We hire employees every summer and always have. We pay them slightly higher than minimum wage, and we teach a variety of skills to each of them. Generally, we really enjoy them – we get art majors and English majors and environmental studies majors, kids who aren’t planning on going to college at all, and even people who want to learn to farm. They’re all almost always fun and interesting to have around. We expect them to pay attention to what’s going on and think, and we know that they work hard for us and truly contribute to the farm. For all of this, they deserve to be paid. We don't believe that apprentices should be "free help for farmers."
Apprentices are a slightly different type of employee. Apprentices expect to develop knowledge about the business of farming that will lead to the apprentice being able to own or manage a farm. We expect apprentices to be personally invested in the success of the farm and not just show up to earn a paycheck. For that, we will help them learn as much as they want to about the farm.
This mutual commitment manifests itself in some fundamental differences from a typical summer employment situation. We take time to explain the technical, business, and planning aspects of the farm to the apprentices, but not to the regular summer employees. Housing is available to the apprentices but not to regular summer employees. The apprentices commit more time, typically 50 hours per week, where our summer employees generally average around 35 hours per week. The apprentices commit some personal time to their own education, understanding our operation and the reasons why we do things the way we do, to studying the technical aspect of farming, and attending workshops with apprentices from other local farms.
We believe that an apprentice should have a decent place to live and earn money in exchange for their commitment. If all goes well, both we and the apprentices should come away from the experience feeling like we each got a good deal. Like everything else in life, nobody wins unless everybody wins at least a little bit.