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Pastured Poultry & livestock farm in southwest Virginia looking for apprentices

Weathertop Farm LLC
Published
January 18, 2023
Location
Check, (Floyd County) Virginia
Type of farm?
Livestock (All Animals)
Start Date
2023/03/01
End Date
2023/12/20
Work Schedule
~8 hrs/ day, 6 days/week. (varies by season)
Compensation
$800/month stipend, housing included
Housing Available
Yes
Housing Location
On Farm
Meals Provided
Yes
Which Meals
Lunch
Application Parameters
Families Welcome, Male, Female, Other (explained in position description)
Positions Available
5
Tag Words
Butchering On Farm, Cattle, Chicken, Composting, Direct Market, Ducks, Eggs, Grass, Holistic, Livestock, Multi-species, Non-GMO, Pastured, Poultry, Sheep, Swine, Turkey

Description

Description

Weathertop Farm is a family-owned and operated farm located on about 200 acres in scenic Floyd County, Virginia, just a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, and only 14 miles from the Town of Floyd, renowned for a thriving art, music, and local food scene.
  
We are dedicated to holistic regenerative agriculture through multi-species rotational grazing and intensive management. No antibiotics or hormones are used, and all livestock eat from pasture that is free of pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers. Any supplemental feed we use is non-GMO and locally sourced. Our diverse business includes raising and selling pastured chickens, eggs, pigs, lamb, turkeys, and cattle. In contrast to homestead or other non-profit operations, we are a for-profit business, therefore all facets of our farm must work together to enhance the whole business. We do the bulk of our sales direct-to-consumer here at the farm, another large portion through farmers markets, and a limited amount of wholesale to local food stores. 
 
Our daily farm work and life shifts with the seasons. In addition to daily animal care we also do all our own poultry processing here on the farm. That involves chicken processing on average once per week from June-October, as well as several days of turkey butchering in October and November. The hogs, sheep and steers all have assigned dates with the butcher, which involves catching and transport to & from the various processors. In our freezers, we maintain a fairly large inventory of meats which we take to farmers markets and sell here at the farm.   

What we raise on our farm:
-Laying hens: 2 flocks of 500-600 hens each, rotated to 2 new flocks each year (overlapping for summer months).
-Broiler chickens: 10 batches of 600 each, arriving at the farm as chicks every 2 weeks beginning in April. Poultry processing begins early June and runs through mid-October.
-Turkeys: About 500 turkeys raised each year for Thanksgiving (August–November).
-Hogs: 10 sows in 2 groups that farrow twice each year. All hogs are born, raised and finished here on the farm.
-Sheep: About 60 Katahdin ewes, lambing each year in May. All lambs born, raised and finished (100% grassfed) here on our farm.
-Cattle: We finish about 20 head each year, brought in as weened calves at around 5-6 months old, and raised 100% on grass, sold at around 2 years old.

Our farm team is composed of owner-farmers, Sarah & Cedric, along with 4 to 6 employees in apprentice and manager positions, as needs dictate. Additionally, our farm encompasses a diverse multi-generational community of family, friends, neighbors and visitors, from grandparents to young children, all of whom participate with the farm at various times and in varying degrees, so patience, flexibility and understanding are a must.
  
We care a great deal about our farm community. We value diversity and equality and welcome anyone who is kind and conscientious to apply to join our team. Couples welcome. 

Location Specifics

Weathertop Farm is located on about 200 acres in rural, scenic Floyd County, Virginia, just a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, and only 14 miles from the Town of Floyd, renowned for a thriving art, music, and local food scene.

Options for local recreation:
Meet other apprentices in Floyd to socialize & network with them 
The nearby Town of Floyd has a great food, music & arts scene  
Proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway offers lots of options for hiking & camping 
Nearby Blacksburg, home of Virginia Tech, is a great college town with lots going on 
Near Roanoke, the “Star City,” if ever you’re looking for a bit of trendy/city vibe

Position Description

We're looking for folks interested in and passionate about preserving sustainable agriculture systems within our local food-shed communities.

Weathertop Farm accepts 4 to 6 farm-hand-apprentices each year for the duration of our season beginning in March through mid-December. We give preference to those who can commit to the full season.
 
Apprentices must be ready to work hard doing manual labor in all kinds of weather. We expect apprentices to put in 40-50 hours a week on average, depending on farm schedule and season; summer is our busiest time. Depending upon the day or task, apprentices can expect to answer to and work alongside farmers Cedric & Sarah for some tasks and independently or in teams for others.   

Each apprentice will rotate through all areas of the farm. Work will include but is not limited to:
 
Daily care of animals (work closely with livestock: hens, broilers, turkeys, hogs, cattle, sheep) 
Collecting & cleaning eggs 
Handling feed in 50-lb sacks on a daily basis  
Operating tractor and mower 
Daily portable-electric-fence moving 
Frequent set-up/moving of portable housing, hoses, fences, etc., for all animal groups  
Daily pasture-pen moving for broilers (some by hand, some by tractor) 
Keeping track of animal movement on the grazing chart 
On-farm poultry processing (averaging once/week June-Nov); participation is mandatory 
Assisting in set-up of trailers for catching/sorting animals 
Occasional building & maintenance projects 
Deliveries to local businesses 
Operate farmers market stall 
Handle on-farm sales 
Keeping each work area clean and organized
Miscellaneous tasks may involve, but are not limited to: composting, mowing, cleaning out bedding from brooder & hoop-houses, firewood prep, driving to mill for feed pick-up and unloading, etc.

Housing Provided:
Shared 2-bedroom attic apartment  
Shared 3-bedroom house  
Both housing options come with individual bedrooms, full kitchen & bath (including composting toilet), washer/dryer, heating, wifi. All utilities included. 

Education Potential

You can expect to learn about the nitty-gritty details of raising animals first-hand--what the daily work is like on a farm as well as the bigger picture of how we plan for the year and how to integrate multiple species in a pasture-based system. We will spend a lot of time in conversation about farming and related issues. You will have ample opportunity to ask whatever questions you have.

Through this experience you can gain an understanding of the daily ups and downs and ins and outs of a farming season. Because of the diverse range of tasks we require help with--from raising animals to butchering to marketing and sales--you will gain an understanding of how the diverse multi-species grazing operation of our farm is integrated into one business, functioning as a whole.

Group farm classes:
We aim to hold a class about once every week or every two weeks, depending on the season. Classes start with lunch and discussions are prefaced by a variety of short readings or videos to spur conversation. We focus on a wide range of topics related to farming and symbiotic issues. Classes alternate between practical how-to classes & more theoretical discussions, in which Farmer Cedric delves into his passion which combines philosophy & farming. When possible, we do our best to cater class offerings to individual preference and interest. 

Additional Opportunities:
 
Access to our farm library, including some recommended readings and podcasts 
Visit with other farms & alternative food systems in Floyd 
Occasional workshops, lectures, films, conferences offered in the Floyd area 
Farm conference, when possible. 

Food Provided

eggs, meat & poultry raised on the farm is available for apprentices to use.
Some staples are provided.
Occasionally vegetables as well.

Expectations

What we require of an apprentice: 
 
Ability to do manual labor (e.g. lifting and moving a lot of 50 lb feed sacks)  
Enthusiasm, flexibility, & tenacity 
Ability & willingness to follow directions & ask questions 
Cooperation in working with others 
Individual initiative 
Patience both with yourself & others 
Comfortable around animals 
Good physical health & fitness 
Perseverance through adverse weather (heat, cold, rain, mud, etc) 
Willingness to work on weekends and holidays
Commitment to the entire season 
No firearms and no illegal drugs.  
No smoking or vaping within farm buildings or living facilities or during work hours. 
Not distracted by personal technology (cell phone, etc.) during workday 

Not required, but are a plus: 
 
Previous farming experience  
Basic carpentry or mechanical skills 
Comfortable driving (or learning to drive) tractors, manual-gear truck, large delivery van 
Comfortable or experienced in a sales setting and interacting with customers 
Having your own vehicle (no local public transportation available)

Application Process

Steps to apply: 
-Please visit our website and familiarize yourself with our farm before applying
- Complete the Apprentice Application (which can be found on our website: https://www.weathertopfarm.com/apprenticeship)
-Upload optional cv/resume to Apprentice Application form. 
-You can expect to hear from us within two weeks of receiving your completed application. 
-If your application is selected for further consideration, please keep in mind that that we will require an on-farm visit as proximity allows. Since an apprenticeship at Weathertop Farm involves working, living, and socializing in close proximity, we feel it is important that we meet face-to-face so all of us can get a sense of people and place.  
-Contact us with any questions: info@weathertopfarm.com 

Apply

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