Student Apprentice Handbook
Below is the text from our 2016 FarmsNOW Student Apprentice 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 model that will ensure the continuity of on-farm internships in Oregon.
In 2012, RFC began collaborating with a group of farmers and farm advocates in the Southern Willamette Valley who were interested in creating a farm internship program in their community. Together, we launched the South Willamette Chapter in 2014 and the Portland Chapter and Central Oregon Chapter in 2015.
RFC launched the Apprenticeship Program in 2015 in the Rogue Valley. The Apprenticeship Program is an advanced training program designed for aspiring farmers who seek mastery in the art and business of farming. Applicants are required to have two years of prior farming experience. The Apprenticeship Program will continue to develop and expand over the next few years.
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.
Host farmers may terminate the apprenticeship at any time. Student shall give two weeks notice prior to terminating their apprenticeship.
On-farm training and hands-on learning (~40+ hours/week)
The Apprenticeship Program is designed for the individual who has a solid foundation of farm knowledge and skills that is looking to deepen their experience running a successful farm business with the goal of running their own farm enterprise. The majority of the program will be focused on learning by doing.
Over time, the student will be expected to share responsibilities with the host farmers. These tasks will generally include overseeing farm crews and harvest crews, processing, tractor cultivation, field walks and observation, record keeping, product deliveries, marketing, and general farm maintenance.
Practical skills and business classes and seminars
In addition to the hands-on training provided by the host farm, apprentices will attend a series of classes facilitated by RFC and OSU Small Farms Program.
Classroom/seminar topics may include: Choosing & maintaining farm equipment; Designing irrigation systems; Enterprise selection & diversification; Integrating perennial & annual cropping systems; Post-harvest handling/food safety; Long-term soil fertility/advanced soil science; Advanced Integrated Pest Management; Book-keeping/income & expense tracking/cash flow; Farm financing options/loans/grants; Farmland regulations/land use; Legal/liability; Certifications; Conservation Agriculture; The State of Organic Farming; and Finding, leasing, and purchasing land.
One-on-One Farm Development Counseling
RFC will work with students to identify additional course work and resources to support their entrepreneurial development.
Peer to peer networking
Students will have the opportunity to meet and network with local farmers and agricultural professionals. RFC will organize farm tours and will host potluck discussions to bring together partners from across the agricultural community.
The Apprenticeship Program tuition fee is $500 annually to cover the costs associated with the classroom series.
Roles & Responsibility
RFC expects students to act professionally at all times for the duration of the apprenticeship experience. Students are expected to participate fully and to the best of their abilities. Students are enrolled in an educational training program and shall have the status of a learner and not an employee. Students 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 students in addressing any issues, concerns or problems that arise during the training program.
What to Expect as a Student
Students 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. Farm work can be very tedious and repetitive. There is no doubt that you will question the educational value of your experience from time to time. Students can expect to be challenged physically and emotionally.
RFC's Apprenticeship Program differs from other farm education programs or WWOOFing programs. The Apprenticeship Program provides an opportunity to experience firsthand the realities of managing and operating a commercial farm. This real world experience is unique to RFC’s farmer training programs. The vast majority of the learning comes through hands-on work on the host farm for an entire farming season. You can expect to work side-by-side with your mentor, as a part of a team, and independently throughout the season.
Through perseverance and dedication, most students 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 Apprenticeship Program is open and honest communication. Creating a rhythm of self-care and stress management will improve students’ success. 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.
The Apprenticeship Program is a hands-on experiential learning experience. To gain the most from your apprenticeship, 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.
Conflict Resolution Protocol
It is RFC’s policy that communication between host farmers and students is open and honest at all times. Host farmers and students may 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, students with an apprenticeship-related problem, question, or complaint should first discuss it with their host farmer. At this level, students 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 students, contact your Chapter Coordinator immediately to alert him or her to the nature of the conflict. Students 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 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 students about their performance where it falls short of expected standards or to address misconduct. Any of the following steps may be used to let students know when they need to work harder to bring behavior into line with expectations:
A verbal warning or counseling
A written reprimand
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 students 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 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 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.
Host farmers may suspend a student. When possible, the host farmer will provide the student 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 will have an opportunity to review and sign the document.
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’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
This list is provided as a general guideline for illustrative purposes only and does not restrict host farmers’ ability to discipline or discharge students for any reason it deems appropriate.