Any Maine farmer, gardener, or homesteader committed to the principles of mentorship can participate in the Apprenticeship program. Farmers are not required to be certified organic or members of MOFGA to participate in the program. However, our experience indicates that the majority of apprentices are seeking training in the principles of organic agriculture, which limits the number of applicants to non-organic farms.
While working with apprentices can be rewarding and productive, these relationships are not without their difficulties. The terms of the farm apprenticeship exchange are different from the wage exchange. Apprenticeships offer less tangible and, we hope, more valuable and reciprocal exchanges. These exchanges involve, of course, skills training for labor, but also go far beyond this in many cases to include knowledge, wisdom, values, philosophies, and experiences that are powerful formative forces in an apprentice's education and life path. By participating in the Apprenticeship Program, you are therefore agreeing to be a mentor as well as a boss. This is an important responsibility that we hope that you will take seriously, but we recognize that it is not easy. Farming is a tough, exhausting and stressful job by itself. Being a good mentor in addition to being a good farmer is especially difficult. An apprenticeship is not necessarily the ideal means of finding extra hands. An apprentice will take a great deal of one's time explaining procedures, demonstrating techniques or correcting the mistakes that are a normal part of any learning process. With time, the apprentice can become more skilled and valuable, depending on their level of commitment. It is essential to the success of this program that each applicant farmer possess a strong commitment to sharing his or her knowledge and experience with persons of different backgrounds and skills who may not become efficient workers until the apprenticeship is under way.
MOFGA accepts applications for new and renewing farms from November 1 - March 15 each year.
If you're interested in hosting a MOFGA apprentice on your farm, follow these steps:
1. Download and fill out a Host Farm Application. PDF or Word document
2. Email it as a PDF or Word attachment (preferred) to email@example.com and submit payment online. Please note fees vary for new versus renewing farms.
Or, mail the completed application and the appropriate fee to: MOFGA Apprenticeship Program, PO Box 170, Unity, ME 04988. MOFGA will post your farm profile here. We will send you the apprentice applications that indicate an interest in your farm.
3. Read and acknowledge terms of participation in the program by visiting this link and electronically "signing" in the appropriate spot.
It is up to you to follow up with applicants who interest you. When you find the right apprentice(s), please contact MOFGA so that we can keep track of who is working where.
Farms participating in the MOFGA Apprenticeship program are not vetted by MOFGA, and a listing on MOFGA's web site does not imply an endorsement. While we try to provide information and tools to both apprentices and mentor farmers to ensure the best possible experience, we do not have the resources or expertise to police Apprentice-Mentor relationships, or to act as arbiters in apprentice-mentor disputes. Participants are expected to do their own due diligence and not enter into any situation, either living or working, without serious consideration.
Any apprenticeship arrangement made is an employment relationship made strictly between the Host Farmer and Apprentice. It is the host farmer's obligation to compensate the apprentice fairly and legally and to comply with all applicable laws. While certain "agricultural exemptions" may apply under state and federal "Wage and Hour" laws,the host farmer must determine whether particular laws apply and to perform the necessary record-keeping concerning employees' monetary and in-kind compensation. In addition, the application of other federal and state laws governing housing, safety and farm operations may also apply.
MOFGA's expertise is limited and it cannot offer legal advice. The website is provided for information only and may not reflect current legal developments. Nothing on the MOFGA website should be construed as legal advice or replace consultation with an attorney concerning your own situation.
Recommended resources for prospective farmer-mentors
Internships in Sustainable Farming: A Handbook for Farmers, by Doug Jones. (Download PDF)
Farm Internship Curriculum and Handbook: A resource developed by farmers in Oregon, including advice, guidance, and a model curriculum for teaching apprentices farm skills.
The New England Small Farm Institute's Farm Mentor Project
Worksheet for prospective apprentice farm visits – what to share about yourself and your farm, and what to ask them. (PDF)