Student Intern Handbook

Below is the text from our 2018 Student Intern Handbook. You will receive a hard copy of the handbook during your orientation. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to get a hold of us.

RFC Overview and History

Rogue Farm Corps was founded in 2003 by a community of Southern Oregon farmers that recognized the need for beginning farmer training and shared a commitment to mentoring the next generation. In 2006, RFC received a federal grant to develop an innovative curriculum that is the basis of our Internship Program. RFC is the only organization in Oregon with a full-time, structured, entry-level education and training program for beginning farmers based on commercial farms.

In 2010, RFC took a leadership role in establishing a legal framework for on-farm internships, in response to discussions in Salem with state agencies and concerned farmers about the quasi-legal status of informal internships. As a result, RFC launched negotiations with Rogue Community College (RCC) in late 2010 to establish a pilot program for legal on-farm internships. With guidance from the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Bureau of Labor & Industry (BOLI), RFC has created a legal model that will ensure the continuity of on-farm internships in Oregon.

In 2012, RFC began collaborating with farmers and farm advocates across Oregon who were interested in creating a farm internship program in their communities. Together, we launched the South Willamette Chapter in 2014 and the Portland Chapter and Central Oregon Chapter in 2015.

RFC launched the advanced-level Apprenticeship Program in 2015 in the Rogue Valley. The Apprenticeship Program is an advanced training program designed for aspiring farmers seeking mastery in the art and business of farming. Applicants are required to have completed RFC's Internship Program or have two years of prior farming experience. RFC's Apprenticeship Program has expanded to all four Chapter locations in 2018.

Anti-discrimination Policy

Rogue Farm Corps does not discriminate on the basis of race/ethnicity, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, or veteran status in educational programs, activities, and admissions. All host farmers must comply with federal and state laws regarding discrimination.

Trial Period

All student intern placements are subject to a 45-day trial period. During the trial period, student interns and host farmers can terminate the internship without cause. Tuition fees are fully refundable during the 45-day trial period, with the exception of the $250 non-refundable deposit. After the trail period is over, all tuition fees are owed and are non-refundable.

Tuition Policy

RFC’s Internship Program has a tuition fee of $1,750. The tuition fee includes $500 for the class and farm tour series and $1,250 for the Chapter Coordinator’s time spent on promotion, material development, facilitation of orientations and evaluations, and coordinating classes, farm tours, and events.

Upon acceptance, student interns must pay a $250 non-refundable deposit to secure their placement. An additional $500 payment is due at New Student Orientation. Two additional payments of $500 are due on June 15 and August 15.

RFC will work with individual student interns to set up a payment plan if requested in writing.

Any outstanding tuition fees shall be paid to RFC by November 1. Delinquent accounts will be sent to a collections agency 90 days after due date.

At-will Internship

Host farmers may terminate the internship at any time. Student interns shall give two weeks notice prior to terminating their internship.

On-Farm Internship (~40+ hours/week)

RFC staff and host farmers have created on-farm training curricula unique to each host farm, focused on skills development and training ethics that are geared to promote competency. RFC internships will include a minimum of 1,000 and a maximum of 1,500 hours of on-farm skills-based training. Student interns will track their hours on a timesheet to be signed by their host farmer. Student interns will maintain a journal and make weekly submissions to their Chapter Coordinator. RFC staff will facilitate formal in-person evaluation sessions with each student intern and host farmer two times during the training period. Prior to the evaluation sessions, each student intern will self-evaluate and be evaluated by their host farmer using the On-farm Curriculum as a guide. Informal check-ins will occur throughout the program.

Classes, Farm Tours, and Discussion Groups (~3-5 times per month)

Student interns will participate in an educational program that includes classes, farm tours, and discussion group potlucks led by expert farmers, RFC staff, and agricultural professionals. Student interns can expect a variety of approaches to learning, from traditional classroom settings to experiential on-farm settings.

Core curriculum includes the following topic areas: Introduction to Horticulture; Soil Science, Conservation Agriculture; Greenhouse/Propagation; Cultivation/Weed Management; Irrigation Systems; Entomology/Integrated Pest Management; Post-harvest Handling/Food Safety; Tractors/Equipment; Cover Crops/Crop Rotation; Season Extension; Basic Animal Husbandry/Grazing Systems; Seeds; and Introduction to Farm Business.

Additional courses will vary by Chapter location and may include the following topic areas: Orchard/Berry Management; Farming with Bees; Poultry Management; Permaculture/Farming Systems; Food & Farm Movement; No Till Farming; Biodynamic Farming; Draft Horses; and Perennial Herb Production.

Student interns are expected to attend all classes, farm tours, and discussion groups. Student interns are allowed up to three excused absences. Student interns shall inform their Chapter Coordinator at least five days in advance to receive an excused absence.

Classes may include farm tours allowing student interns the opportunity to meet, observe, learn, and potentially train with other farmers in the community. Farmers will lead a farm tour while incorporating time for questions, discussions, and demonstrations, allowing for student interns to have a more interactive learning experience. These on-farm classes and tours will expose the student interns to a number of different operations, techniques, and farming styles.

Approximately once a month, RFC will hold informal discussion potlucks on topics such as Food and Farm Advocacy, Agricultural Politics, Rural Living, and Natural Building.  These evening get-togethers provide social interaction and an opportunity to talk about some of the other issues that are surrounding our food system and the way we live.

Independent Projects (~1-2 hours per week)

Student interns will complete an independent project during the course of the farming season and will make a short presentation and submit a final report on their project at the Closing Dinner.

Program Requirements

Weekly journal entries: Student interns must write a short paragraph or two on the events of the week. This can include tasks, new lessons learned, thoughts, feelings, questions, weather, photos, and more.

Time sheets: Student interns must record your hours on a weekly basis. 1,000-1,500 field hours are required for program completion. Time sheets must be signed by your host farmer and brought to your Evaluation sessions.

Independent Project: Student interns must complete an independent project and prepare a 5-10 minute presentation and short paper (1-2 pages) on your project at the Closing Dinner.

Classes and Farm Tours: Student interns must attend all classes and farm tours. Up to three excused absences are allowed. Student interns must request an excused absence in advance by contacting their Chapter Coordinator.

Annual Internship Schedule (subject to change)

  • March 15 – April 1: Internship start date and On-Farm Orientation

  • Early April: New Student Orientation

  • June 15-30: First Evaluation Session

  • Late July – Mid August: Mid-season informal check-ins

  • September 15-30: Final Evaluation Session

  • Early October: Classes End and Closing Dinner

College Credits

Student interns have the option of enrolling in Rogue Community College’s Professional Skills Training Program to receive college credits for the Internship Program. Additional tuition fees and paperwork are required for this option. These credits can be applied towards an Associate’s Degree or a Certificate Program at Rogue Community College. Whether or not these credits transfer to another academic institution depends on that institution.

If you are enrolled in another college or university degree program and are interested in receiving credits for your participation in the Internship Program, please contact RFC’s Education Director for more information.

Roles & Responsibility

RFC expects student interns to act professionally at all times for the duration of the internship experience. Student interns are expected to participate fully and to the best of their abilities. Student interns are enrolled in an educational training program and shall have the status of a learner and not an employee. Student interns are not entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training program, nor entitled to wages for the time spent in the training program. RFC staff will assist student interns in addressing any issues, concerns or problems that arise during the training program.

What to Expect as a Student Intern

Student interns can expect to train hard and learn a lot. The farming season is full of vast fluctuations in weather and workload. It can snow well into June and be over 100 degrees well into September. Farming can be very tedious and repetitive. There is no doubt that you will question the educational value of your experience from time to time. Student interns can expect to be challenged physically and emotionally.

RFC's Internship Program differs from other farm education programs or WWOOFing programs. The Internship Program provides an opportunity to experience firsthand the realities of commercial farming. This real world experience is unique to RFC’s farmer training programs. The vast majority of the learning comes through hands-on training on the host farm for an entire farming season. You can expect to train side-by-side with your mentor, as a part of a team of interns and/or employees, and independently throughout the season.

Through perseverance and dedication, most student interns are able to succeed and overcome the daily challenges of the experience. RFC staff is always available to offer support, assistance, and reflections from our experience as farmers and educators.

Tips for Success

Communication, communication, communication. The primary key to success in the Internship Program program is open and honest communication. Creating a rhythm of self-care and stress management will improve student intern’s success in. Take time to exercise, eat well, stretch, do yoga, read, relax, talk with friends and family back home, enjoy local entertainment, and generally take good care of yourself.

Living and training together with your host farmer can present challenges as the season progresses. Host farmers are often struggling with the day-to-day realities of managing a successful business in addition to providing training support. Open and honest communication, active listening, and willingness to compromise are keys to success and positive relationships.

RFC's Internship Program is a hands-on experiential learning experience. To gain the most from your internship, it is strongly encouraged that you shape your own educational experience to what you hope to learn. Remember to come prepared every day with an inquisitive mind, take great notes, ask questions, and create the experience you desire. RFC and our host farmers provide the environment for learning, you create the experience.

What’s Next?

RFC’s Chapter Coordinators will work to provide student interns appropriate resources and direction as they complete the Internship Program. Many opportunities exist for student interns to continue farming or pursue other interests in the food system. RFC’s Education Director and Chapter Coordinators are available to counsel student interns on next step options throughout the season.

RFC has launched the advanced-level Apprenticeship Program, an advanced training program designed for those seeking mastery in the art and business of farming. This full-immersion program is directed towards those who have completed the Internship Program, or have two years of on-farm experience. The Apprenticeship Program will dig deep into planning, designing, and running integrated farming systems.

The Apprenticeship Program is an educational experience that will leave beginning farmers with a deeper understanding of sustainable agriculture, a foundation of entrepreneurial skills, and practical knowledge to plan for and start their own farm.

Conflict Resolution Protocol

Open-Door Policy

It is RFC’s policy that communication between host farmers and student interns is open and honest at all times. Host farmers and student interns shall come forward and discuss their problems directly with RFC staff, in order to resolve issues quickly and efficiently.

Procedure for Handling Complaints

Under normal conditions, student interns with an internship-related problem, question, or complaint should first discuss it with their host farmer. At this level, student interns usually reach the simplest, quickest, and most satisfactory solution. Next, if the problem is not resolved, it should then be brought to the attention of RFC, through the Chapter Coordinator.

Conflict Resolution Protocol

If conflicts should arise between host farmers and student interns, contact your Chapter Coordinator immediately to alert him or her to the nature of the conflict. Student interns and host farmers shall sit down face to face to discuss the nature of the conflict directly and work towards a mutually agreeable solution. If either party does not feel comfortable discussing the conflict directly, or a resolution is not found in the initial conversation between student intern and host farmer, RFC staff shall be brought in to help mediate the conversation. If the nature of the conflict is such that RFC staff is unable to mediate the conversation, professional help will be sought by RFC. All parties must agree to utilize good communication, active listening and empathy.

Disciplinary Review Corrective Action Policy

Host farmers are expected to utilize the following corrective action policy to give feedback to student interns about their performance where it falls short of expected standards or to address misconduct. Any of the following steps may be used to let student interns know when they need to work harder to bring behavior into line with expectations:

  • A verbal warning or counseling

  • A written reprimand

  • Suspension

  • Dismissal

Each of these steps is independent of the others and need not follow in order of the sequence listed above. This policy is a guideline only and does not restrict host farmers right to implement discipline, as it deems appropriate.

1. Verbal Warning

Host Farmers may verbally warn student interns that work performance or personal behavior is unsatisfactory and if not corrected could lead to additional disciplinary action. The host farmer shall make a note of this verbal warning and share it with the Chapter Coordinator. The student intern shall have an opportunity to review the verbal warning shared with the Chapter Coordinator.

2. Written Reprimand

Host farmers may prepare a written reprimand detailing unacceptable job performance or work behavior. The student intern will receive a copy of written reprimand and will be given an opportunity to sign the reprimand indicating that she/he has reviewed the document. A copy of the reprimand will be shared with the Chapter Coordinator.

3. Suspension

Host farmers may suspend a student intern. When possible, the host farmer will provide the student intern with a written statement of the reasons for suspension and any requirements for reinstatement. A copy of the written notice will be shared with the Chapter Coordinator. The student intern will have an opportunity to review and sign the document.

4. Dismissal

This is the most serious disciplinary action host farmers can take. Remember: RFC’s corrective action policy serves as a guide only. At the host farmer’s discretion, any of the steps outlined above may be skipped. This corrective action policy in no way alters the student intern’s at-will status. That is, the host farmer retains the right to determine in its discretion the appropriate level of discipline to be administered, up to and including termination.

The following types of behavior, which are ordinarily grounds for disciplinary action, include but are not limited to:

  • Performing job duties while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs

  • Poor work performance

  • Attendance and/or Tardiness Problems

  • Breach of the Confidentiality Policy

  • Theft from Host Farm, its employees or clients

  • Discrimination or sexual harassment

  • Insubordination

This list is provided as a general guideline for illustrative purposes only and does not restrict host farmers’ ability to discipline or discharge student interns for any reason it deems appropriate.