants in the EarthDance orchard)

This apprenticeship has provided me with an exceptional opportunity to learn and collaborate with experienced farmers on a local organic farm. Additionally, it has been a pleasure to work alongside volunteers, from the initial stages of seed planting to the final steps of harvesting, washing, and packing produce for local markets. The hardest part is despite being a full-season apprenticeship, the time is passing quickly, and it will eventually come to an end. I am striving to make the most of each day and maximize this valuable experience. I’ve loved every minute on this beautiful farm. Throughout this process, my vision for the future and my plans have become clearer and more defined. Each new lesson boosts my confidence in my ability to grow food sustainably for the rest of my life. While I have never been one to meticulously plan my future, I follow my passion and let the rest unfold naturally. I am truly excited to apply everything I am learning, regardless of the scale. I have already learned so much and am looking forward to continuing my education on EarthDance’s regenerative farming practices. Additionally, I am excited about exploring aspects of the program that we have not yet fully covered, including fruit tree care, small-scale agroforestry theories, and detailed crop planning.