Vermont isn’t exactly shabby when it comes to nurturing agricultural opportunities and support for its farmers. And now, aspiring farmers have another avenue through which to learn the trade: The University of Vermont’s Farmer Apprentice Program.
The buzz-garnering inaugural five-month program (what initially was seven months has recently been shortened) runs May 31 to November 4 and combines intensive farming with classroom work, covering the full spectrum of necessary farm knowledge. The farming portion involves cycling through successful local farms, including Intervale Community Farms (for the large-scale perspective), Half Pint Farm (for the small) and Bread and Butter Farm (for those interested in animal husbandry). Students will also work two acres on the UVM campus – divided how they see fit and divvying up the produce between personal use and an on-campus farmstand. The classroom work, taking place each Wednesday, will cover farming topics in-depth, taught by professors and those entrenched in the local food system.
“The classroom work and cycling through of farms with different perspectives are what set the program (which costs $4,800) apart from an independent WWOOFing or farm internship program”, says program director Susanna Walsh Daloz. Daloz worked for a number of food non-profits before being hired to run this intensive program. She says that classroom Wednesdays will be a chance for students to “sit still and not be in the field,” while being exposed to farming topics in a classroom setting, where there’s time to take notes and ask questions.
So what kind of applicant is UVM seeking to fill one of the 10-12 spots? Daloz stressed that though there are no rigid requirements, those who have a clear, goal-oriented career path – whether it be running their own farm or working with sustainable food systems – will be shoe-ins. Applicants should have concrete, thought-out ideas about why participation in this program is crucial to them.
Daloz says that the goal for the program once established is to fill 20-30 spots, for a period of seven months. This year the program schedule was changed to accommodate potential applicants who were interested but couldn’t fit the proposed start date into their schedules.
Interested applicants are encouraged to apply by May 2, though applications will be accepted on a rolling basis after then. The program’s received “a much broader and bigger response than we thought,” Daloz says, so those who really want to do it should get to it.