Are you thinking of starting your own farm? Many people, of all different ages and backgrounds, are drawn to the dream of a life on the land. Physical work and a connection with nature are largely missing from our modern world, and particularly our educational systems. And yet we yearn for that kind of experience, some people so much that they are ready to leave their lives behind to follow the dream of being a farmer.
Farming in today’s world is challenging. Fifty years ago, when most Americans had some direct connection to a farm (through relatives or friends) if they were not farming themselves, it might have been easier to break into farming from scratch. But today, there are significantly greater social and economic barriers. It takes skills and knowledge that aren’t taught in school, a supportive community of friends and family, a good amount of money, and a keen enough business sense not to squander that money or work yourself into the ground.
The apprenticeship program at Remembrance Farm is intended to train individuals in the skills needed to begin farming on one’s own. Through hands-on work experience, each apprentice learns practical farming techniques, and more importantly, how to manage the complexities of farm decision-making. Apprentices learn how to consider each aspect of the farm cycle in its holistic context: how the natural processes work, what the economics require, and how to balance personal emotions and desires with one’s daily duties.
Because we farm biodynamically, the need for a deep understanding of natural processes enters into each decision we make on the farm. We try to cultivate an attitude of search and appreciation for the power of nature as we grow food. Apprentices are given suggested readings on biodynamics and discussion of the underlying principles is encouraged and welcomed.
The farm’s finances are completely open to apprentices so that each individual can understand how to plan for and manage their own business. Apprentices are encouraged to begin writing their own business plan, and constructive feedback is given by farmer Nathaniel. Lifelong mentoring is considered part of the package; as new ventures are formed, Nathaniel is always available for advice or just to exchange ideas.
Remembrance Farm’s production systems are fairly mechanized, and apprentices learn how to safely and effectively operate tractors and other farm machinery. Apprentices also learn how to evaluate the role of machines in farm systems, in preparation for starting their own operations. The decision to mechanize or not is usually a pivotal moment in the development of a small farm, and we try to give apprentices the information and perspective they need to make intelligent decisions.
We consider the management training in our apprenticeship to be an essential part of becoming a good farmer. But the skills and perspective should be a solid foundation in any career. This kind of training does not exist in the conventional education system. We think it is the most important training one can obtain. Nathaniel learned to farm without going through an apprenticeship, and paid the price, through much personal struggle, on several different farms. The apprenticeship is designed to help others avoid those struggles, and to build a successful farm and a healthy, balanced life.
For more specific information about how the program works, please contact Nathaniel.