Persephone Farm is in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, on 55 acres of land between the South Santiam River and Binegar Butte. We live at the end of a 1 1/4 mile driveway, in relative isolation. Lebanon, population 15,000, is twelve miles away. Sweet Home, population 9,000, is nine miles away. There is a lot of natural beauty nearby and many opportunities to hike, bike, and camp. We are removed from urban areas and cultural and community events. Towns of any size (i.e.. Corvallis, Eugene, Salem, Portland, Bend,…are 30 – 90 miles away). Community on the farm consists mainly of those of us working here (10 in peak season, about half living on farm and half commuting), occasional visitors and potluck and farm tour guests.
We grow 14 acres of seasonal organic vegetables and raise about 250 pastured laying hens. Our 23 acre rotation includes at least one season in pasture mix, and we rely heavily on cover crops for soil nutrition and enhancement. We sell at three farmers’ markets a week, several restaurants, and wholesale through Organically Grown Company. We prepare our fields with mechanical implements and tractors, and much of our planting and cultivation is mechanical also, but harvesting is almost exclusively by hand. Electricity is supplied by a grid-tied solar collection system.
Responsibilities and training schedule
Farm work consists of everything required to raise vegetables and hens to fruition and market. This includes (but is not limited to) seeding, fertilizing, and transplanting of starts, weed control, irrigation, harvesting and processing, produce deliveries and farmers’ markets, general tractor operation, tending a flock of laying hens, building and maintaining small compost piles, various odd jobs (ditch digging, brush cutting), and canning and freezing food for winter use.
In the spring and fall, the farming day starts at 8 am and ends at 6 pm. From June through mid-September, the farming day starts at 7 am and ends at 5:30 pm. Farmers’ market days are longer. Lunch breaks can be anywhere from 1/2 hour to 1 1/2 hours long. Apprentices train five days a week. Days off are Sunday and either Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. Once a month, you can train one six day week and take three days off in a row the following week. Fridays and Saturdays are not available off during harvest season. Vacations of more than three days off in a row are not available during harvest season.
Students in the Apprenticehip Program have the opportunity to gain confidence and mastery in the following farm tasks over the course of two seasons at Persephone Farm:
- Crop Seedings (greenhouse and field seedings)
- Monitoring (field, greenhouse, and facilities)
- Soil and field preparation and fertilization
- Mechanical cultivation
- Harvest Systems (crop projections, picklists, supplies)
- Post-Harvest Systems (storage, collation, wash/packing)
- Cover cropping
- Time management
- Farmers’ Markets and Deliveries
Winter following year one:
- Crop reviews and planning (includes generating planting lists)
- Seed Orders (includes organic seed search)
- Organic Certification
- Supplies inventory, research and acquisition
- Research of new production solutions (incl. equipment, tools, products, and methods)
- Mechanics and equipment maintenance
- Carpentry and design, other construction skills incl. electrical and plumbing)
- Soil tests
- Accounting, taxes, and enterprise analysis
- Independent project research
- Propagation Greenhouse management
- Continued specialised field tractor work
- Crew management (can include transplanting, harvest, weeding crews)
- Personnel (interviewing, hiring, evaluation, instruction, education, improvement)
- Independent project (i.e. growing and marketing a new crop or otherwise reflecting a personal interest of the apprentice)
Winter following year two (optional):
- See first winter, plus:
- Long term planning and strategy
- Advanced business skills needed for startup, personnel management, etc.
- Land search for incubator project
- Research and planning for incubator project
The educational component of an apprenticeship at Persephone Farm is informal and consists, in large part, of learning by doing. Apprentices are trained by owners and/or crew leads in the specifics of these tasks. Often written information is provided to help ensure successful completion. Owners and/or crew leads are often working alongside apprentices. After a period of training, we expect apprentices to remember and employ the skills necessary to complete certain tasks independently and without being asked.
There are three housing options, all of which have electricity, heat, running cold water, bed, dresser, desk, chair, shelving, and nearby composting outhouses. Apprentices prepare and eat meals in the community kitchen, where you can also spend time while you are not working. Five or six dinners a week are shared by all farm residents, with a different person responsible for cooking and cleanup each day.
We pay for most basic foods, favoring bulk foods and scratch ingredients over heavily packaged and processed foods. We make every effort to procure organic grains, beans, dairy, meat, produce, and spices of the highest quality; most produce is grown on the farm, and many foods are purchased from local growers. There is a washing machine available for your use during selected hours in the farm house. Our clothesline is our dryer. There is dial-up internet service to the farm. High-speed internet is available at local libraries at no cost. Smoking or chewing of tobacco is not allowed on the premises. Tobacco carries a virus which can be transmitted, through the hands or clothes of a tobacco, user, to other plants in the nightshade family. The virus can cause rapid devastation of a crop.
Visitors are welcome. Visitors who are not otherwise employed by Persephone Farm may not participate in work activities and should plan on occupying themselves during your work hours.
Apprenticeship applicants are expected to have one or two years farm experience and to commit to a 21 month period (with potential for an extended period to be determined at a future date). Our work consists mainly of physical tasks…bending, squatting, kneeling, and crawling, and also involves lifting boxes of produce weighing as much as 30-60 lbs. There is also much grasping of tools and harvest knives, as well as some cycling around the farm for various errands, and many hours spent on your feet.