Black Robin Farm Internships in Montana

Black Robin Farm

Black Robin Farm is a four acre Farm and Orchard right on the edge of Bozeman, along a creek, within biking distance of the best parts of town. We have goats, lambs, rabbits, chickens, a pond, classroom, and 100+ tree orchard (with baby trees so far), and great spots to hang a hammock!

WE ARE CURRENTLY looking primarily for a few more volunteers for at least a full month or the entire season. We will, however, also consider shorter term help.

If interested, please send resume and cover letter to blackrobinfarmandorchard@gmail.com.

This year Black Robin Farm will be working mostly on farmhouse and cabin construction and landscaping. We may also be working on installing new permaculture elements, potential tiny house building, curriculum development, additional trees and other edibles, possibly raising fish, weeding, planting cover crops, grains, and gardens, fine-tuning the root cellar, terracing berms, installing solar power, designing a greywater system, landscaping pond and wetland, timber-framing and masonry, restoring a stream bank, mulching and composting

Black Robin Farm

Black Robin Farm is located on four acres just on the eastern edge of Bozeman, Montana. It is bordered by Sourdough Creek, and includes a pond, greenhouse, smokehouse, classroom and studios, farmhouse, cabin, campers for volunteers, outdoor eating and hang-out area, a newly-planted orchard, several garden plots, tiny house construction site, grape arbor, hugelkultur berms, and pasture/open space for our livestock. Black Robin is a couple minutes by bike from downtown Bozeman, the public library, Montana State University, the farmers market, a stop for the free bus line, and a few seconds away from miles of biking, hiking, and cross-country skiing trails. Bozeman, in turn, is a few hours away from Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, dozens of hot springs, many Indian Reservations, and numerous National and State Forests and recreation areas.

Black Robin Farm Mission

At Black Robin Farm we strive to use the land wisely, grow organic, work toward sustainability and self-sufficiency, eat healthy, experiment with efficient permaculture, agriculture, animal husbandry, and homesteading skills and then demonstrate those skills to kids, families and young adults.

Who We Are

Black Robin Farm is made up of volunteers, interns, local volunteers, and farm partners. We generally have between two and five (though perhaps as many as ten) volunteers at the farm at any given time.

What Work We Do

At Black Robin Farm we generally work three eight-hour or four six-hour days a week. In addition we work six hours per week on chores and individual farm projects. We work efficiently and intensely with only one break for lunch so that we can finish our work in this very short amount of time. Much of the work at Black Robin is physically demanding (digging, sawing, using a pick-ax), plenty is tedious (weeding, path making, hand digging and cultivation of gardens), and some requires skill-development and careful attention to detail (construction, milking goats, bottle-feeding lambs and goats).

A typical day at Black Robin Farm has us waking up quite early for chores and meal preparation, eating breakfast together or separately, then meeting for an overview of the day's plan. We do a warm up stretching and motivation session then begin to work. We may weed gardens or pull seed heads from pasture weeds for an hour or so, then begin individual or small group projects such as hauling wood chips for paths, adding compost to gardens, sanding rough cut boards for construction, building a wall, pouring a concrete footing, mucking out livestock quarters, etcetera. In the middle of the work day we eat lunch together. After work (in the afternoon and evening and on our days off) we do our chores and farm projects.

Orientation

We like for volunteers to begin working on or near an orientation day. We will try to make the orientation day sometime during the first week of every month, generally the first Monday. It is best to arrive a day or two before the orientation day so you can get settled in.

Our Season

Bozeman has approximately 90 frost-free days (from 15 June to 15 September). March through May we are starting seeds, preparing garden beds, organizing for the Bozeman Seed Exchange, helping goats and sheep to have babies, bottle feeding babies, and working on construction projects. In May and June we are planting our gardens, tending trees, getting our irrigation system fixed-up and running, still bottle feeding babies and working on construction and landscaping projects. In July and August we are tending gardens, taking care of animals, weeding, removing seed heads from weeds, planting cover crops and green manure crops, working on construction and landscaping projects. In September through November we are harvesting, saving seeds, preserving vegetables for the winter, still weeding and removing seed heads, planting more perennials, preparing gardens for spring, and still working on construction and landscaping projects. December through March we can finally relax and are taking it easy (and taking care of animals and planning for next season and...well, you get the picture!).

What Sort of Volunteer Does Well at Black Robin

Black Robin Farm has had many great volunteers. Some have come to us with skills and experience with farming and construction and many have not. We are constantly trying to figure out who does well here and who does not. This is important to us because volunteers who are ill-suited to Black Robin may leave with a bad feeling about farming, about our farm, and about permaculture. Also, when volunteers leave before completing their agreed-upon stint this leaves Black Robin in a bad position and may hurt group morale. So, we want all our volunteers to be enriched and satisfied with their experience at Black Robin.

The following seem to be characteristics of volunteers who are happy with their Black Robin Farm experience: they come to Black Robin prepared to really work (not only, for instance, to see Montana or get a free place to stay for a month); they enjoy hard work; they know what farm and homesteading work entails; perhaps they have worked on a farm or at a very demanding job before; they are not afraid to get dirty, to sweat, to have their muscles ache after work; they communicate well and are willing to ask their supervisor for special accommodations in case they are feeling overworked; they are generally positive people; they understand and accept that there might be a better, more efficient, quicker way to do chores and they strive to find that way; they are willing to try anything; they want to learn as much as possible; they realize a certain amount of drudgery and repetition may be required at a farm; they are willing to do monotonous tasks such as hauling wood-chips or weeding for (occasionally) several hours a day; they are flexible enough to accept when conditions are not as they expected them to be; they can deal with working very quickly and efficiently for eight hours, three or four days a week, and then to do their relaxing after chores and work.

What We Don't Do

We try to make Black Robin Farm a healthy place and a model for our visiting children and families. We do not allow smoking, alcohol, or drug use on the farm. Any parties end at dusk.

Progress So Far

Black Robin Farm began in 2013. Since then we have built a greenhouse, chicken coop, livestock quarters, outdoor pavilion for volunteers, grape arbor, and pond, erected grain bins, set-up campers for volunteers, built a classroom and studio building, installed a septic system, renovated a cabin, constructed a farmhouse, planted an orchard, several gardens, raised beds, and herb gardens, planted 1500+ perennial edibles, restored 300 feet of stream bank, built-up several hugelkultur berms, raised many great goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits, and pigs, eradicated numerous noxious weeds, taught groups of children about permaculture and homesteading, instructed dozens of volunteers, and started the Bozeman Seed Exchange.

Progress Still to Come

Black Robin Farm has many projects still in the works. We would like to erect one or more tiny houses, a straw-bale livestock house, improve our pavilion and outdoor eating area, plant more perennial crops such as grapes, lavender, and more fruits and berries, eradicate more weeds, build more paths, erect two or three more grain bins, build another greenhouse, construct a masonry fireplace, finish construction of the farmhouse and cabin, raise more animals, expand our permaculture and homesteading classes for kids and families, and create a seed library for Bozeman.

What You Should Bring to Black Robin

Though we have some of these items for you to use, it is best if you bring the following with you to the Farm: work gloves (one pair for every two weeks you will be here), sun hat and sunscreen, clothing appropriate for the season, work boots, a bicycle, sleeping bag or other bedding, toiletries, enough clothes so that you only need to do laundry once or twice a month.

Challenges

There are many challenges to working on a farm in general, farming in Montana, and specifically volunteering at Black Robin Farm. You may have to work in cold, rainy, snowy, and muddy weather; you will have lots of hard work; you will share housing in small campers; there will be limited shower availability; there is no laundry facility; we have neighbors who are sometimes ornery; you will be supervised by a bit of a workaholic micro-manager 😉 ; you will face "best practices" established by previous volunteers so that you will be expected to do each task faster, smarter, safer, more responsibly, and more efficiently than you would expect; you will need to come to Black Robin ready to create a community with other volunteers and to plan activities for your days and evenings off; and there will likely be other challenges as well.

What You Will Learn

When you stay long enough at Black Robin Farm you will learn some or most of the following: a new meaning of "hard work", construction skills, how to use power tools, how to measure and plan for a construction job, how to pour concrete, weeding and weed management, general labor skills, gardening, orchard care, beekeeping skills, basic homesteading, animal care, cheesemaking, goat milking, sausage making, animal slaughtering and butchering, landscaping basics, pond management, tree planting and care, minor veterinary, and other skills.

Food

Black Robin Farm will provide you with staple foods from which you will prepare meals for yourself and the group. We do not generally provide snack or junk foods but instead provide the healthy basics such as dried beans, oats, rice, meat -including meat from our farm animals-, cheese, vegetables, bread, milk, yogurt, nuts, vegetables, and fruits. We eat lunch together each work day. Breakfast is on your own and extremely basic (oats, eggs, bread, fruit) but lunch is more elaborate. We encourage each volunteer to cook a few lunches a week for the crew. Dinner is on your own, with staples and other basic ingredients we provide.

Pay/Stipend

Black Robin Farm does not pay its interns or volunteers for their work. However, in order to help longer term volunteers to manage their living expenses, this year we are going to try providing a very small stipend. Volunteers may use this stipend to pay for laundry, snacks, other foods we don’t generally provide, toiletries, personal items, gas for driving or being driven to events, travel, admission fees into National Parks and hot springs, etcetera. Volunteers must complete a full month (two months, etcetera) before being eligible for the stipend. In addition, interns who commit to full season work may be given a slightly larger stipend.

First full month (120 hours): $50

Second full month: $50 + $25 bonus*

Third full month: $50 + $50 bonus

Fourth full month: $50 + $75 bonus

Fifth full month: $50 + $75 bonus

Sixth full month: $50 + $75 bonus

*Bonus will be given to volunteer at the conclusion of their agreed-upon time commitment.

References and Letters of Recommendation

Black Robin Farm is happy to write references and letters of recommendation for previous volunteers. We generally write references after you write a reference for us. If we are slow in writing your reference, just remind us! If you’d like a letter of recommendation for a university, job, volunteer position, or other application, just tell us!

If interested, please send resume and cover letter to blackrobinfarmandorchard@gmail.com.

A Few Notes:

1) Our on-site showers are only warm if you fill the solar shower container in the morning and let it sit in the sun until the afternoon, 2) our accommodations are small campers which are almost always shared (2 to 3 volunteers per camper), 3) we work hard and try to work efficiently – even if it’s only for 30 hours a week (it can be exhausting for those days we work! ((I am, ahem, a micromanager and task-master when it comes to farm and construction work. I also get a bit tunnel visioned during the work-day and concentrate primarily on how we can get as much quality work done as possible. Fair warning!) 4) we are constantly changing and (hopefully) improving our farm; sometimes things are messy, in transition, rough, etcetera!, 5) we are not experts and are learning right alongside our volunteers! 6) Winter, spring, and fall work can be cold and miserable sometimes and we can only afford to heat the campers or other accommodations when people are in them and using them (Plus, we are also trying to encourage permaculture practices such as sustainability and a near zero carbon footprint)… We do not heat campers in the summer, though nights can get cold. 7) If you volunteer with us in the winter you will definitely be cold at times, there might be no shower except when we go to the hot springs once a week, and you will need lots of blankets and sleeping bags and winter clothing in order to keep somewhat warm, 8) We do not have laundry facilities or WIFI in the accommodations or on the farm, 9) We take commitments seriously so if you commit to come to the farm for a month, for instance, we really need you to stay the entire time (otherwise we will be short-handed and unable to find a replacement volunteer), 10) If you commit, start working, then have any issues with the work or the farm, we ask that you not quit early but instead bring those issues up to us right away so we can work with you on them. 11) If you understand these notes and still are interested in volunteering here, then great! If some of these notes worry you then that is fine also and Black Robin might be a better fit once we are past our growing pains and have more amenities!

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