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Athena’s Harvest Farm & Training Center – 2023 Farm Apprenticeships

Jesse Fleisher
Published
November 28, 2022
Location
Santa Fe, Tennessee
Type of farm?
Produce - Vegetable/Fruit
Start Date
2023/03/01
End Date
2023/11/30
Work Schedule
6 days/week
Compensation
see website for details - monthly stipend plus housing, utilities, food, education opportunities
Housing Available
Yes
Housing Location
On Farm
Meals Provided
Yes
Which Meals
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Positions Available
4
Tag Words
Bees, Chicken, Child-friendly, Composting, Cooking, Direct Market, Eggs, Farm Tours, Flowers, Forestry, Fruit, Further Processing, Non-GMO, Nuts, Orchard, Organic, Permaculture, Vegetable

Description

Description

Please see our website for a longer description and more information.

Athena’s Harvest is a small vegetable farm run by former Peace Corps volunteers just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. The farm consists of 55 acres and a good swimming hole, with a wide variety of sustainably grown fruits and vegetables intensively produced on 3 acres of land. The majority of sales occur at farmers markets, through a CSA, and via restaurant sales.

Now seeking Sustainable Agriculture Interns who will learn all aspects of operating and maintaining a small sustainable vegetable farm while having fun and living in a supportive community! Over the course of a season, Intern activities will consist of field and greenhouse work, seeding, transplanting, harvesting, weeding, washing, packing, delivering, mulching, market prep, produce selling, cut flower and mushroom production, equipment/tool/vehicle maintenance, construction, land maintenance, mowing, fence mending, organic pest control, canning and other food-preservation, permaculture design, hosting school groups, and a multitude of other tasks. A $3,735/season stipend is provided for folks who work the full season (March–November); prorated for those who work a summer/fall only schedule (May–November). Perks include simple accommodation/utilities/WiFi, free farm produce and most food, 10 vacation days, farm exchange field trips, and extensive hands-on training and direct mentorship. Interns will be expected to work 6 days a week. If you have self-motivation, adaptability, genuine friendliness and enthusiasm for life, a good sense of humor, the ability to work hard in all weather conditions, and a real interest in learning how to farm within a diverse and supportive community, please fill out the online application.

As an Intern with Athena's Harvest Farm, you'll work with your hands to gain real farming skills and experience fun, satisfaction, and camaraderie while incurring few expenses. Opportunities abound to meet other organic farmers — you'll share stories, food, and music with great people in a peaceful, beautiful setting.

Location Specifics

Located just outside Nashville, TN. We sell to Nashville area farm-to-table restaurants, two Nashville farmers markets, and CSA customers in Nashville and south of Nashville.

Position Description

THE WORK

​We take on 3 full-season interns per season, plus will consider 1 summer only or summer through end of season intern, often college students taking some semesters off or looking for an internship, recent grads who want to learn about farming, or others with a genuine interest in the work and lifestyle of small scale sustainable agriculture. Preference is given to people with prior experience and demonstrated interest in farming as a probable or certain vocation. We have had interns use this experience as part of an "official" academic internship requirement, and we can work with you to see if we meet the requirements for your program. Opportunities for continued employment and advancement may exist beyond the first season.

*Unfortunately, we do not have the ability to obtain work visas for those traveling from other countries. International folks may be interested in WWOOFing with us instead, but visa applications are their own responsibility.*

Because we take the time to instruct new workers and give them additional responsibilities as they become more proficient, and because it naturally takes time for them to build their physical prowess, we prefer to take on interns who can work a full season or a large portion thereof. The “season” runs roughly 9 months from March 1 through late November, and we give preference to full-season interns who can commit to at least 8 months or more. Full season interns share a simple bunkhouse with AC/heat etc., though camping is also an option. The start date is important, as we prefer to train a cohort of people that are all learning at the same time.

Over the course of a season, activities will consist of a wide variety of field work, greenhouse work, planting, transplanting, harvesting, weeding, washing, irrigating, pruning, flower arranging, covering and uncovering beds, packing, delivering, mulching, market prep, produce selling, equipment/tool/vehicle maintenance, construction, land maintenance, mowing, fence mending, organic pest control, wood cutting, social media engagement, and a multitude of other tasks. Though not certified, we exclusively use organic best practices to grow diverse fruits and vegetables while maintaining our farm's soil health and ecological balance. No synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides are used, and we don't plant any GMOs.

OUR THREE INTERN POSITIONS

Ideally, our three full-season interns will begin at approximately the same time, arriving as a cohort for living and learning purposes. All of our interns will regularly do and be exposed to all of the types of work mentioned above (with planting, picking, weeding, harvesting, washing, food preservation/canning, and market related activities being the bulk of the work), but we prefer that our interns also take on a few areas of particular focus/interest, and increasing responsibility. Fear not, we will train you (or perhaps, you will train us, depending on your prior experience).

Possible areas of focus include (but are not limited to):

Cut Flower production and arranging for market

Using native farm wildflowers and plant materials in addition to some flowers planted specifically for cut flower harvesting. A relatively new area of interest for us. If you have significant experience in this realm, you may be able to teach us a thing or two... :). If not, then we can teach you what we know and all continue learning together.

Canning/fermenting/drying/food-preservation

A continuing focus in 2023 as in past years. We expect at least one of our interns in 2022 to spend a good bit of time on this set of tasks. We sell, eat, donate, or preserve as much of the harvest as possible each year, and food-preservation is an important way we try not to let our work go to waste. In some cases it also provides us with an additional revenue stream as a value-added product (ex. dried herbs). These are great skills for everyone to learn, but there is definitely a learning curve for doing it well, and practice is the only way to become proficient.

Mushroom Production

We plan to ramp up our our production of oyster mushrooms in 2023. We use a production system based on pasteurized straw and 5 gallon buckets. New straw must be chopped, pasteurized and seeded with spawn on a regular basis, and growing mushrooms must be misted and harvested as needed. You could become the king or queen of fungi.

Social media engagement, and blog/newsletter management

We maintain a Facebook page, an Instagram feed, and a Twitter account in addition to a website with a blog and a CSA newsletter. You would regularly contribute to our social media output in all of these realms with input from us. Professional language, spelling, and online etiquette is a must.

Volunteer & School-Group Coordination

We plan to increase the number of volunteers and volunteer hours worked on the farm this year, while also continuing to host some school groups. A certain amount of logistics is required to reach out to people, respond to queries, and assist with volunteer/school visits. You would help plan and assist with these tasks as needed.

Light construction/carpentry

As a relatively new farm, we are still building out our facilities and infrastructure. The list of possible small construction/carpentry projects is nearly endless, and you would occasionally work/assist on some of these projects (to be prioritized together) in lieu of or in addition to agricultural work.

Farm equipment/tool/vehicle maintenance

We have a range of hand tools, small machines, and farm vehicles that need to be maintained (cleaned, sharpened, repaired, fluids changed, tires pumped, etc.). You would assist with these tasks and learn to take some of them on fully based on a schedule that we can work out together.

Orchard/woodlot maintenance

We have a small orchard (not yet in full production), berry plants, and a property full of old fences and field edges that need to be improved and maintained (pruned/ trained/ mulched/ mowed/ fertilized/ repaired, etc). Downed trees need to be sawed into firewood. Sawed firewood needs to be split with an axe. You would assist with these tasks.

Permaculture Design & Implementation

We are at the beginning of our permaculture design process. This is a good time to get hands on permaculture training in a real world setting. This year we will be doing base-mapping, examining flows of water, air, sunlight, people, and animals, researching food forest species appropriate for our site, and beginning implementation of our design. You would be a co-conspirator!

Other areas

Past interns have taken on projects ranging from worm composting, to baking, to sign painting, to farm systems design. 2020 interns built an outdoor shower and a wood-fired pizza oven. There are many possible ways to contribute to our farm livelihood and community life.

To be clear once again, everyone will learn/do a bit of everything outlined above, but we will specifically encourage you to pursue some focused interests (or nudge you in a direction we think you may be suited for) as time progresses.

Education Potential

Extensive Hands-On Experience with all aspects of operating and maintaining a small sustainable vegetable farm, including direct mentorship.

This is the real benefit of working with us. We are transparent with our interns about what it takes to start a small farm from scratch, farm finances, decision making, and past successes and mistakes. *We want more people to want to become farmers or at least serious gardeners!* You will learn a lot about what to do and what not to do and why, as well as gaining enough experience to begin forming your own opinions about which techniques and practices you might want to adopt yourself, and which ones you don’t agree with or would like to improve upon in your own future endeavors. We also take interns on field trips to visit and speak with other small scale sustainable farms/farmers in our region.

Fun. Satisfaction. Camaraderie.

Fitness. Healthy, frugal lifestyle. Few expenses. Increased awareness of and knowledge about botany, soil, water, weather, and seasonal changes. Intimate knowledge of a new place/culture. Not having to work in an office or indoor retail environment. No dress code. Opportunities to meet other organic and sustainable farmers. Working with your hands and gaining real, functional, “hard” skills. Sharing stories, food, music, and life experiences with good people. We will be starting in on our Permaculture Design work this year, and you can be a part of planning and building our future environment!

Food Provided

Housing.

We provide a simple, furnished, climate controlled sleeping area in a converted utility building for full-season interns. Essentially it is a simple bunk house just for sleeping and storing some of your belongings. Interns sleep in the three separate loft/floor spaces of the bunk house. Privacy is minimal, but we have rigged up curtains which do the job. The bunk house also contains a mini-fridge, and just outside, a dry composting toilet system for night (or day) use. Tent camping options are also available. For regular showers and bathroom and general hanging out, interns typically use our main farmhouse from 6AM to 10PM (keeping in mind that there is one indoor hot shower available for however many of us are living on the farm at any given moment). We also have an outdoor shower which is very popular. Past interns and visitors have also enjoyed bathing in the creek during the warmer months. We have a good, clothing optional swimming hole.

In general, we try to provide interns with a bit of their own space, while also allowing access to our small home and it’s kitchen/ bathroom/living space during the day and early evening (6AM-10PM). Occasionally we have folks stay later as time or events warrant (we can feel it out together). Interns are also welcome to hang out in the barn, and store items in the cold room, house fridge, or barn freezer as space allows. Upon arrival, we require a $75 deposit (actually just a withholding from your final stipend payment) for your living space, to be fully reimbursed to you upon your departure assuming the living space has been kept in a good condition.

Food.

Surplus vegetables and unsold “seconds” are available free for all of us to share. We also provide some basic bulk food supplies for interns and WWOOFers, like rice, beans/lentils, oats, and other food staples (we’ve got a list) + toilet paper. Beyond these vegetables and staples, interns are expected to pool their money and purchase additional food items of their choosing. A system that has worked well in some past years is for each intern to contribute ~$17/week (or interns can mutually choose a different amount) to a pot that can be used as needed. If desired, we can make this contribution for you and deduct it from your stipend. We will also make this contribution of staples and $ on the behalf of any WWOOFers who may be present. In other years, interns have decided to buy extra personal food items individually. Interns are expected to bring their own sheets, towels, toiletries, and medications (we have basic first aid supplies available for everyone).

We have accommodated a wide mix of vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and omnivores without difficulty over the years. As we have a shared kitchen space, people with serious food allergies may wish to consider other options. Breakfast is usually prepared individually unless someone volunteers to prepare breakfast for all. Lunch is similar. Our daily shared potluck meal between Athena and I and all of our interns/volunteers is dinner, and we'll plan to cook and eat together at dinner each day. We usually set up a schedule of rotating cooking duties as needed. Athena is generally pescatarian (eats vegetarian + fish & dairy), as is Jesse by default, so we don’t usually purchase meat for our interns and WWOOFers, but we don’t mind if you want to purchase, cook and eat meat in our facilities.

On almost every Thursday evening from April - November, we host a community potluck event called "Neighbor's Night" that is often the highlight of our week, with music, great food, bonfires, and a theme that people are welcome to follow or not. Hosting (including setup and cleanup) is part of the work on the farm, but most past interns have cited Neighbor's Night as one of the highlights of living here.

The farmhouse and other spaces get dirty quickly with 3 or more people working in the soil and coming in and out on a daily basis, and 40+ neighbors coming in and out on Thursday nights. Interns are expected to share in cooking and cleaning and other household/ community duties as mature, responsible community members according to a weekly chore schedule. We don’t want or need to act as supervisors or parents when you are off-duty, but we can certainly be a friend/peer/mentor when you are in need.

Expectations

Contrary to popular stereotypes, successful farmers must be intelligent, hard working, and proficient in a wide variety of disciplines, and we try to expose our interns to all of them. We like to think of ourselves as specialized generalists. Prior experience in this type of work is valuable and may help your application, but is not necessary or required. Potential applicants should consider their ability to adapt to unfamiliar and occasionally uncomfortable conditions, especially as one is becoming accustomed to the work. You will sometimes have to tolerate heat or cold, dirty skin and clothes, sore muscles, calloused hands, repetitive tasks, and direct contact with insects. You may also have to tolerate silly song singing, cute barn cats trying to “help” you work, sharing/cooking yummy farm meals, meeting new people from around the country and the world, having your jobs change over the course of the season or even a day, and taking refreshing dips in the creek at lunchtime or after work.

Applicants should be in good physical, mental, and emotional health! Key qualities we are looking for in our interns are reliability, mental/emotional stability, genuine friendliness and enthusiasm for life, willingness to learn and to work hard, a high degree of self-motivation, and the ability to learn via observation and questioning in addition to "direct" teaching. In addition, patience, possession of a good sense of humor, adaptability, and the ability to respect and work with others in a team will serve you well. Being willing/able to interact with children and adults in social or farmers-market settings is a must. The ability to focus on tasks and maintain attention to detail is also important. Our past experience strongly suggests that those applicants with at least some successful college experience usually have the maturity level we are seeking, but we will consider applications from anyone 18 years or older. The internship will provide you with many opportunities for learning and skill building, but how much you get out of it will in large part be up to you and how actively you pursue these opportunities. We will nudge you in some critical directions, but have found those who ask us more questions and pursue more paths of personal interest will ultimately find more answers (and more questions!)

Having a drivers license, a safe driving record, and being comfortable/confidant driving a car or van (automatic transmission), will be a plus for your application, but is not required. Experience is preferred, and anyone comfortable driving their own car will easily be able to drive our van or pickup truck when/if need arises.

​Realistically, potential interns must be capable of sustained physical work outdoors in all weather conditions and temperatures. While we are not a huge wholesale operation that relies on a large labor pool of professional speed pickers, we do value efficiency and personal initiative, while also having fun. Farm work is more of a lifestyle than a typical 9-5 job, and it comes with a lot of perks even though we work hard. We do all the same work as our interns, and interns share in our lives, holidays, and fun events as we go through the year. We and our interns host a weekly community potluck that has become one of the events we most look forward to, but is also a bit of work to set up and take down from each week. For many people, practicing this kind of farming and living in community is a very satisfying kind of existence.

Application Process

Read our full position description and apply via our website here:

https://www.athenasharvest.com/internships-employment

Apply

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