The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is taking a new approach to farm internships. In 2010, the Washington legislature authorized the Small Farm Internship pilot program in Skagit and Island counties, allowing young and beginning farmers to intern on small farms in order to learn about farming and farm businesses. This program does several important things for farms and eager interns. One is that it acknowledges the work-for-learning trade of a farm internship in place of the more typical work-for-money trade. Eligible small farms–farms with annual sales of less than $250,000–can enroll by submitting an internship plan describing the parameters of the internship, the type of work each intern is expected to perform, and what they will learn. Enrolling in the program allows unpaid farm interns to be covered by discounted Workers Compensation insurance. That means if an intern is injured, the medical expenses could be covered by Labor and Industries. Without the insurance, the intern and the farm would have to pay out of pocket.
As we see it, this is an opportunity to create a model that protects both the farm and intern. They need your feedback to make sure they know there is support for the program, and to help design it so it works for farmers and interns.
For a thorough discussion of the general legality of farm apprenticeships and internships, please see NYFC guest blogger Rachel Armstrong’s latest–and next–few posts.