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New Formal Apprenticeship for Vegetable Farmers

Posted by Christina Kostelecky at Aug 09, 2017 12:05 PM |
PASA is excited to officially unveil the news about our Diversified Vegetable Apprenticeship program or "DVA" for short. The program will help to give structure and support to farmers and apprentices alike as they work through the process of on-farm training and skills development...

PASA is excited to officially unveil the news about our Diversified Vegetable Apprenticeship program or "DVA" for short. The program will help to give structure and support to farmers and apprentices alike as they work through the process of on-farm training and skills development.

The “earn-as-you-learn” nature of apprenticeships is well suited to agriculture and is one of the traditional routes for new farmers. Many PASA farms have informal programs that teach valuable production methods. Unfortunately, many farms aren’t able to train management level skills: the farms lack the additional time, resources, or confidence to provide the training necessary for apprentices to be able to function independently and/or to make management-level decisions. Understandably, this often leads to burnout, early termination of the apprentice experience, poor work performance, and stress for everyone.

Ike with Beets

Formalized apprenticeships have the potential to address all of these common pitfalls for both the farmer and the apprentice, leading to improved productivity, more stable farm labor, greater learning, and greater overall satisfaction. In fact, the model for the Diversified Vegetable Apprenticeship comes directly from PASA's success over the past three seasons administering the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship program. Since 2016 we’ve been working with our members and partner organizations to develop a statewide apprenticeship for diversified vegetable production, registered with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and administered by PASA, to support the training of the next generation of farmers.

Curriculum Development Activities

Managing a farm is like having a dozen (or more) jobs at once. Documenting all of the complex tasks is key to training a successful new farmer. To understand all of this complexity, we have been preparing a “developing a curriculum” or “DACUM” workshop in the early winter of 2017. A DACUM requires that several high-level practitioners of a job work together to break down their work into specific areas of competency and to enumerate each of the skills essential to success in these areas.

PASA staff have been collaborating with several other organizations developing similar programs to provide support and insights to each other. Our partnering organizations include: the University of Wisconsin, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), Cornell University, and Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). This collaboration has meant that we didn’t have to start our program from square one and has given us valuable insights into the apprenticeship development process.

Picking Peppers

Finally, in our conversations with stakeholder farmers we have been collecting suggested resources that will be provided to all apprentices to help supplement their daily learning through on-the-job work. These materials include books, bulletins, newsletters, websites, and videos that help the farmers do their work. Priority is given to those resources that are the easiest to understand and are the most practical for farmers. If you have a resource that has helped you be a better farmer, please let us know!

Goals and Recommendations for 2018

The next year will primarily focus on the “nuts-and-bolts” development and implementation of the DVA. In addition to the activities already mentioned, we will be continuing our outreach to experienced diversified vegetable growers to become potential host farms for the program, seeking out potential apprentices, and supporting our inaugural class of DVA apprentices. We've visited with 17 farms so far this year with the goal of reaching at least 25 farmers by the end of the year.

If you know a farmer or potential apprentice who you feel is particularly well suited to this program, please let a PASA staff member know - we are always looking to expand our pool of potential candidates on both fronts.

The coming year will be exciting for PASA as we begin to execute and operationalize the Diversified Vegetable Apprenticeship while also working to raise the support necessary to maximize its potential impact for vegetable farmers in Pennsylvania.

For questions, additional information, or to share a resource for the DVA, please contact Three Rivers Hub Manager Dan Dalton at dan@pasafarming.org or 814-349-9856 ext. 17.

By Dan Dalton, Three Rivers Hub Manager

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