Questions Frequently Asked by Apprenticeship Applicants

 

How far in advance do I apply? 
You can apply anytime but most farmers are looking to connect with an apprentice between January and March so they can plan their season and know what kind of help they will have. In our opinion, December is the perfect time to apply to give yourself time to plan for the coming season.

Is there any way I can contact individual farms about more information regarding their work?
You will be given detailed information about the farms you expressed interest in on your application. The website descriptions are the basics to help you narrow down your choice.

How often do farms accept apprentices and how many?
This varies from farm to farm but many prefer to have one or two for as much of the season as possible. Some only need help for a couple months during harvest, pruning, or calving time. Apply early to avoid disappointment.

What’s going to be expected of me?
These are the basic expectations for apprentices participating in the program. Apprentices should be:

  • At least 18 years of age
  • Self-motivated healthy, and respectful
  • Able to commit a minimum of two months, and up to a full season or longer
  • Focused on learning sustainable and organic growing methods.

What can I expect to learn?
Apprentices will be taken into the farm as anything from an extra set of hands to a full fledged family member. The learning will mostly come from hands-on experience doing all the work alongside the farmer who will usually give you an introduction to the work and answer questions as you go. Many farmers will let you do work by yourself once you are comfortable with the task and this is the best way to learn – by experience!

Be really clear about what you’d like to get out of the apprenticeship before you start. Good communication is essential. 

Check out the SOIL Apprentice Blog to get a first-hand experience with the daily life of a SOIL Apprentice!

Is the web page up to date?
The web page is updated often (about once per month when new farm information comes in) and yearly we seem to do an overhaul on the basic information.

Can I receive information on more then 5 farms? 
We start out giving you five choices of farm information to look through and recommend that you contact these farms to find out more about what they have to offer. If you can not make a match then we will happily send you more info other farms.

If I don’t make a match can I reapply at another time? 
Your membership is good for a year or as long as it takes for you to find a match, which ever is longer.

Do all the farms offer stipends? 
About half our farms offer stipends of $200-$800 per month (most on the low end). Others say the stipend amount depends on the amount and type of experience an apprentice has and may increase depending on how quick they learn. Others offer an end of the season “bonus”.

What is the $20 for?
The membership fee covers some but not all of our expenses including web site, paying a coordinator, publicity materials, postage and office supplies. We try to make it affordable for everyone. Cheques should have your name on them and can be made out to “SOIL”.

What happens once I send in my application? 
When we receive your application from the web site we will notify you and wait until we receive your membership fee. Then we will email you the applications filled in by the farms you are interested in, along with some guidelines for making a contract with the farms. We will also send your application to the farmers. Then is it up to you to contact the farms that most interest you to discuss a possible placement. You should let SOIL know when you make a match or if you have any difficulties with this process. 

Do I need to be a Canadian citizen to apply?
The program is set up for Canadian residents and people from other countries who have working visas. We are beginning to see people from the United States have difficulty getting across the border when they describe the SOIL program to immigration officials. SOIL, and listed SOIL farms, do not provide additional help with obtaining a visa. Stipends are not really considered wages or employment, however any information found on the following web sites supersedes any information we may provide. There is a bit of information from two pages on the Canadian Government web site which you should check for more details http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp and http://www.cic.gc.ca/english//study/institutions/work-volunteer.asp

To visit Canada you must be healthy, must respect Canadian laws, will need a valid passport, proof of who you are or other travel documents, a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) if you are from a countries listed on the web site. Canada does not pay for hospital or medical services for visitors. Make sure you have health insurance to pay your medical costs before you leave for Canada 

What is your mailing address?
STEWARDS OF IRREPLACEABLE LAND Box 807. Sooke, BC V0S 1N0

Is it possible to apprentice as a family?
The program is set up for adults. Some farms welcome couples. It is less common to find a farm which will accept children. If you have a child or children, and are considering apprenticing, there are some things you should consider. Farming with children can be wonderful both for the children and for the adults, but it does add certain challenges and risks for both. It is not possible to work in the field and to give full attention to your child at the same time. A young child may be interested in weeding or picking rocks for a few minutes, but probably not for several hours at a stretch. Therefore in order to get any work or learning done, your child will have to be very independent. He or she will need to entertain him or herself outside for long stretches of time. Because of the necessity for the child to spend time alone (within eye and ear-shot, but not right beside you) outside in a farm environment, there are physical risks involved. Your child is likely to have bumps and scrapes, possible insect stings, and then there are more serious hazards like picking up a harvesting knife, ingesting toxic weeds, and even getting injured by farm equipment. Farming with a child involves a high degree of organization. In the morning you will have to be prepared with snacks, drinks, clothing, and plans for diaper changes and naps, depending on the child’s age. Regardless of your best intentions, organization, and energy level, it is impossible to do nearly as much farm work with a child as it is without. 

In addition to all this, there is the challenge of finding a farmer who is willing to work with a parenting apprentice. Here are some questions to ask yourself that may form the basis of a conversation with a farmer with whom you want to apprentice: How old is my child/children? Are they accustomed to being outside? Are they accustomed to entertaining themselves? Are they accustomed to being outside? Do they listen and obey when I tell them not to touch something? Are they adaptable to new situations? Do they like being around new people? How comfortable am I with my child getting very dirty? How comfortable am I with my child being exposed to some physical risk? How comfortable am I with other people participating in the raising of my child? If the farm I am going to includes children, how does my child interact with other children? Will the farmer and I be able to stay open to rearranging the day’s schedule (to some extent) to suit the needs/mood of the children? Does my child have food needs that will affect others on the farm? 

The farmer and the apprentice should discuss all of this before deciding to work together, and should think about the amount of uninterrupted time together they might realistically expect. An apprenticeship with a child will likely work best on a farm that already has children. This might allow the farmer and the apprentice to work/learn together while the children work/play together. Some of the parenting duties may also be shared, but of course all this will depend on very good communication. 

If you are seeking an apprenticeship and have a child, don’t be surprised if it is difficult to find a placement, and try not to take this personally. Remember that from the farmer’s point of view, it may well be simpler, easier, and less risky to accept an apprentice without children. If you are having trouble finding a full-time, live-in apprenticeship arrangement, keep your eyes and mind open to other possibilities like part-time apprenticing, or participating in community gardening projects, or to start growing on a small scale on your own, even in your backyard or in pots on your balcony. Don’t give up your dream, because raising your child around growing plants, doing meaningful, healthy work together can be an amazing experience for both of you.