The Dickinson College Farm Leadership Training Apprenticeship offers a unique opportunity for full-time employment rooted in hands-on learning. This six-month farm-based position is geared toward building professional skill sets in project management, group leadership, technical know-how, and networking within the context of an educational production farm. The position runs from May until late November 2023 and includes a competitive hourly pay plus on-farm, off-grid housing, and amenities. Activities at the 90-acre farm include certified organic vegetable production (ten acres), grass-fed beef, lamb, and laying hens, renewable energy systems, composting, and regenerative agriculture and agroecology research.
As an apprentice, you will gain the skills, experience, and knowledge needed to advance toward leadership roles within this professional arena. In addition to farm-specific training, this experience is applicable to furthering academic studies and employment opportunities related to food systems, sustainability, and education.
Work Responsibilities – Vegetable Production focused track: The farm plants about ten acres of certified organic vegetables for sale through our CSA (co-op), the College dining hall, farm store, value added product line and donation to the food bank. Major activities under the veg track include seedling production in the greenhouses, planting, crop care (weeding, trellising, covering, irrigation, pest management), harvesting, produce wash and pack, food preservation, and pizza production at farmers market. Daily work for all veg apprentices will vary within the above activities depending on the season and the needs of the farm. The veg production team is larger than the livestock group – about ten people in summer and four to six in fall. Each apprentice will be assigned an area(s) of responsibility at the farm in addition to the day to day workload. These responsibilities are designed to give each apprentice “ownership” of a particular aspect of the farm operation. Some of the responsibilities require daily attention while others need only weekly oversight though continual attention to detail remains essential. Examples of focused areas of responsibility for veg track apprentices include irrigation, crew leaders/harvest leader, farmers’ market manager, machine operations, education assistant, foodservice events, and packing house assistant.
Work Responsibilities – Livestock and Bioenergy focused track: The farm raises grass fed beef cattle (10-20 animals), grass fed sheep for lambs and wool (20-40 animals) and pastured laying hens for eggs (~40 hens). The sheep and cattle are certified grass-fed and Animal Welfare Approved reflecting our efforts at humane and sustainable management practices. The livestock area also overlaps with food waste management for the farm’s compost and bioenergy initiatives. Food waste from Dickinson campus and several local commercial entities is brought to the farm on a regular basis for conversion to soil improving compost and/or renewable energy through the farm’s biogas system. In 2023 the farm will construct a commercial food waste and manure digester to generate renewable electricity from these waste streams. Daily activities of the livestock and bioenergy apprentice will include feeding, watering, and moving animals, and assisting with food waste management. Regularly occurring activities will include animal handling, preventative veterinary care, care for acute health issues, fence construction and maintenance, washing eggs, packing meat orders, recording animal and pasture data, handling food waste, turning compost piles, and applying compost to fields. The livestock and bioenergy apprentice will also help with care, feeding and maintenance of the new waste to energy biodigester. The apprentice will be trained to operate tractors and loaders needed to accomplish their responsibilities. The livestock team is small, consisting of the livestock manager (Matt), livestock apprentice (you), and 1-2 student helpers. Applicants should be prepared to work alone or in small groups. Attention to detail, flexibility, communication skills and self-motivation are key to success in this role. Livestock also presents the opportunity (and need) for flexible scheduling – for example doing some evening work during lambing season or when animal health emergencies arise and sharing weekend animal care responsibilities. Hours worked outside of the normal weekday schedule described below will be compensated with time off (normally) or overtime (limited).
The objective of the College Farm Apprenticeship is to prepare recent graduates for leadership positions in farming, food systems, or sustainability related careers. We aim to provide apprentices with the skills, experience, and knowledge needed to advance toward management roles whether on a production farm or within sustainable food systems initiatives. The experience is also applicable should apprentices choose to return to academic studies or seek other employment related to food, sustainability, and education. There are two program tracks: vegetable production focused and livestock & bioenergy focused. Both focus areas are part of the farm team and there is some overlap in experiences within each area. All farm team members have opportunities to be involved in foodservice activities associated with various farm to table events.
The majority of farm apprenticeship training is hands-on, supplemented by educational sessions, field trips, and optional readings. During the summer months, apprentices will be part of a team made up of student employees, full-time farm staff, and fellow apprentices. Apprentices will be asked to take the lead on work assignments, as well as work as a team member. When classes resume in the fall, apprentices will take much more of a leadership role on the farm, leading students and volunteers on tasks and work projects. The goal of this program is to equip apprentices with the knowledge and skills to do their work well, and to help them progress in their roles as leaders. At times this will require the farm managers to provide respectful constructive feedback. We value open communication and request that applicants be receptive to the idea of receiving feedback in an effort to improve upon their work and overall experience. Communication happens in both directions – managers will work to develop a relationship of trust where apprentices feel comfortable expressing their needs and feelings pertaining to all happenings on the farm as well. Work ethic and the culture of the Dickinson Farm: Success in any business, but especially agriculture, is dependent on hustle, efficient workflow, and attention to detail from all participants. The farm management team love the work they do and find beauty and joy on the farm nearly every day, yet they have learned through experience that achieving good harvests and a healthy agroecosystem requires constantly pushing themselves to be faster, smarter and more organized. Farmers do not sleep well at night if the crops and livestock are not properly cared for in a timely fashion. The Dickinson College Farm sets ambitious goals for vegetable and livestock production and health, as well as for a diversity of education and outreach programming. Meeting these goals will require all team members to pay attention to details, think about efficiency of movement, and push themselves to develop a fast pace in repetitive tasks. Apprentice candidates should be prepared to be pushed to develop their speed as a core skill set that will benefit them in any future employment. Everyone can learn to work like a successful professional farmer if they approach the role with an open mind and a positive attitude.
More details on the 2023 Farm-Based Leadership Apprenticeship and an application can be found at
Applications are reviewed as they are received. Final deadline for the Dickinson College Farm 2023 Apprenticeship Program is February 24th, 2023.