Chickadee Farm is a small certified organic family farm specializing in high quality vegetable, herb and flower seed grown using organic methods. Located in Talent, Oregon, Chickadee Farm is owned and managed by Kelly Gelino and Sebastian Aguilar who have been farming since 1997 and have trained many new farmers along the way. We take our role in the apprenticeship model seriously and we dedicate ourselves to being valuable educators and mentors for our apprentices. Our farm is 20 acres spread over three fields of which 5 acres are cropped, 5 are cover-cropped and the rest is in pasture. We grow open-pollinated vegetable seed for several national seed companies of 20+ crops including tomato, pepper, lettuce, brassica, melon, flowers and many more. Our farming style is small-scale intensive using tractors for tillage and cultivation. Our farm goals include enhancing the farm's ecology while making the farm efficient and profitable and doing all this while having a good time! We encourage interested participants to review our website and get in touch with us to learn more about how we farm.
Our training model emphasizes focused learning early in the season, so that the apprentice is able to take on more responsibility and become a fully functional and integral part of our farm team by the time we get into the peak of seed harvesting season.
We believe this model encourages a strong initial learning experience that naturally transitions into a full immersion into the work and management of the farm. Our goal for apprentices is to continually help them develop their understanding of, and practical skills in, organic farming, in the hope that they both feel confident working on all aspects of our farm operation as well as be able to realistically plan and develop their own future farm, if that is their goal. We do several things to accomplish this. During work hours, in-field demonstrations and discussions for each new task ensure that apprentices understand the goals, strategies, factors, and potential challenges of each farm activity. Having everyone on the farm feel confident and adept in accomplishing each farm task efficiently and successfully is very important. We also take weekly farm walks all season long where we take the time to observe the changes happening in the fields, assess the needs of the farm and discuss our plan for the week. We also, for the first half of the season, teach a weekly class where we discuss the concepts that guide our practical work. Classes cover a wide range of farm production and farm business topics, including soil management, crop production strategies, irrigation design and management, crop planning, record keeping and much more. We can also help them develop a personal business plan that they can use to map out their own future farm business if desired.
Specific skills learned over the course of the season include:
harvest and post-harvest threshing and cleaning of seed crops
tractor and equipment operation
and much more.
In essence, apprentices are trained to do most aspects of the farm production and management as well as become familiar with the business side of the operation. We have many years of educator experience and have trained around 50 apprentices over the years. Many of them return for a second year and many of them have started their own farms. For three years, Sebastian was the lead instructor and farm manager at the Organic Farm School, an 8-month new farmer training program located in WA state and he continues to teach through OSU Extension. Those who are interested can also sign up for the Organic Seed Alliance /MESA seed training program and we will facilitate that opportunity.
Each week is approximately 40 hours, Monday-Friday though occasionally weather and timing forces us to work a little late or a little on the weekend… but 95% of the time we stick to our regular schedule. Farm hours are 8-5 in the early spring but transition slowly until it is 6-3 by mid-summer to avoid being out in the hottest hours of the day. And as the days cool, we transition back to a later start.
In exchange for our efforts to train and educate, we expect apprentices to be passionate about farming and dedicate themselves to working hard towards the farm’s success, learning as much as possible and contributing to creating a positive farm atmosphere. Farming can be challenging and apprentices should expect to be physically active and outside all day, every day and feel comfortable with their capacity to do this.
Chickadee Farm is a host farm in the Rogue Farm Corps Apprenticeship Program. The Apprenticeship Program is an advanced on-farm program combining hands-on training and skills-based education for those seeking mastery in the art and business of sustainable agriculture. This full-immersion program is designed for those who have completed RFC's Internship Program, or have two years of on-farm experience. You will live and train full-time on a host farm, receive up to two seasons of on-farm training, and learn in-depth skills from your mentor farmer. See details below or visit our website at https://www.roguefarmcorps.org for more info on the program.