Do any of these faces look familiar? (Click on the photo above for more images)
On a wintry day like today, it's hard to believe that in just a few short months, a fresh crop of apprentices will be arriving at Frinklepod to spend the next 7 months of their lives working and learning with us. First, though, we have to find these apprentices / they need to find us.
Starting seven years ago, when we hosted our first brave apprentice, Laura, we have used the services of MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association) to find apprentices by being listed in their database of host farms. Prospective apprentices peruse the listings, choose which farms they are interested in, and fill out a generalized application which is then sent out to all of those farms. If we are interested in a particular applicant, we follow up with our own personalized interview process and, if the candidate is well-qualified, chances are they will be offered positions at a number of farms and have to decide which offer to take. As you can imagine, this can be quite an intense process, and not everyone we offer an apprentice position to accepts. But so far (knock on wood) we have felt very fortunate with the many wonderful people who have come through the proverbial gates of Frinklepod.
Once here, our apprentices dive into our world with enthusiasm and curiosity. Their arrival coincides with the height of seedling season and, ideally, the melting of the last of the snow. Acclimating to our farm operation can be a steep learning curve but we temper that with orienting them to the area, taking some down time to get to know each other and for Sascha and Etta to to test out just how "kid friendly" these people actually are! Apprentices live in their own private quarters, sharing a kitchen with each other, on our home property, and walk to and from "work" each day - a 3 minute pedestrian commute. Their ongoing training alongside Noah and myself focuses on running a small-scale organic farm, running the gamut from learning soil science, pest management, and weeding techniques, to customer service and retail merchandising, to community outreach, marketing, and financing. Since the construction of our year-round space, The Pod, recent apprentices have also gotten an education in value-added food production, event-planning, and more. As the season progresses, our apprentices take on more and more responsibilities, gain confidence in the diverse set of skills they are developing, and hone their interests, passions, and aspirations. By the fall, Noah and I have always felt comfortable taking off for a weekend family trip and leaving the farm in the hands of our now-competent apprentices... if you are also a business owner, you know how this can feel! Our apprentices also get to take advantage of MOFGA's farm training program, which plans educational and social events on farms throughout the state, over the course of the growing season.
In the past seven seasons, our apprentices have hailed from Virginia, Georgia, Maine, Connecticut, California, Washington DC, Texas, and Massachusetts. They have arrived straight out of college, with a masters degree, as a veteran of the Coast Guard, and/or with years of other work experience behind them. And when we release them back out into the world, they head to other farms, to work in non-profit community gardens, Food Corps, and a myriad of other interesting jobs.
In the last few years, we and so many other farms we know of have struggled with finding the right apprentices for our operations. There simply aren't enough people looking for farm apprenticeships, let alone people who meet the qualifications that each farm sets. We've cast our net wider, advertising on sites like goodfoodjobs and keep tweaking our hiring criteria in the search of just the right people. We are currently in the process of interviewing some candidates, and we are still accepting applications. Do you know anyone who is looking for a farming apprenticeship? Please send them here!
Now, as you look forward to the first signs of spring and the first bite of asparagus, you can also anticipate meeting our 2019 apprentices for the first time! Thanks for always welcoming them so warmly to the neighborhood,