The Farm Apprentice supports the overall farm and woodlot operations at Chewonki, which include garden and pasture management, animal husbandry, and sustainable forestry operations. The Farm Apprentice must aid in balancing the dual focus of the Chewonki farm, maximizing both production and education on the farm and in the woods.
THE CHEWONKI FARM
The Chewonki Farm, on Chewonki’s Wiscasset property, is a small and diversified saltmarsh farm; its primary goal is to educate program participants while producing food, firewood, and fiber for our campus community. There are approximately 26 acres of open land; one acre is cultivated for vegetable gardens, 14 acres are established pasture and hay fields, and 11 acres are currently transitioning from forest to pasture. The managed woodlot is approximately 150 acres.
The gardens are intensively managed and are the primary focus of our work during the growing season, producing 10-15,000 pounds of vegetables annually for consumption in our dining hall.
We raise livestock for meat and fiber. We raise cows for beef, some purchased as feeder cows and some born at Chewonki. The farm keeps a small flock breeding ewes, producing lambs for meat each spring. We raise around 200 laying hens, free-ranging most of the year. Up to four hundred broilers and 15 turkeys are pasture-pen raised in the late summer/fall. Two batches of six to eight pigs are raised annually for meat.
Two draft horses provide much of the power for the farm operation including plowing and garden cultivation; hay cutting, tedding, and raking; winter logging and wood hauling; and a wide variety of other tasks. We are always looking for ways to expand our knowledge and to effectively and safely utilize draft horsepower. Whenever possible, horsepower is emphasized as a sustainable and rewarding method of accomplishing valuable labor. We also have a tractor that we use primarily for moving material, turning compost, and clipping pasture.
As mentioned above, we use horses to log in the winter months. With the help of a professional forester and the Chewonki community, the farm is responsible for managing 150 acres of woodlot. We harvest about 15 to 25 cords of firewood annually. The majority of the work is timber stand improvement and firewood production, and may include maintaining and improving woodlot roads, tree pruning, felling, limbing, slash management, and limited production of sawlogs and pulpwood.
We cut three to five acres of our own hay with a sickle bar mower and bring it in loose. We buy in the remainder of our hay in bales from a local farmer.
The farm crew, in cooperation with the Facilities staff, maintains the majority of the farm buildings, grounds, and machinery.
Education is central to Chewonki’s mission statement: any individual that works on the farm must consider him/herself a teacher as well as a farmer. Because our working farm is the context for our education rather than a traditional classroom setting, the farm crew needs to be comfortable and adept with teaching as they work alongside students and program staff.
Farm Activities and Responsibilities throughout the annual cycle:
Farmers are expected to be present for morning chores beginning around 6:00 am (season dependent) through afternoon chores beginning at approximately 4:00 pm. Chores to care for livestock are done at the beginning and end of every day throughout the year. Generally, our workday is between nine to ten hours daily, five days a week, and can be more during certain seasons. Chore weekend responsibilities alternate with “off” weekends.
There is a seasonal flow to work on the Chewonki farm, though there is less of an “off” season than on some market farms. An overview of the whole year is given below.
February - March: Maine Coast Semester, Elementary and Middle School, and Waypoint in session, work program, focus on firewood and woodlot work, early hoop house growing, seed starting
April – May: Maine Coast Semester, Elementary and Middle School, Waypoint, and Outdoor Classroom in session, work program, seed starting, garden plowing/cultivating/planting, pasture rotation, mowing, fence maintenance, lambing
June-August: Camp Chewonki in session, Camp Farm Activity support, intensive garden and pasture work, haying, harvesting for kitchen an Packout
September –December: Maine Coast Semester, Elementary and Middle School, Waypoint, and Outdoor Classroom in session, work program, harvesting and storing crops, cover cropping, manure spreading, machinery repair and winterizing, livestock to slaughter, begin wood season preparations, infrastructure management
Late December - January: Maine Coast Semester and Outdoor Classroom on break, farm crew takes approximately three weeks of downtime doing only chores and necessary tasks. Late January farm crew prepares for the Semester and actively manages the woodlot for firewood production.
Start date would be mid-January.
SALARY AND BENEFITS
The salary for this position is $365 weekly. Benefits include: health insurance, life insurance, dental insurance, optional vision insurance, long-term disability, 403(b) retirement plan (currently matching up to 4.5% after one year of service), paid time off, and access to professional development funds. Some year-round farm crew members live on campus or in Wiscasset within the residential learning community; some farm crew members live off campus. This is a residential position. While most position responsibilities are similar for residential and non-residential crew members, residential farm crew members sometimes have additional evening or overnight responsibilities and are the first to respond in an on-farm emergency.
The farm crew includes three tiers of positions:
- Leadership positions (year-round): Farm Manager and Assistant Farm Manager
- Crew positions (year-round): Farmer/Educator, Farm Apprentice
- Seasonal crew positions: We hire alumni of Chewonki programs for ten-week positions as Summer Farm Workers during the months of June through August.
Responsibilities of the Farm Apprentice:
The Farm Apprentice’s areas of responsibility include the following:
- Assist with the managing the three primary production focuses of the Chewonki farm: Small-scale, diversified, organic food production; Pasture and livestock management; Low-impact forestry
- Integrate workhorse into many farm tasks
- Help with maintenance and care of pasture and harvesting of hay
- Work with and teach Maine Coast Semester students during the academic year through work program and chores
- Work with Elementary and Middle School students, Camp Chewonki participants, Outdoor Classroom students, and Waypoint students on various work projects, chores, and lessons during their program season
- Lead projects/tasks with summer farm help
- Organize and maintain tools (mechanized and otherwise)
- Maintain buildings in coordination with facilities department
- Attend various staff meetings
All Chewonki Farmers:
- Thoughtfully prioritize
- Balance production and education within the farm context
- Work to honor and uphold the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and an anti-racist mindset in the interest of students and staff across the organization
- Recognize and celebrate the farm’s historical context
- Have the flexibility to grow and adapt systems based in that context
- Are facilitators of Chewonki’s food system
- Make mission-driven decisions
- Use our strengths to support Chewonki’s programs, the farm, and all staff
- Share the workload and responsibilities equitably
Required Skills/Experience/Abilities of the Farm Apprentice:
- Interest in education-based, diversified farming
- Ability to work collaboratively and effectively with different kinds of people
- Willingness to learn to use draft horsepower on a diversified farm
- Willingness to learn to operate a tractor and chainsaw
- Ability to lift at least 50 pounds
- Ability to communicate well verbally and in writing
- Ability to oversee a work crew, as well as manage projects collaboratively
- Ability to live and work in a small community