Host a Robust Farm Internship Program

Joel recommends 12 practices for building a relationship with interns that’s educational, familial, and respectful.


For all the things interns are, they're not cheap help. To be sure, some mentors are better than others, and some farms pay more or less than others, but generally, farm interns get a fair return on their investment. How else can anyone learn so much so fast with so little investment?

Here at Polyface Farm, we've been doing a formal mentor-intern program for nearly 25 years, and we're familiar with many other programs, from which we've learned a thing or two. Not everything, to be sure, but a lot of things.

Internships are the ultimate hands-on, learning-by-doing educational option, dating back to some of the earliest instructional models recorded in human history. It's a long and proud legacy. On our farm, we make a distinction between apprentices and interns. Interns come for five months, May 1 to Sept. 30. Some of the interns then graduate into apprentices and stay another year, from Oct. 15 to the following Oct. 15.

Internship is boot camp; apprenticeship is officer training school. I could write a book (and have) about apprenticeships, but in this column, I want to address 12 key elements of a successful farm internship program.


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