EarthDance, a non-profit farming organization at the historical Mueller Organic Farm in Ferguson, offers a season-long apprenticeship program that is now accepting applications through December 1. EarthDance partners with The Open Space Council to promote its FARMS program (Food, Art, Relationships & Music, Sustainably!). This past year, EarthDance grew 40 different crops, as well as herbs and flowers. So, you may wonder, what does it take to be an apprentice at the EarthDance farm beyond a commitment to sustainable agriculture?
According to Rachel Levi, the Farm & Community Education Coordinator, no gardening or farming experience is necessary. However, apprentices must feel extremely comfortable with the outdoors, since the farm work occurs from the chilly days in March through the sweltering heat of July. More importantly, potential apprentices must possess an enthusiasm for working and learning cooperatively. “Group cohesion matters at EarthDance,” explains Levi, “We look for applicants that will help build a supportive community.”
Apprentices are expected to contribute 10 hours a week, which may include working a shift at either the Ferguson or Maplewood Farmer's Markets, a weekly enrichment sessions, field walks on the farm, or the monthly potluck dinner. The program also includes field trips to neighboring farms, during which the apprentices can learn from seasoned farmers about their techniques and goals.
To be an apprentice, you do not need to have future plans to operate your own farm. About half of the 2009 graduates are currently doing commercial farming, but many of the 2010 and 2011 freshman “farmies” are interested in community and youth gardens. Levi adds, “Some of our students believe that knowing how to grow food is a basic skill that more people in our culture should possess.”
Ultimately, EarthDance aims to impart to the apprentices the confidence to continue growing food independently. Additionally, EarthDance hopes to convey the sense that the apprentices are now a part of the Good Food Movement in the St. Louis region. Oh, and don’t expect to graduate without an understanding of utilizing row cover, proper tool maintenance, the spraying of organic pest-deterrents, and the costs and benefits of particular farm machinery.
You can learn more about the Apprenticeship Program by visiting EarthDance’s website at www.earthdancefarms.org, or by attending a “So, You Want To Be A Farmer?” info session on Thursday, October 20 from 7:00-8:30 p.m. at the University City Public Library, 6701 Delmar.