Our Farmer Training Program
about the apprenticeship
Apprentice training is a big part of how we fulfill our mission of "farming for the future." Many of our past apprentices have gone on to own or manage their own farms, others have gone on to work in extension or research. See what they are up to!
Brookfield Farm is a living learning center and becoming an apprentice provides a comprehensive experience of our farm, from the inside out. Apprentices work in all aspects of the farm's production, from soil preparation to harvest, from tractors to hand hoes, from administration to marketing farm products.
During the course of the full season, apprentices are given the information and time to learn the essential skills needed to manage a mixed organic/biodynamic farm on their own. In return apprentices are expected to give their labor for the daily working of the farm.
We are no longer taking applications for the 2017 season (April - November). To apply for the 2018 season, send us a letter of intent and a resume and we will get back to you with the next steps.
This is a long, long web page. We wrote it all to give a very clear sense of the apprenticeship. Please read all the info below to see if it feels like a possible good fit for you!
Brookfield Farm is a 120-acre mixed farm with 25 acres in vegetable/soft fruit production, a small livestock operation (beef cattle and pigs), pasture, hay, and a woodlot. All of the produce of the farm is grown for the Community Supported Agriculture (C.S.A.) project, which sells 525 shares on a yearly basis. The farm is managed along (non-certified) biodynamic and organic lines and is economically self-sustaining. We offer apprenticeships to those people who are interested in being students and practitioners of sustainable agriculture.
During the course of the season, apprentices are given the information and time to learn the essential skills needed to manage a mixed organic/biodynamic farm on their own.
Training and practice working on many aspects of the operation of our CSA, including greenhouse production, transplanting, high tunnel growing, soil fertility, compost making, tillage, bed prep, plant care (including pest management via organically-approved spray and biological controls), mechanical cultivation, harvest, staffing the vibrant CSA distribution, and community events.
While not everyone can be involved in every task, we try to give apprentices the whole picture through weekly meetings and tours to see all fields and crops from the managers perspective in order to learn what gets noticed and what gets prioritized.
Labor on the farm is structured to allow apprentices maximum learning experience. Local high school & college students work on the farm in the summer for hand weeding and harvest help, making life a little boisterous (in a good way) while creating space for apprentices to concentrate on a wide variety of high-skill areas.
Opportunity to experience many different production strategies, for example - several irrigation systems, rented fields vs "home farm" fields, strategies for fields in production for pick-your-own vs cutting greens vs mechanized production for organic sweet corn.
Training on and then practice in managing a high-energy, fast-paced, and all-around good-natured harvest and packing crew. Training in the management of varied groups people is a strength of this farm and a core piece of the apprentice experience.
Training and practice in the primary operation of 2 tractors and their implements for the season.
Training in business, production planning, and record keeping systems at the farm. From the budget to the crop plan to membership data management to the year-end report, you get the inside scoop on a mature CSA farm, still adapting but with lots of data about systems that work.
While we do accept "entry-level" apprentices and give them a good orientation to farming, our apprenticeship can also be a management training position - if you are looking to learn how to manage a farm, not just how to "go out and hoe," this is the place for you.
While we work hard on the farm, we also are committed to creating a farming culture that supports our individual quality of life through balance and fairness. The work schedule is Monday through Friday, 6am - 5pm (with one hour breaks for breakfast and lunch) and Saturdays until noon. We end work promptly at 5 pm to respect time for non-farming pursuits: summer Ultimate Frisbee league? evening swim? sitting on the back porch? tubing the river? dinner and sleeping? Yes, please. All apprentices also take part in a rotating chore schedule, with responsibilities one weekend out of three. The apprenticeship begins April 1 and concludes one week after Thanksgiving. Apprentices may stay 1 3 growing seasons, by mutual agreement at the end of the first season, and take on more responsibility in years 2 and 3. A stipend of $750/mo. (first year), housing in the "apprentice house" next door to the farm, farm produce, weekday prepared lunches at the manager's farmhouse, and access to Mass Health are provided.
In addition, apprentices may take part in the CRAFT program, which offers visits to a variety of organic and biodynamic farms in the Northeast for in-depth farm visits. These visits are typically on Mondays, and apprentices may take work time to attend. There is also a wide array of agricultural, cultural, and recreational resources in the immediate area.
In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability and familial status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, or call (800)795-3272 (voice) or (202)720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider employer, and lender.
Who's Who & What's What
This is the organization that owns the farm property and equipment, manages the apprentice program, and is our employer. The BFCT is a non-profit, 501(c)3 corporation, and it managed by a board of directors. Dan Kaplan is the general manager of the BFCT and an "ex-officio" board member. Peter Littell is the President of the board of the BFCT. All board meetings are open to the public.
Brookfield Farm is a project of the BFCT. It is not a "legal entity" but rather a DBA ("doing business as") for the BFCT (legally Brookfield Farm owns nothing, hires no one, and is fully managed by the BFCT).
Dan Kaplan and Karen Romanowski
Dan and Karen are the General Managers of the BFCT. They are responsible for overseeing all aspects of the programs of the BFCT including Brookfield Farm and the apprenticeship program. The General Managers are responsible for the program development, administration, hiring, evaluations, as well as apprentice career development. The General Managers are accountable to the board of directors of the BFCT. Dan and Karen also are responsible for various management jobs & skilled labor at Brookfield Farm, as decided in conjunction with the Farm Manager. In this capacity they also work directly with apprentices as skills trainers & educators.
Zoe Abram is the Farm Manager of Brookfield Farm. She is responsible planning and implementing all of the activities related to the operation of the farm. The Farm Manager is also responsible for hiring, program implementation, assigning daily tasks, and evaluations. The Farm manager is accountable to the General Managers.
Our program is a hands-on working/learning experience designed to move dedicated candidates towards farm management. We take people from all backgrounds; from inexperienced city folks looking to explore agriculture as a career option to experienced farmers looking for a new approach agriculture. As such, each apprenticeship will have different challenges and take on a different character.
We will tailor each experience to the expressed needs of each participant. It is essential that participants make their needs clear and well known before we write an apprenticeship contract during the hiring process. The contract will contain our (farmer and apprentice) expectations for learning as well as benefits and expectations for labor. This contract will be updated during the program orientation and periodic evaluations
During the first two weeks of the apprenticeship, we will conduct orientation for all the apprentices. At this orientation, we will go over safety policies, farm policies and location and names of buildings and equipment. We will individually review each apprenticeship contract and update them as necessary. We will also begin to set vacation times, assign tractor responsibilities, shopkeeper responsibilities, the Boston driving schedule, and start figuring out how to have a good time together.
All apprentices are given written learning materials throughout their apprenticeship. These materials include crop plans, seed orders, planting schedules, maps, budgets, overall farm plans, and various other supporting materials. In addition there is a small farm library from which apprentices are welcome to borrow books.
Brookfield Farm is an active participant and one of the founders of the Northeast CRAFT Program . All apprentices are encouraged to take part in all CRAFT program events during the season.
Throughout the apprenticeship, participants are encouraged to develop future plans for their own farm projects. It is considered a part of your apprenticeship, if you desire, for the Farm Manager to review & critique these plans. In addition, all possible steps will be taken by the Farm Manager to help apprentices find job placement or further opportunities if so desired. Future mentoring & consultation for all apprentices is considered part of the package.
Regular Work Schedule
Monday through Friday: 6-7am, 8am-12pm, 1-5pm
Saturday: 6-7am, 8am-noon
The apprenticeship is, at its core, a working-learning experience. Our primary method for teaching how to manage a farm is by giving you skills and having you perform tasks within our farm system. Apprentices are given an overall task list each week on Monday morning and specific tasks are then assigned by the Farm Manager throughout the week. All assignments are made with the needs of the farm and the specific stated needs of apprentices in mind.
Apprentices are on a rotating chore schedule for the greenhouse, livestock, and lunch clean up. One week out of every three each apprentice is the chore person and responsible for:
watering the greenhouse during the week (during work time) and on the weekend as well. (If you are at a CRAFT meeting the farm manager will take care of midday
for helping Karen, Dan, or Zoe to set up & clean-up lunch at the farmhouse. The kitchen needs to be fully cleaned up by 12:50
making sure the cows have water, feeding & watering the pigs and chickens, and looking in on the livestock at least once per day. The grazing will be managed as part of the general work day. (If you are going to the CRAFT meeting, you will need to do livestock chores first.)
being an emergency backup for the entire weekend. As a result they need to stay in the general area (within 30 miles) and be ready to be “on duty” in the event of an emergency.
The farm shop is open at hours that conflict with the regular work schedule. During our orientation, each apprentice will be assigned responsibility for one consistent shop time. The people who work on Tuesday and Thursday will need to work until 7:30 pm. The person who works on Saturday will work until 2 pm. Each person will be allowed comp time to make up for this responsibility. This comp time will need to be taken on the following afternoon (i.e. Tuesday person leaves on Wednesday at 2:30 pm, Thursday person leaves on Friday at 2:30 pm, and Saturday person leaves on Monday at 2:30 pm).
CRAFT Program Events
All apprentices are encouraged to take part in all CRAFT program events during the season. They happen during regular work times (Monday afternoons) and if you attend, there is no need to make up the work time. If you do not attend the event, you're expected to come to work for the usual schedule. Apprentices can use a farm vehicle to attend the program events or can use their own vehicles and be compensated for the travel at .40 c/mi. It is not a requirement to attend the CRAFT program events.
One apprentice each week will drive the vegetables to Boston. Each apprentice can be the Boston Driver, if they desire, but not for less than two months at a time.
Every apprentice will be trained in the safe use and maintenance of two farm tractors. The tractor assignments will be made during the program orientation. All attempts will be made to let each apprentice do all of the jobs on "their" tractors during the season so they can learn the jobs thoroughly. In this way apprentices are given the opportunity to learn general tractor skills by focusing on two tractors while at the same time minimizing training needs and repair costs.
A stipend of $750 is paid to each first-year apprentice. Stipends are paid on the 15th of each month. A tax withholding is taken out of this stipend. Stipends will be set year-to-year by the General Manager and approved by the Board of Directors.
All apprentices are covered by workers compensation and covered (with certain legal limitations) for all work-related injuries.
All apprentices will be eligible to purchase insurance through the Mass Health Connector. Apprentices may elect to keep their current insurance. In either case, they will be compensated $100/mo towards health insurance premiums.
Monday through Friday there is a prepared lunch provided. There is ample food and people are encouraged to eat as much as they want. We use as much farm food as possible and the meals are primarily (but not strictly) vegetarian. We can make some allowances for special dietary needs (if they are addressed beforehand). One apprentice (the chore person) and one manager clean up the kitchen each day
All apprentices are allowed to take as much farm produce as they can use (including putting up for winter). You can also take up to 100 lbs. of produce per year as gifts for family and friends. These benefits only include those vegetables that the Farm Manager has identified are in abundance.
All apprentices can take up to $50 worth (retail price) of farm meat (beef and/or pork) each year. Additional farm-raised meat can be purchased at 25% off retail price.
Shop Sale Products
Apprentices can help themselves to a limited amount of milk, bread, eggs, and apples (for their own consumption) for sale at the farm shop at no charge. Apprentices also receives a $50 (retail price) store credit each year. All other Shop Sale products (cookbooks, popsicles, etc) can be bought at cost. The limits will be defined during orientation week.
The farm owns a private, 3-bedroom house next to the farm. Each apprentice is assigned a private room. Room assignments are first come, first served. There is a shared kitchen, living room, bathroom, garage, yard, and laundry room. Utilities are included in the housing, with the exception of telephone and internet. It will be the responsibility of the apprentices to get their own phone and web service and pay for the bills in their name. The apprentice house must be kept clean at all times. You can decide, as a group, how you want to achieve this goal, but all apprentices will be responsible for the care and clean appearance of the house. Mowing the lawn will be the responsibility of the apprentices. The mower will be provided by the Trust, but the lawn must be mowed on a regular basis (at least every 2 weeks in July, August, and September, every week in May and June). There will be a separate housing agreement provided for each apprentice to review and before the season begins.
Each apprentice will be allowed one week paid vacation to be taken between July 1 and Aug 15 of the calendar year. Vacations must be taken in a continuous one-week period (Sat Afternoon until the following Sunday evening). Each apprentice will also be allowed one Saturday off during April, May, October, and November. Vacation days may not be "saved" and used after that time. All vacation time will be established in April, trying to take needs of all participants into account. Apprentices do not have to take vacations.
It is expected that there will be some need during the season for every apprentice to take some personal time, whether for weddings, car repairs, doctor's appointments, or other personal needs. Each apprentice is allowed up to 2 personal days each season. Personal days are not vacation days. They are considered to be used if a special need arises (major or minor person needs). There is no need to make up work for personal days and they do not need to be taken as full days. It is expected that the farm manager will be given ample notice about the need for personal time and that opportunities will be taken when possible to make personal time happen at convenient times for the farm schedule. If more days are needed, they will need to be cleared ahead of time with the farm manager. Personal time may not be saved and used during a second season.
Everyone is going to get sick. If you're sick, please don't work. If you miss more than 5 days of work during the season due to illness, apprentices will discuss with the Farm Manager the options of unpaid sick-leave or termination of the apprenticeship. You do not need to make up work for sick days.
There will be comp time given for any regular work that is performed after regular work hours. The Farm Manager will always give you a choice as to whether you want to work after hours or not in these situations. In the event of a farm emergency (animals out of the fence, reemay in a tree, etc) it is expected that apprentices who are on or near the farm will help until the situation is corrected. There will not be comp time given for these cases.
All apprentices are interviewed & hired by our Personnel Committee, which consists of the Farm Manager and the General Manager(s).
Apprentices will go through an evaluation with one Manager two times during the course of the season. The first evaluation will happen sometime between June 1 – August 15. The final evaluation will happen sometime during September. The evaluation will consist of individual consultations with the manager to see how well we are all meeting the expectations of the apprenticeship contract. The evaluation will be multi-directional with apprentice and manager evaluating one other. In addition all apprentices and managers will take part in Straight Talk up to 4 times per season. This group process is intended to facilitate effective communication between all members of our regular farm team.
All apprentices are accountable to the Farm Manager. The Farm Manager is accountable to the General Managers. The General Managers are accountable to the Board of Directors of the BFCT. The Board is accountable to the bylaws under which it operates.
If any grievances arise it is expected that the first course of action for all apprentices will be to speak directly to the Farm Manager. If there is still a problem that cannot be resolved, all apprentices are welcome to speak directly with the General Managers and if necessary, the President of the BFCT who will be eventually be finally responsible for resolving any personnel matter.
Continuation of Apprenticeships
Many apprentices feel that one year on the farm is not enough time to get the training they need. We encourage people to consider the possibility of staying for more than one season. While encouraged, it is not automatic for apprentices to be accepted for a second year – the basis for the decision will be your performance review over the first year and solely at the discretion of the Farm Manager and General Managers.
● By Oct 15, each apprentice declares his/her interest to the Personnel Committee in returning.
● The committee reviews applications and has three options – acceptance, provisional acceptance, or rejection.
● Current apprentices will be notified of the Personnel Committee’s offer by Nov 15.
● The Personnel Committee drafts a contract to outline the specifics of the apprenticeship continuation.
Working visitors are welcome at the farm and apprentice house for up to one week. Longer visits are subject to the wishes of other apprentices and the Farm Manager and must be approved by the General Manager. Working visitors need to work our normal schedule and are provided lunch.
Non-working visitors are welcome at the farm and apprentice house for up to two days. Longer visits are subject to the wishes of other apprentices and the General Manager. They are welcome to eat farm produce, but need to buy items for sale at the farm shop at regular prices.
It is strongly encouraged that apprentices leave their pets at home. Pets may be tolerated in the apprentice house with guidelines provided separately at the discretion of the General Manager. Only leashed pets are permitted on the farm. No pets are permitted in the Farm Shop from June 1 – Nov 30 or in the rows of growing crops. Pet owners are responsible for their appropriate interaction with the public and with the property of the BFCT.
As Brookfield Farm is a public place and we depend on our shareholders (and prospective shareholders) for our livelihood, all apprentices (and all employees) are required to be professional, polite, engaging, and helpful to all people who come to the farm.
Since our work is almost always in a group setting, it is expected that all apprentices will be prompt, dressed appropriately, professional, and approachable with their co-workers during work-hours.
The farm provides harvest knives and daily hand tools. Apprentices must provide any other desired tools or clothes (pocket knives, rain boots, rain gear, hats, gloves). All apprentices must carry a watch at all times. It is suggested to carry a small notepad, a pen, and a knife as well.
The farm office must be locked at the end of work each day. Each apprentice will be given a key to use the farm office after hours. Apprentices may use the Internet connection in the office after work hours. Apprentices may use the office during lunch for personal business. The computer on the standing desk near the whiteboard is available for apprentice use. The office must be kept completely free of personal belongings.
We will go over safety policies during the program orientation. All apprentices are required to follow safety policies at all times. Failure to do so will result in immediate dismissal.
Apprentices are trained in the safe use of farm vehicles and are fully covered by insurance for their operation. Farm vehicles are to be used only for farm business without any exceptions. Farm vehicles may not to be driven by anyone who is not an employee or apprentice at Brookfield Farm without any exceptions. A valid driver's license is a requirement for all apprentices.
Drugs and Alcohol
There are no illegal drugs permitted on the farm property at any time (this includes the apprentice house). Legal drugs and alcoholare permitted in moderation at the apprentice house, but there is no smoking inside any building of the BFCT and alcohol may not be served to underage visitors. It is unacceptable to work while under the influence of any drugs (legal or illegal). One infraction is cause for immediate dismissal.
Thanks for reading!
If you're interested in applying for our apprenticeship, send us an e-mail with a letter of intent and current resume. We will reply with next steps.