There are two things that it is important for you to know before I say the following sentence: 1.the subject at hand is one that I have considered at great length and that is enormously near and dear to me hear; 2. bomb-diggity is not a phrase that I use lightly. Keeping that in mind, the Quivira Coalition’s new guidebook on agricultural apprenticeships is unequivocally the bomb-diggity. First of all, the PDF is free (though you can order a hard copy for $30). Secondly, unlike a few other guides and databases out there, the Quiviera Coalition’s publication speaks more to the would-be-farming mentors than to potential apprentices. Complete with a thoughtful foreword and introduction, teary-eye-inducing essays on what it means to be a mentor, a collection of case studies of apprenticeship programs in the US, and thoroughly useful appendices, it gets our “must read” stamp of approval for farmers and apprentices alike.
The agricultural apprenticeship sits simultaneously as one of the most beloved and also one of the most contentious institutions in new American sustainable agriculture. Almost every young farmer I know has done at least one apprenticeship. It acts as entryway, proving ground, and foundational base for careers in agriculture. However, at the same time, the past few years have seen debates over fairness and legality of apprenticeships on farms. Are they exploitative of workers? Do they place an undue and uncompensated burden on the farm?
One has to commit to the idea of practical education both for the apprentice and yourself. Remember, you are learning at least as much as the person you are teaching, just at different levels.
These people will:
- Pester you with endless questions
- Break your shovel handles
- Burn up your clutch
- Spoil your dog
They will also:
- Give you their heart and soul
- Make you a much better manager
- Teach you how to turn anger into teachable moments
- Add to your life in ways that will astonish you.”
– George Whitten, San Juan Ranch and NAP mentor
It is our belief that candid conversations and a defined set of standards within our community are necessary to foster apprenticeship programs that are mutually beneficial to farm, farmer, and apprentice. We need clear expectations, clear goals, and a lot of love for each other in order to ensure that the knowledge this movement has gleaned over the last half century is passed down to, built upon, and carefully stewarded by the next generation. To this end, the Quivira Coalition has taken a large step: their guidebook should become a time-honored resource.
In their own words:
Effecting change at a systemic level requires widespread participation and dedicated effort, and yet none of us need singlehandedly change the world. By growing a strongly collaborative network of small, regional programs at work within their own communities and by learning from one another, we can make a significant difference for ranchers and farmers throughout the country. Our hope is that this guidebook will serve as a catalyst to develop this national network of people committed to agricultural apprenticeships and to growing the next generation of ranchers and farmers.