Who We Are: Soul Fire Farm is a family farm that taps deep into our commitment to justice and dismantling oppressive systems that misguide our food system and broader world. We are a mixed race family of 4 living rurally in a natural straw-bale, solar house that we built. Soul Fire Farm is a space where people of color and women in particular have access to the powerful connection to the land. We have a commitment to developing and supporting leadership of POC within the food system. Our small, production hand-scale farm and homestead that feeds our family plus 60-80 families in the nearby cities of Troy and Albany, NY through a sliding scale farm share CSA targeted to food desert communities. We intensively cultivate 1 acre in vegetables and small fruits, a nascent 1 acre mixed orchard, and 4 acres of pasture for egg and meat chickens. We are also expanding farming operations and soil building to increase production capacity. The nuts and bolts of our farm operations and dedicated hard work, complement our deep commitment to liberation, interconnectedness with our broad community, connection with spirit, and love.
Job Description: The Manager Training Program is designed to empower the next generation of farmer activists. Apprentices should be passionate about farming as a career and will learn to manage all aspects of farm operations – soil amending, propagation, planting, weed management, pest management, irrigation, tractoring, customer relations, packing, delivery, billing, maintenance, and communications. The position begins April 4, 2016 and ends November 4, 2016. Orientation is March 30-April 1. (Note that this job does NOT include working directly with the farm’s educational programming.)
Skills & Qualifications
- At least 1 full season of commercial farming (2-3 preferred)
- Passionate about a career in farming and interested in potential co-management/co-ownership of Soul Fire Farm in 2017 and beyond
- Able to lift and carry 50 lbs and work outside in adverse weather conditions
- Patience, flexibility, strong communication and interpersonal skills
- Current driver’s license and be a competent driver (or willing to get license before starting)
- Familiarity with power tools including chainsaw and basic carpentry tools a plus
- Tractor familiarity a plus
- Experience and/or appropriate training working with people of color
- People of color and those from other underrepresented groups are encouraged to apply
October 2015: Applications open until position is filled
November-December: Phone interviews conducted for select applications
November-December: Select applicants invited for hands on interviews at the farm
December-January: Final decisions announced.
Note that a visit to the farm is required. Position will remain open until filled.
The daily work schedule is be 6:30 AM-4:30 PM with 45 minutes for breakfast and daily planning meeting, 15 minute morning break, and 1 hour for lunch (or as seasonally appropriate, 6:30 AM-6:30 PM with an additional 2 hour siesta following lunch). Apprentices are expected to work 5 days per week. Apprentices can expect to work with the farm manager (Jonah) about 60% of the time and expect to work independently about 40% of the time.
Apprentices are additionally responsible for completing assigned farm chores on the weekends/evenings or bartering to have another person cover those chores. While morning farm chores take place during the scheduled work day, evening farm chores may fall outside of the work day. On certain days, the farm team will put in extra hours to accomplish a time sensitive task.
There are opportunities for additional volunteer experience on the farm, including weekend and evening educational programming. These volunteer opportunities are encouraged but not required.
Apprentices can take 3 days off for illness/emergency without impacting their compensation. It may be possible to trade weekend/evening work for additional personal days off as needed, but this is on a case by case basis.
Compensation is $870 per month plus in-kind payment, including weekday breakfast and lunch, lodging, utilities, and the equivalent of a farm CSA share. (Valuation available upon request.) Workers compensation is provided. Health insurance and disability insurance are not provided. Apprentices are encouraged to carry their own health insurance.
Education and Leadership
Apprentices can expect a thorough orientation and clear daily instruction in the “why’s” and “how’s” of farming tasks. The farm manager will ensure that apprentices have exposure to a wide variety of farming tasks. As much as possible the farmer will strive to provide a thorough training on each task in advance to minimize the need for correcting mistakes later on. We also ask that apprentices adopt a “learner’s mind” being open to the farmer’s methods, striving for mastery, and welcoming feedback. Apprentices are included in weekly farm planning meetings and will have access to farm planning documents and the farm’s library, including literature on agriculture, food preservation, and sustainable living.
Jonah is the farm manager in 2016 and the person with whom apprentices have the most contact. He is an Italian Jewish cis-man with no recent African/Latino/Indigenous heritage. It is important to consider how his identity may impact your experience. Leah is responsible for educational programming and some farming and is a biracial African-American cis-woman. Leah also works off of the farm to earn income and has less contact with the apprentices. The children attend school off farm and are away for most of the day during the school year. Certain programs enliven the farm with large groups of predominantly African and Latino-heritage people. In 2016, we anticipate programming for ~50 days out of the 200+ of your time living at the farm. On the other days, the farm may be quiet, with just Jonah and 2 apprentices, occasional volunteers and visitors, and the gentle presence of Mother Earth. Please consider if this is what you want.
Apprentices will have a warm, safe, comfortable place to sleep. An apartment has been constructed above the packing barn with a small private room for each apprentice. There is also a kitchenette, toilet, and shower in the apartment. The large open space in the apartment is a SHARED space. When there are programs at the farm (which is often), participants and guests will use the open space for sleeping and the bathroom/kitchen for their personal needs. When there are no programs, apprentices can spread out into the open space and use it as a living room. Apprentices may also use the downstairs of the family home as common space for their personal activities, the washer and dryer, and the downstairs bathroom for showering and toileting. We encourage apprentices to spend time socializing with the other adults and children in the household so as to build a connected, caring farm family. We request that noise be kept to a minimum between 11 PM and 6 AM. We further request that the solar hot water be conserved on cloudy days and laundry be done on sunny days.
Apprentices and farmers collaborate to prepare breakfast and lunch, and 1 snack per day, which are shared. All ingredients are provided by the farmers and the labor of planning and cooking is shared evenly by the adults in the household. A balanced meal includes a full plate of 50% vegetables or fruits, 25% grain/starch, and 25% vegetarian protein. While we will do our best to accommodate special diets, apprentices may need to purchase some of their own food if their requirements are significantly more expensive that the family’s standard fare. The family eats a whole foods diet with a preference toward food grown on the farm and low cost staple foods. Processed foods and luxury bulk items are to be consumed sparingly, e.g. snacks, or when packing food for time off farm. This document offers more details of what is defined as staple foods and those considered limited or luxury in our whole foods diet.
Dinner, weekend meals, and additional snacks are the responsibility of the apprentices. The equivalent of a farm CSA share is provided for your use. The family is generally excited to “potluck” or collaborate on these extra meals – just ask.
Apprentices may use the house wireless internet on their own personal computers. We ask that apprentices check in before streaming music or movies, just to ensure that bandwidth is adequate to accommodate everyone’s simultaneous needs.
There is no public transportation in Grafton, NY. Apprentices are welcome to join in on family car trips already headed into town. The farmers will make small detours or schedule changes to accommodate the needs of the apprentices. At the farmer’s discretion, responsible apprentices may borrow the family car at a cost of $0.56 per mile including fuel. If an apprentice causes damage to a family vehicle, the apprentice is responsible for paying for repairs. If an apprentice is driving a family vehicle for approved farm business, any accidents are the responsibility of the farmer. Apprentices are also encouraged to bring a bicycle to facilitate transportation independence.
Micro-Enterprise and Independent Management
As part of their learning, apprentices are encouraged to develop and operate a micro-enterprise, such as a value-add product, wildcraft, flowers, herbs, etc. This is an optional (encouraged) initiative that would take place outside of regular working hours. This product could be distributed through the existing customer base of Soul Fire Farm. Apprentices would keep the profits after paying expenses for product development and distribution. This is a management skill-building opportunity.
Apprentices will be expected to manage all farm operations without the farmers present for 10-12 days in late August and possibly other short time periods. Apprentices will manage irrigation,harvesting, cultivation and 1-2 CSA farm share distributions independently. This is also a skill-building opportunity.
House Chores and Cleanliness
Household chores such as cleaning, trash removal, maintenance, etc. will be shared equally among adult members of the household. Apprentices are expected to complete their chore obligations in a timely and thorough manner. In an effort to reduce clutter, please keep personal items out of the common space unless actively using them. Also, with so many guests we are very susceptible to colonization by lice, fleas, bedbugs and other nasty vermin. We need everyone’s complete cooperation to prevent infestation. Please hot wash and dry all clothing/bedding BEFORE arriving and anytime you return from a sleepover away from the farm. Wash your bedding at least 2x month. Launder and HOT dry all used clothing before putting it on the shelf or wearing it. Any used furniture, clothing, or other items require inspection for insects before coming into the house.
Drugs and Alcohol
No illegal drugs are permitted on the property. At no time should apprentices be intoxicated on the property. Smoking is discouraged, but if apprentices decide to smoke, they will do so far from the family home and in a fire safe manner and be responsible for cleaning up after themselves. There may be exceptions to this policy in sacred, ritual space, to be discussed on a case by case basis.
Real Talk and Assessment
Farmers and apprentices alike share a commitment to open, honest, and non-violent communication, and solution-oriented dialogue and process. A weekly meeting will be held where apprentices can bring feelings, concerns, and questions to the space and except respectful listening and response. There will also be a 1-month reflection when progress toward each volunteer’s goals is assessed. In addition to this structured time, please bring up concerns and questions in a timely and direct manner.
We are generally a welcoming household. Apprentices need to request accommodation for their guests at least 3 days in advance if the visit will impact the family in any way (shared meals, shower, sleeping in house.) For short stay guests, a little help around the farm is adequate in exchange for food and lodging. Longer or recurring stays will require a separate agreement. As a courtesy, apprentices should communicate their suitemate to make sure they are comfortable with the guest arrangement.
The farmers plan the season around the commitment of apprentices and turn away many competent applicants for each position. We ask that you carefully consider your commitment before signing this agreement, as early termination is disruptive and stressful to all involved. That said, either party can terminate the agreement with 2 weeks notice. Whether or not the apprentice completes his/her term, we request that he/she take the time to complete the apprentice evaluation process.
Completion of Apprenticeship
We want your feedback on working with us. We ask that you complete the apprentice evaluation process, which will most likely consist of a written and verbal feedback, to give us more insight into your time here. Your evaluation will be used to continue to grow our program into the best it can be at meeting the needs of participants. The volunteer can also expect the farm to respond in a timely fashion to request for letters of recommendation or forms verifying the experience.