by Tyler Hale
In recent years, apprenticeship programs have come back to the forefront as a way of introducing young people to new profession. Used largely in technical professions, these apprenticeship programs offer students a glimpse into the realities of a given vocation before committing fully to it.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is launching a new apprenticeship program geared towards farming. Starting in January 2020, the apprenticeship aims to match future farmers with experienced farmers, providing them with both hands-on instruction and academic work over the course of 10 months to two years.
This program will be managed by the Center for Farm and Food System Entrepreneurship (CFFSE), a partnership operated through the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station. CFFSE’s objective is to bolster the state’s farming system by providing “experiential learning opportunities,” according to a UA release.
During the program, apprentices will develop an academic understanding of farming and agriculture before beginning the experiential aspect of the program. After completing the classroom work, each apprentice will be matched up with potential mentors and will interview with them. There is also the possibility of on-farm workday before committing to the mentor-mentee relationship.
Ideal candidates for the program have prior farming experience but require further training before farming on their own.
“We’re looking for people who are seriously contemplating food production for local and regional markets as a profession,” Friedrich said in a statement. “Ideally, those coming into the program will have some experience in food production, either from other farms, backyard gardening or education.”
According to Heather Friedrich, program manager in the UA Horticulture Department, the individual experiences of each apprentice will vary based on their mentor. However, all participants will be required to participate in classroom work, complete weekly blog posts, and expect to work long hours typical in farming.
The ultimate purpose of the apprenticeship program, Friedrich says, is to prepare future farmers for the realities of starting and working on a farm operation. Friedrich encourages the participants not only to work during the program but to use their mentor as a resource, learning the ins-and-outs of the farming operation.
“The heart of the program is the experiential learning that happens on a working farm,” Friedrich said. “Apprentices will be working hard physically but should also be asking questions, observing, being actively engaged in understanding the farming system in which they are placed so that they may one day operate their own farm.”
Applications are being accepted until Sunday, Dec. 15. There is an annual $285 fee for participating in the program if accepted.
To apply for the program, click here.