Farm Apprenticeships: Keeping Farmers From Going Extinct

The world needs more skilled, small-scale farmers — and farm apprenticeships are one pathway into this essential and rewarding career.


| August/September 2013



Farm Apprentices Tend Caretaker Farms

Farm apprentices enjoy hands-on experience growing food at Caretaker Farms in Williamstown, Mass. While most farm apprenticeships are unpaid, Caretaker Farms provides a monthly living stipend.


Photo By Bridget Spann

Small-scale farmers and homesteaders are in a powerful position to bring about the changes our food system desperately needs. By growing food locally and sustainably, farmers improve the physical, economic and ecological health of their communities.

Today’s average farmer is in his or her late 50s. These farmers will need replacements, and their numbers need to be dramatically increased. Transferring their knowledge to future farmers is vital to the expansion of the emerging sustainable food system.

Industrial agriculture is disastrous for the soil and environment, animal welfare, and local economies — not to mention human health. Most North Americans rely on this system for their food, however, and its sudden disintegration would be a catastrophe. Some experts argue that the collapse of the current food system is imminent because of its dependence on three fragile conditions: cheap petroleum, plentiful water and a stable climate.

Monsanto and Big Ag want us to believe that only industrial agriculture can feed the world. The truth is actually the opposite. The Institute for Food and Development Policy reviewed available farm productivity data from 27 countries and concluded that the productivity of smaller farms — which integrate growing multiple crops with raising livestock — is anywhere from two to 10 times higher per unit area than on industrial-scale, monocrop farms. This is due to several factors, including the following:

• Small farms use more niche space by planting crop mixtures. This complexity makes a huge difference in total production per unit area and cannot be achieved with machinery.

• The integration of crops and livestock allows plants to benefit from manure, while animals benefit from surplus crops that aren’t consumed by humans.

jans
12/11/2014 2:16:52 PM

EcoReality Sustainable Land Use and Education Cooperative is about to implement a formal apprenticeship program, by which a volunteer can earn a share of the farm and the right to permanent habitation. http://www.EcoReality.org/wiki/Apprentice






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