New Farmer Training
Seed Farm apprentices take part in a 9-month program designed to train new farmers in all aspects of managing a diversified vegetable farm. The apprentices start seeds, transplant, and care for a two-acre market garden at the Seed Farm site near Emmaus, PA. Participants learn a variety of skills including: business and production planning, risk management, soil fertility management, safe operation of farm equipment, disease and insect management, harvest and post-harvest handling, and marketing. Our training program also includes formal classes through Penn State Cooperative Extension.
Educational Components of our Program
- Develop a comprehensive crop plan.
- Each apprentice responsible for crop selection, fertility, pest management and marketing of a selected crop.
- Farmers Market
- Volunteer management
- Disease Management
- Insect Management
- Tractor Safety and basic operation
- Small tools for efficiency
- Tractor based cultivation, seeding, etc
- Exploring the Small Farm Dream
- Introduction to Organic Vegetable Production
- Vegetable Business Planner
Apprentices receive an average of 20 hours of training per week. The weekly schedule consists of a full day of production training every Saturday as well as two additional four-hour blocks during the week. Saturday sessions are structured learning opportunities formulated for the whole group. Weekday on-farm work blocks will be dedicated to crop projects (ie planting, hoeing, managing diseases/pests and harvesting your crop), management areas and equipment training.
In addition to the standard weekly on-farm schedule, apprentices learn other important aspects of running a farm business by participating in off-farm learning opportunities:
- Farmers' market shifts: four consecutive Sundays (moving from helper to manager over the course of the month)
- Exploring the Small Farm Dream: 4 weekday evenings in April
- Introduction to Organic Vegetable Production: 6 afternoon classes and 6 evening classes
- Vegetable Business Planner: 6 weekday evenings in September/October
Full-time Option: The part-time nature of our program allows apprentices to participate in our training while working or attending school. For apprentices who are interested in a full-time experience at The Seed Farm, however, we offer the opportunity to apply to join our farm crew. This option consists of an additional 20 hours work time per week in exchange for significantly reduced tuition.
- One year of farming experience on a diversified vegetable farm.
- The intention to start or manage a sustainable farm business.
- All apprentices are expected to have a strong work ethic, commitment to detail, ability to take direction and also work independently when necessary.
- Dedication to cooperative working and sustainable agriculture.
- The ability to work well with staff and other apprentices.
- Ability to lift 50 pounds.
- Ability to work in all weather conditions, especially heat.
- 20 + hour per week availability.
Financial assistance is available to most of our participants. The full cost of our program $8,400. All qualified individuals are encouraged to apply regardless of financial capacity.
Spring Course Work— Exploring the Small Farm Dream
Session I: Expressing Farm Dreams and Evaluating Goals
Session II: Assessing Resources and Risk. Introduction to Market Research
Session III: Assessing Financial Resources
Session IV: Putting it All Together
Spring on Farm Training
March 2 : Introduction to farm. Introduction to crop planning.
March 9: Crop planning/ Greenhouse
management, record keeping.
March 23: Seeds and Seeders: Storage, germination testing, pelleted, hand vs. tractor mounted
March 31st: BCS operation; tillage & soil moisture; transplanters & transplanting efficiency.
April 7th: Seeders, seed storage, germination testing
On Farm Training & Introduction to Organic Vegetables Course
April 20: Cultivation Tools: edges and grease, sharpening and storage
April 23: Organic Vegetable class: Soil Quality **
April 27: GAP standards and wash station set up
April 30: Organic Vegetable class: Soil Quality and management (on-farm)**
May 4: Harvest and post-harvest handling
May 7: Organic Vegetable class: Rotation Planning (classroom)**
May 11: Irrigation Design and set-up
May 14: Organic Vegetable class: Direct seeding and transplanting (on-farm)**
May 18: Tractor cultivation part 1.
May 25: Pest management: scouting, calibrating and maintaining a backpack sprayer
May 28: Organic Vegetable class: Weed Ecology and Management (classroom)**
June 1: Tomato pruning/ Trellising
June 8: Basic Botany
June 11: Organic Vegetable class: Weed
Management, (on-farm) **
June 15: Tractor cultivation part 2.
July 6: On Farm Plumbing p. 2: Pump issues/ water testing/fertigation
July 20: Compost Production and use
August 3: Evaluating a Market: Fieldtrip
August 17: Value added Ideas/ Regulations
August 20: Organic Vegetable class: Insect Scouting, ID and Management (on-farm)**
August 24: Harvest and Post-harvest Handling of storage crops Pt. 1
August 27: Organic Vegetable class: Insect Biology and Management (classroom)**
August 31: Cover Crops
September 3: Organic Vegetable class Plant
Disease Ecology and Management (classroom)**
September 7: Seeds: science, politics, seed-saving
September 10: Organic Vegetable class Plant
Disease Scouting, ID and Management (on-farm)**
October 19: Equipment storage/ Winterization
October 27th: Season evaluation. Celebrate!
**Formal Penn State Extension Courses
Vegetable Business Planner
Session I: Farm goals. Working backwards from financial goals. Introduction to enterprise budgets.
Session II: Marketing I: Identifying your customers.
Session III: Marketing II: Matching marketing strategies to customer base, production potential and market opportunities.
Session IV: Business structure. Regulations.
Session V: Matching crop production plans to
financial goals and market realities.
Session VI: Soil management plan
Session VII: Weed and Pest management plan
- Applications due: November 15th
- Interviews: First week in December
- Apprentices Selected: December 15
"This institution is an equal opportunity provider."