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Author: Marie Hathaway

We asked some of the recent graduates of our Diversified Vegetable Apprenticeship and Pre-Apprenticeship to share a bit about their experiences.

They told us what they love about farming (as well as what they could do without) and reflected on how they’ve grown, and what memories, stories, and lessons they’ll carry with them as they keep growing.

Pre-Apprenticeship graduates

Diversified Vegetable Pre-Apprenticeship provides introductory hands-on training for people who want to explore sustainable farming as a career but have little to no prior farming experience. Our pre-apprenticeship program is hosted by local partner organizations with established farmer training programs focused on teaching sustainable growing practices. 

To graduate, each pre-apprentice had to complete 225 hours of on-the-job training and 25 hours of related technical instruction. They also had to demonstrate competency in 15 core skill areas around vegetable production and farm business.

Carlie Antes

Host site: Dickinson College Farm

Farm Stat: hundreds of pounds of potatoes harvested with a team of four in one day

Favorite farm task: harvest

Least favorite farm task: sorting tomatoes

Favorite beneficial insect, organism, or critter: Lactobacillus

How did you grow from this experience?

“I never farmed before this.

I was surprised by the strength and leadership I gained. By the end of the season, I found myself leading our students and volunteers with ease and answering the same questions I had when I started.

A college supervisor told me ‘all we can do is take care of our small part of the world,’ and I feel like I can really live by that while farming and promoting accessible local food systems.”

What’s next: Carlie is taking the next step in her farming career: starting her two-season apprenticeship at New Morning Farm.

Sarah Kim

Host site: Truelove Seeds

Farm stat: “An innumerable and growing number of seeds and seed stories I’ve learned about through the different farmers I’ve connected to.” 

Favorite farm task: seed cleaning and collecting “—but it really depends on the crop.”

Least favorite: weeding

 Favorite beneficial insect, organism, or critter: mantids

What’s a story or memory that stands out from this experience?

“One of the best memories I have of this time is actually planting Korean crops at Truelove’s acreage, one of which was Korean cosmos—my grandfather’s favorite flower.”

What’s a lesson you learned that you would pass along to someone considering pre-apprenticeship?

“It’s truly about the people you work with and the community and solidarity you build with them.” 

Shout out: “Pasa is great!”

What’s next: Sarah plans to continue farm work with Truelove and, as an artist, hopes to merge their experience in agriculture with an environmentally-focused creative practice.

Abigail Schaus

Host site: LaFarm — Lafayette College

Farm stat: “8 awesome farmworkers I managed and mentored last season!”

Favorite farm task: harvesting brussels sprouts

Least favorite: repairing holes in drip-tape irrigation

Favorite beneficial insect, organism, or critter: worms

What’s something unique you brought to this pre-apprenticeship?

“During my time on the farm, I worked to bring intersectional lenses into the conversation, providing space for all identities in a way that things about food and farm work as a safe space for dialogue, expression, and understanding.”

How did you grow from this experience?

“This experience developed my confidence in managing multiple tasks.

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to learn new responsibilities, whether it be coordinating tasks for other farmworkers or controlling the irrigation system.”

Shoutout: “Thank you, Lisa, for your incredible work as pre-apprenticeship manager, and for caring about humans, soil, plants, and creatures in such meaningful, inspirational ways!”

What’s next: Abigail is currently serving as an intern for a community garden program and working toward completing her undergraduate degree in environmental studies.

Apprenticeship graduates

Diversified Vegetable Apprenticeship pairs beginning farmers with established mentor farmers to provide a guided pathway toward managing or starting a vegetable farm.

To graduate, each apprentice completed 2,700+ hours of on-the-job training and 200+ hours of coursework over at least 18 months. Now they’re embarking on careers growing a more sustainable food system.

Delilah Miske

Host farm: Katydid Hill

Farm stat: helped grow, harvest and dry about 1,000 pounds of dried medicinal plants

Favorite farm task: seeding or tractor cultivation

Least favorite: punching holes in the header of irrigation pipes

Favorite beneficial insect, organism, or critter: praying mantis and swallowtail

What’s a story or memory that stands out from your apprenticeship?

“Harvesting fresh milky oats by hand, and learning the ripeness by squeezing the latex out of the pods. That same day, I made the biggest tincture of my life using a large drum and a very large immersion blender.”

How did you grow from this experience?

“I learned how to do things that once intimidated me, confidently.

I learned all the ins and outs of running and managing a farm. From rebranding to fixing the tractor to seeding and going to markets. I got a real experience of what it takes to get locally grown goods out to a community.”

Shout out: “I am just so grateful for [mentor farmers] Ben and Katelyn and to Dan for all that I have learned and will continue to explore because of this experience.”

What’s next: Delilah is pivoting to writing work that supports farms and conservation organizations. Her ultimate goal is to find land in the Appalachian mountains, where she hopes to grow woodland medicinals like ginseng, goldenseal, reishi, cordyceps and more.

Ventura Ortiz

Host farm: Apple Ridge Farm

Farm stat: “I have worked at about 8 different markets over the past two years from all the way up in Warwick, NY to Wrightstown, PA.”

Favorite farm task: planting seedlings

Least favorite: weeding “—it feels like a never ending war against weeds!”

Favorite beneficial insect, organism, or critter: ladybugs

What experience got you interested in farming?

“I was not really connected to food or community growing up, I was a video gaming, fast food fan.

But when my family decided to move to a place with enough land to be able to have chickens, goats, ducks, and even turkeys—It made me realize I wanted to get involved, and find a farmer who could teach me how to start my own farm.”

How did you grow from this experience?

Only being 18 going into the apprenticeship, I have matured and learned so much from so many people!

I grew in many ways, from having to take on the role of teaching my fellow farmworkers to teaching myself to speak up and take the initiative to solve problems when they arise.

What’s next: Ventura has stepped into a role as head brewer at Untamed Ferments, a value-added operation making kombucha from surplus crops (started by her boyfriend Erik Sink—another apprenticeship graduate).

Michael Salzl

Host farm: nook & cranny

Farm stat: 5,000 shares worth of vegetables provided to CSA members

Favorite farm task: harvesting cabbages

Least favorite: deconstructing cucumber trellises

Favorite beneficial insect, organism, or critter: garter snakes

What’s a story or memory that stands out from your apprenticeship?

“I remember during my second year in the program, our farm had an end of summer party for our crew and CSA members. I felt a lot of pride being able to share knowledge about our farm with families who directly supported us.”

What’s a lesson you learned that you would pass along to someone considering Diversified Vegetable Apprenticeship?

“I learned that people in this network truly want to share their experiences and knowledge. It is crucial to really put yourself out there early because the experiences you make early in the program snowball, and determine who you meet and the interests you can pursue for the rest of the apprenticeship.”

How did you grow from this experience?

“This experience helped demystify the art of farming for me.

Before my experience growing food seemed like a magic trick, and now I feel like it is a crucial and attainable piece of any household or community.”

Shout out: “Dan and I would spend 99% of our check-in meetings talking about farm business, but we would be sure to chat at the end about our shared love for soccer, in particular the English Premier League.”

What’s next: Michael has accepted a position as a crew member on an organic no-till diversified farm in his home state of Minnesota, and will work towards the dream of owning and operating his farm in the future.

What’s the next step in your farming career?

Whether you’ve been farming for decades, have a year or two of ag experience under your belt, or have never set foot on a farm—Pasa has farmer education and training opportunities for anyone who’s looking to grow.

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