Farm apprentices graduate ready to work on a sustainable mixed-vegetable farm as a Crew Leader, Harvest Manager, Field Manager, or Crew Member. We are proud that so many of our past farm apprentices currently have successful farming careers. Over the past ten years, between 2010 and 2019, 32 farm apprentices graduated from our program and 21 of them (66%) farmed during the 2020 growing season (or were in farm-related degree programs), and 14 of them (44%) were farm owners or farm managers.
We seek to train an inclusive next generation of farmers. Nationwide, 95% of farmers are white, 85% of farmers are men, and the average age of a farmer is 60-years-old, Many other groups are underrepresented. This apprenticeship program seeks to decrease these disparities in representation caused by systems supporting white supremacy, colonialism, racism, capitalism and sexism. Therefore, we encourage Black, Indigenous, and people of color, women, LGBTQ2SIA people, religious minorities, recent migrants/refugees, people with disabilities who can meet the responsibilities and qualifications, and people from different generational and economic backgrounds to apply. This farm apprenticeship program is designed for people with little or no experience farming. Farm apprentices spend much of their time being closely mentored by our two farm co-managers. Bryan and David. Both are white cis-men; one is gay and the other bisexual. They are constantly considering how their positionality and privilege may impact the apprentices’ experience. Overall, Zenger Farm is a multi-racial space, and we are deeply engaged in conversations around issues of identity and belonging.
We seek to model an economically-viable alternative to “conventional agriculture.” We adopt a view of food justice. Farms should be responsible and accountable members of their communities. Farms should improve community resilience and self-reliance. Farms should foster connections with the land. We seek to reform conventional farming practices that depend heavily on machinery, chemicals and exploited labor. Conventional agriculture damages land, air and water; harms the health of communities that consume the food grown; and harms the workers who feed our communities.
Farm Apprentices care for four acres of diversified vegetable crops and fruit orchards. Zenger Farm is certified organic. We grow over 150 varieties of vegetables on just over two acres where we spend the vast majority of our time. We also care for young orchards which are not producing fruit yet.
We seek to operate a farm that models social justice and economic viability. We earned $125,000 from the distribution of produce in 2020. 80% of our produce went to our CSA, with 120 shares picked up by members at the farm and 60 shares picked up by patients at the nearby Multnomah County Mid County Health Center (which operates as a bilingual English/Spanish pick-up site). Another 10% of our produce went to local food justice nonprofits and the final 10% of our produce was sold to local restaurants. Our farming operation allows us to model innovative practices. In one such program, we educated over 500 other CSA farmers how to accept SNAP payment. We have since set up a system to provide centralized SNAP processing for over 50 Oregon CSA farms. In another such program, for-profit CSA farms are paired with low-income health clinics providing subsidized shares to patients with diet-related illnesses, called CSA Partnerships for Health.
The core of the Zenger Farm Crew consists of two experienced farm co-managers and four full-season farm apprentices. Four short-season interns will join the crew 2 days/week for 8 weeks in the Summer and again in the Fall. Farm apprentices spend much of their time closely mentored by our two farm co-managers. Similarly, farm apprentices will work closely with, mentor and teach the farm interns. Additionally, farm apprentices will lead volunteers and other work parties.
Education of the body is the core component of this apprenticeship. We teach apprentices the underlying ergonomics of farm work. Proper ergonomics are essential for an economically-viable farm. Your speed, stamina and efficiency will allow you to operate your own farm and compete when other farms lower their costs with machinery, chemicals, and exploited labor.
We provide an immersive and comprehensive education in farming. Farm apprentices will have direct experience in all aspects of our farming operation, taking turns being responsible for every aspect. The farm apprenticeship includes over 40 hours of classroom instruction in topics such as crop planning, irrigation, seed saving, soil fertility, enterprise budgeting, etc. Farm apprentices will be provided additional opportunities to attend classes and tours at other local farms. While apprentices will occasionally participate in other programming at Zenger Farm (youth education and community engagement), the vast majority of their time is spent farming.
We seek to provide a compassionate education. Zenger Farm recognizes that many people, disproportionately Black, Indigenous and Latinx folks, have historical and current traumas related to land access and agricultural work. We also recognize that training future farmers to operate an economically-viable farm focused on production within a capitalist system hinders our ability to create a healing environment to address that trauma. While recognizing our current limitations, we strive to create as much of a supportive environment as possible through mindfulness, shared responsibility, use of Nonviolent Communication, regular check-ins, open feedback (both given and received), and Popular Education methods. Together, we examine the root causes of injustice in our food system with facilitated discussions prompted by readings, talks, videos and personal stories shared by the apprentices, as well as visits with other community members and leaders.
• March 15th – October 28th, Monday – Thursday, 8-10 hours/day
• An additional 8-10 hours every fourth Friday during May–September.
• One 50-hour week, Monday-Friday, to be scheduled as a crew in June or July.
• Approximately 16 additional hours over the entire season to attend other programming at Zenger Farm including community dinners, events, fundraisers, field trips, etc.
• Field work: Most field work at Zenger Farm is done with hand tools, and includes seeding, amending, transplanting, weeding, irrigating, trellising, pruning, season extension, pest management, harvesting, hauling and washing produce for sale.
• Machinery: Operate and maintain a weed whacker, mower, 2-wheel tractor (BCS) with various implements, and rare use of a chainsaw.
• Rotating responsibilities in all aspects of our farming operation, such as management of the propagation greenhouse, irrigation, and field preparation; leading planting, harvest, wash and pack; supervising short-season interns and volunteer work parties; staffing CSA pickup and writing newsletters; driving the farm truck during restaurant deliveries (we will teach you to drive manual transmission, if needed); and, toward the end of the apprenticeship, a two-week rotation leading the entire crew in all field work.
• Demonstrated interest in gardening or farming.
• Ability to lift and carry 50 pounds, farm outdoors in all weather conditions and perform the above responsibilities.
• Attitude: Positive, driven, flexible and team-oriented.
• Current regular driver’s license.
• We will perform a background check and address any issues on a case-by-case basis – no one should feel discouraged from applying.
• We cannot help with visas or work permits for this program.
• $1,700/month stipend. This stipend is intended as an approximation of the expenses the volunteer apprentice incurs during the program. The stipend is not tied to productivity and does not vary with the amount of time spent volunteering.
• 1 full CSA share (May-October)
• Caretaker housing is available for one apprentice starting in March 2021 with the possibility to extend through February 2022 (optional). Cost is $400/month including utilities and requires, in addition to the apprenticeship, 20 hours/month in caretaker duties primarily supporting farm operations on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at dawn and dusk. Caretaker housing includes a private bedroom and private bathroom in the upstairs of the farmhouse. The kitchen/living space is shared with other programming at the farm, which will likely be reduced due to the pandemic. Details will be discussed during the interview, but feel free to contact David beforehand if necessary.
You can apply online or by US mail. Please do not submit your application by email.
• Apply online at zengerfarm.org/portland-farm-apprenticeship or
• Print and mail the following application to: Zenger Farm, Attn: David Wills-Ehlers, Farming Apprenticeship, 11741 SE Foster Rd. Portland, OR 97266.
Contact David Wills-Ehlers (email@example.com) with any questions, but please do not submit your application by email.
Apply by end of day Sunday, January 17, 2021. We will make decisions about conducting interviews and be in touch with all applicants by February 7, 2021.