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.

 

 

Job Description

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. 

 

program details

 

farm management

Dan Kaplan
Dan is our farm manager who is responsible for all aspects of managing Brookfield Farm including the apprenticeship program. The Farm Manager is responsible for the program content, administration of the program, hiring and firing, apprenticeship contracts, evaluations, as well as career development. The Farm Manager is accountable to the board of directors of the BFCT (see below). Dan Kaplan is also the General Manager of the BFCT and a board member (ex-officio - i.e. non-voting).

Karen Romanowski
Karen is married to Dan and they have managed farms together for the last 23 years. She is a registered nurse and works off the farm sometimes, cooks a farm lunch for the farm crew every workday, and works 2-3 days per week on the farm, helping to manage a variety of areas, including the apprentice house.

Zoe Abram
Zoe is our assistant manager, helping Dan (and Karen) manage the operations of running the farm. She works full time on the farm and is responsible for managing a variety of areas. As Assistant Manager, Zoe works closely with apprentices and is responsible for some skill training during the season.

brookfield vs. the bfct?

Brookfield Farm

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).

Biodynamic Farmland Conservation Trust, Inc. (BFCT)

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.

Apprenticeship Program

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.

Apprenticeship Contract

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

Program Orientation

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.

Written Materials

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.

CRAFT Program

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.

Career Development

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.

Responsibilities

Regular Work Schedule

Monday through Friday: 6-7am, 8am-12pm, 1-5pm

Saturday: 6-7am, 8am-noon

General Work

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.

Chores

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, and 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.)

Shopkeeper

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.

Boston Driver

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.

Tractor Operation

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.

Shareholder Interactions

As Brookfield Farm is a public place and we depend on our shareholders (and prospective shareholders) for our livelihood, all apprentices (and all employees) must be professional, polite, engaging, and helpful to all people who come to the farm.

General Demeanor

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.

Tools/Clothes

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.

Compensation

Stipend

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.

Worker's Compensation

All apprentices are covered by workers compensation and covered (with certain legal limitations) for all work-related injuries.

Health Insurance

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.

Lunch at the Farmhouse

Monday through Friday there is a prepared lunch provided at Dan and Karen's house. 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) helps Dan (and/or the assistant manager) clean up the kitchen each day

Produce

All apprentices are allowed to take as many vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs as they can use (including putting up for winter). You can also take up to 50 lbs. of produce per year as gifts for family and friends.

Meat

All apprentices can take up to $50 worth of farm meat (beef,pork) each year. Additional farm-raised meat can be purchased at 25% off retail price.

Shop Sale Products

Apprentices can help themselves to milk, bread, eggs, and apples (for their own consumption) for sale at the farm shop at no charge. Apprentices also receive a $50 store credit. All other Shop Sale products (cookbooks, t-shirts, soap, blueberries, coffee, pickles, popsicles, ice cream, beef, lamb, and cheese) can be bought at cost.

Housing

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 (if you're a land line person ...) 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 and tenant in basement apartment. 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).

Time Off

Vacation

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.

Personal Time

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.

Sick Time

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.

After-Hours Work

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, 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 situations

Personnel Procedures

Evaluations

Apprentices will go through an evaluation with the farm manager two times during the course of the season. The first evaluation will happen sometime between July 1 and August 15. The final evaluation will happen sometime during the last two weeks of November. The evaluation will consist of individual consultations with the farm manager to see how well we are all meeting the expectations of the apprenticeship contract. The evaluation will be multi-directional with apprentice and farm manager evaluating one other

Accountability

All apprentices are accountable to the farm manager. The farm manager is accountable to the Board of Directors of the BFCT. The Board is accountable to the bylaws under which it operates.

Grievance Process

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 President of the BFCT who will be responsible for resolving the matter with the farm manager.

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. The process for continuing an apprenticeship is

  • By Oct 15, each apprentice declares his/her interest to the Farm Manager in returning for another season

  • The Farm Manager reviews applications and has three options - acceptance, provisional acceptance, or rejection

  • Current apprentices will be notified of the Farm Manger's offer by Nov 15

  • At that point a contact will be will be drafted to outline the specifics of the apprenticeship continuation. The contract process will be completed by Thanksgiving.

Visitors at the farm

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. Working visitors need to work our normal schedule and are given lunch at the farmhouse. They are also welcome to the same deal on farm food as apprentices.

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 Farm Manager. They are welcome to eat farm produce, but need to buy items for sale at the farm shop at regular prices.

Pets

It is strongly encouraged that apprentices leave their pets at home. In the event that isn't possible, pets are welcome in the apprentice house and on the farm with the following guidelines (really, we love dogs, but it's a public place!) In the house, all pets must be confined to your personal room (unless your housemates say otherwise), you must be responsible for cleaning up after them inside and in the yard, and you must be responsible for their relationship to your housemates (i.e. they need to be friendly!).

On the farm, all dogs must be on leashes during all farm shop hours. During other hours, they must be within your sight at all times and you must clean up after them. You are responsible to make sure they do not destroy crops or buildings. And you must be responsible for their appropriate interaction with the public (i.e. they can't bark at or bite people who come out to the farm!).

spaces, safety and vehicles

Farm Office: 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, but the main office computer must be free by 12:45. The office must be kept completely free of personal belongings.

Safety Policies: 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.

Farm Vehicles: 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 drivers license is a requirement for all apprentices.

 

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.