Are you a farmer looking for energetic and motivated staff? Are you an Ag student or recent college grad seeking hands-on farming experience? Are you an aspiring farmer seeking apprentice training? An internship might be for you.
What is an internship?
An internship is a temporary employment situation. Farm internships typically span May through September, during the growing season.
Farmers appreciate extra help during the busiest time of year, but warn: needing farm labor is not a good reason to host interns. One farmer put it this way, “If you are looking for laborers hire laborers, not interns.”
The goal of a farm internship is to cultivate individuals into the next generation of farmers and agricultural advocates. The most successful internships are those in which the farmer works alongside interns, teaching and mentoring during daily tasks. Internships provide practical skills and working knowledge one can’t gain by reading a book.
How internships benefit farmers
Internships are an opportunity for farmers to pass their skills and experience to the next generation.
Interns bring youthful energy and new ideas to the farm. One farmer explained how a tech savvy intern taught her to navigate social media. “I didn’t know the market I was missing,” she said. “An intern got my farm on Facebook. Since then, several customers have found the farm online.”
How internships benefit interns
Internships introduce college Ag students and recent grads to the agricultural industry. Aspiring farmers utilize internships to map out methodology and form a farm philosophy. Individuals without agricultural backgrounds find meaningful work on a farm.
Internships may be paid or unpaid. Interns may receive a compensatory share of food crops, lodging, stipends or incentive plans.
Profit-sharing based on crop yield or production level is a common wage incentive plan. Some farmers set aside a portion of property for an intern-run operation, such as specialty crops or laying hens. Providing raw agricultural materials for an intern-run value-added operation is another way to work incentive plans into a farm internship.
What to expect
A good internship is not a job, it’s a program. Experience, training and communication are critical components of an internship. A farm internship program should include education in production, finance and marketing.
Introducing interns to a network of fellow farmers and agricultural associations provides them with powerful connections for starting their own operation, or gaining employment in the agricultural industry.
Program structure starts with a formal application, followed by an interview. Outline expectations, rules and policies. Agree on a start and stop employment date, and discuss time-off from the farm.
Host farmers are mentors, managers, employers and educators. They should be able to clearly communicate tasks and delegate responsibilities. Feedback, including occasional correction and discipline, must remain professional.
Hosting interns requires complete transparency; farming methods and finances should be included in curriculum. Farmers with a high need for privacy should think twice before hosting interns.
Farmers are required to comply with state and federal labor and employment laws including taxes, workers compensation, insurance and wages. Contact your state labor office for current laws.
By: Ivory Harlow
Source: Farm & Dairy