Questions Frequently Asked by Farm-Hosts
When do new farms apply for the program?
You can apply anytime but many apprentices start looking at placements in December/January, so keep that in mind.
What farms are eligible to apply?
These are the basic expectations for participation in the program. Farms should be:
•Committed to truly sustainable farming practices, which may include certified and non certified organic, natural farms and farms with a portion of their land being worked organically.
•Willing to spend time training apprentices and interested in passing on the best of their knowledge.
•Any type or combination of agricultural farm including vegetable, grain, fruit, honey, flowers or herb cultivation, or raising any kind of livestock. Businesses or homesteads managed by co-operative groups individuals, and families - diversity is what gives this program its strength.
•Prepared to provide room and board. Most farms also provide a stipend or a wage. It is up to you to be aware of labour regulations in your province or territory.
What is the process to apply?
Farmers begin the process by filling out an application online (applications can also be sent by post). The more detailed your responses the better, as this information will help potential apprentices to learn about your farm. Farmers also provide us with photos and farm descriptions, which we list their farms on the website. We also provide a manual to help the farmer cover the basics, including contract guidelines for making a successful agreement.
What happens once I send in my application?
When we receive your application by mail or from the web site we will notify you and wait until we receive your membership fee, which you can pay by mailing us a cheque or online using Paypal. Then we will send you a summarized description of your farm to review. If you have no changes to make, we put it up on the web site with a photo, if you have sent us one.
You will receive the applications of all apprentice applicants who indicate they are interested in your farm. You may contact these potential apprentices if you wish to discuss a possible placement. You should let SOIL know when you make a match or if you have any difficulties with this process.
Each year we will ask you if you want to renew your membership. If so, then you will have the opportunity to revise your farm description and add new photos (although you’re welcome to send revisions throughout the year). Most of our members renew year after year!
How many apprentices can I request?
There is no limit to the number of apprentices you can take on. It’s up to your abilities and needs. Most farms prefer to have one or two for as much of the growing season as possible. Some only need help for a couple months during harvest, pruning, or calving time.
Am I guaranteed to get an apprentice?
No, although we certainly try our best! Last year we had over a 50% placement rate, so it’s still really important that you also use your regional/local contacts to promote your farm apprenticeship opportunity and get the word out.
Are we required to pay minimum wage?
Typically farms offer board and room, a small monthly stipend which may increase as the apprentice gains experience, and an end of the season “bonus”. The Labour Relations regulations of each of the provinces of Canada differ slightly but most stipulate that employees have the right to minimum wage. Please check your province's regulations to understand your obligations.
What are apprentices looking for in a farm?
Apprentices want to learn, so it’s important that you make time for this. They are asked for an 8-week minimum commitment and over this time they are expecting to gain real farming experience and take on more and more responsibilities. You are also normally expected to provide basic room and board.
Apprentices may also be looking for particular types of farms (ie. CSA) and living arrangements (ie. willingness to accommodate dietary considerations or hire couples/friends). The more details you can provide about your farm and your willingness to accommodate ‘special requests’, the more applications you are likely to receive.
What can we expect from an apprentice?
Firstly, a longer term and energetic commitment to your farm than what you might receive from a WOOFer or hired help. Apprentices normally make a minimum 8-week commitment to a farm and in return for their labour and are expecting to learn from you. Make sure you have good communications and a strong understanding of how the apprenticeship will unfold from the beginning!
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.
What is the $30 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”.
Does the program accept non-Canadian applications?
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