Wanted: New Stewards on the Northern Plains
2013 Farm Apprentice Position
Vilicus Farms is a first generation, organic, dryland crop farm located in northern Hill County, Montana. Established in 2009, Vilicus Farms grows a diverse array of heirloom and specialty grains, pulse, oilseed and broadleaf crops on approximately 1,800 acres. Integral to Vilicus Farms’ mission of land stewardship is an aspiration to also steward new organic farmers. To that end Vilicus Farms is recruiting for the 2013 growing season a highly motivated individual with a demonstrated desire to pursue farming as a profession.
The 2013 position is a 6-8 month commitment. However, our vision is to develop a rigorous 3+ year apprenticeship program to develop new land stewards in the northern plains ecosystem. Each year will come with increasing responsibility and independence, culminating in an incubator opportunity for the apprentice to move into ownership and operation of their own farm enterprise. Vilicus Farms apprentices will be leaders, and their farms will serve as examples, furthering the understanding that land stewardship must be integral to food production. Opportunities are significant given decreasing acres in organic grain production and the increasing age of farmers in the state of Montana.
The successful 2013 applicant will be the inaugural apprentice for Vilicus Farms and will be integral to the development and design of future years of the program. The potential for extending the inaugural apprenticeship position exists, depending on what is determined to be mutually beneficial at the end of the initial apprenticeship.
Duties and Capstone Project
This first year position is designed to provide direct experience in all facets of the dryland organic crop farm enterprise. The apprentice will work under the direct supervision of the farm managers. Specific training will be tailored to the skill sets and needs of the apprentice. The Apprentice will be an integral part of the Vilicus Farms’ team and is expected to participate fully in the daily work planning sessions, weekly team meetings and monthly visioning & fiscal discussions. The apprentice will participate in both the physical labor of the operation as well as the mental challenge of all aspects of the management of the farm business. Specific activities will be dependent upon the operations needed for any given season. Responsibilities and tasks will generally include:
Large-scale machinery operations, tillage, seeding, cultivation, cover crop termination, green manure incorporation, swathing, combining, and crop storage/delivery.
- Field and crop scouting to monitor crop conditions, weed, pest, disease incidents, and soil health.
- Record maintenance, review, development and analysis. Including documentation of field operations, organic certification records, and conservation practices.
- Machinery maintenance, periodic service, cleaning and minor repairs as needed.
- Planning and implementation of conservation practices such as wildlife and pollinator habitat, windbreaks, saline seep restoration.
- Weeding, mowing and facility upkeep.
- Participation in field days, farm tours, and conferences to further develop knowledge of dryland cropping systems, organic production and grow connections with the network of organic producers in the northern plains.
The Apprentice will be required to complete one capstone project during his/her appointment. This project will be chosen based on the interests of the Apprentice and the current needs of the farm enterprise. Possible projects could include, but are not limited to: transition to biobased oils and lubricants, soil health monitoring protocol, specialty crop management, technology streamlining of in-field record keeping, raptor perch placement and implementation, energy in/out analysis, creating an annual sustainability report, or working with one of our buyers to explore increasing sustainability and risk sharing through the entire food system value chain.
The Apprentice will also be required to attend at least one off-season conference/learning forum and provide a presentation about their apprenticeship experience. Apprentice will be compensated for travel expenses associated with conference attendance.
Applicants must have a keen interest in farming, be self-starters and have the ability to work independently, appreciate the challenges and joys of working outside in all conditions, be a solid problem solver, with an open creative mind, strive to continuously improve their whole systems-thinking skills and embrace diversity. The chosen applicant must be a mature individual and excited to engage in his or her own learning process. Ideally, candidates should have a minimum of a Bachelors degree or provide proof of success in an academic setting. Formal training in agriculture isn’t required but an ability to apply whole systems thinking, curiosity, and a broad ability to learn and be reflective is a necessity. However, candidates do need to have had agricultural experiences that are sufficient to have led them to know they want to pursue a life of farming. Candidate must have a valid US drivers license with a good record, and a passport allowing travel to Canada.
This apprenticeship will be approximately 6-8 months. Depending on the level of skills, abilities and desire, the apprenticeship could be extended beyond one year. Our desired longer-term outcomes would include not only mentoring a new steward but also supporting them in developing a farm business plan that leads to establishment of a new, successful independent organic farmer in the northern plains. Salary is $1,000 stipend/month. Room will be provided. Board will be provided to the extent the apprentice chooses to eat with the farm crew. There is an expectation that the apprentice will participate in all the household duties of cooking, cleaning and caring for the farmstead. Work schedule will be dependent upon farming activities, but anticipate periods of long days, 7 days a week during the growing season. We strive to provide 1 day (or two partial days off) a week off during the growing season. The farm is located 40 miles from the nearest town in a very rural location with limited population. Candidates should be willing to embrace this lifestyle and understand there is limited access to services.
Applicants must be able to provide their own health insurance.
For additional information contact:
Applications should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org (Apprentice 2013 in the subject line), before close of business on March 3, 2013. We anticipate conducting interviews and selecting a final candidate by April 1st. Interviews will be conducted by Skype or in person at the applicant’s expense. Start date of the apprenticeship will be negotiated but should not be later than June 1st. Length of apprenticeship will be 6-8 months and also will be negotiated.
Application packages should include:
1) A cover letter
2) A current resume.
3) A list of at least three references.
4) A narrative no longer than 3 double sided pages, 12pt font .5” margins answering the following questions:
- Why and how have you decided to become a farmer?
- What does organic mean to you?
- It’s spring of 2020. Describe your typical day. In what ways will you be engaged in creating a more sustainable agriculture?
- Describe an experience where you responded to changing priorities, and/or worked in an environment where you learned to expect the unexpected.
- What skillsets, knowledge and abilities would you bring to Vilicus Farms? What skillsets, knowledge and abilities do you want to grow?
- If you were hiring an apprentice for your farming operation what would be most important to you?