Athena’s Harvest Farm Internship – Tennessee

Athena's Harvest Farm

Athena’s Harvest Farm has openings for 2 interns for the 2018 season – Fly, Tennessee

Interns receive a modest stipend, housing, and partial board. For a more wholistic description of the internship, as well as more of the nitty gritty information (stipend/housing/food/etc.), and to apply, please go to http://athenasharvest.com/2018-internship-information

A brief description of the internship and Athena’s Harvest Farm:

At Athena’s Harvest Farm, we want our interns to learn how to farm, not just do work, and we take the time and energy to needed to pursue that goal. You will see the good, the bad, and the ugly, from field work, to planning, to finances. We also place a premium on community and fun and shared experience. We are not wealthy in the financial sense, but we live and eat very well.

Athena’s Harvest Farm is a small vegetable farm run by former Peace Corps volunteers in Fly, TN, 33 miles (as the crow flies) from downtown Nashville. While our property consists of 55 acres, we intensively produce a wide diversity of sustainably grown vegetables and some fruit on approximately 2 acres of land, with the majority of our sales occurring at retail farmers markets we attend in Nashville, through our CSA program (weekly subscription box of produce), and via restaurant sales.

Our land consists of rolling pasture, wooded hills, and good bottom farm land. We have a long stretch of creek frontage and springs as well as our farm house, a small greenhouse, and two barns. We use a motley crew of interns (that’s potentially you if you are reading this), shorter term WWOOFers, and local volunteers to grow food and get it out into the community. Teaching and learning are integral parts of our mission, and we do weekly check-ins with everyone to make sure that people are learning what they want, and so that feedback can flow both directions.

To learn more about our farm, check out our website (athenasharvest.com) and Facebook page, and follow our stream on Instagram (@athenasharvest). We would be happy to answer any questions about us, our farm, and our internship positions via phone or email before you fill out an application, but reading this information and looking over our website should give you a good place to start.

THE WORK

Athena’s Harvest Farm takes on 2 interns per season, often college students taking some semesters off or looking for an internship, recent grads who want to learn about farming, or others with a genuine interest in the work and lifestyle of small scale sustainable agriculture. Because we take the time to instruct new workers and give them additional responsibilities as they become more proficient, and because it naturally takes time for them to build their physical prowess, we prefer to take on interns who can work a full season or a large portion thereof. The “season” runs roughly 9 months from early March through late November, and we give preference to interns who can commit to at least 8 months or more. 7 months is a minimum commitment.

Over the course of a season, activities will consist of a wide variety of field work, greenhouse work, planting, transplanting, harvesting, weeding, washing, irrigating, pruning, covering and uncovering, packing, delivering, mulching, market prep, produce selling, equipment/tool/vehicle maintenance, construction, land maintenance, mowing, fence mending, organic pest control, social media engagement, and a multitude of other tasks. Though not certified, we exclusively use organic best practices to grow diverse fruits and vegetables while maintaining our farm’s soil health and ecological balance. No synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides are used, and we don’t plant any GMOs.

Contrary to popular stereotypes, successful farmers must be intelligent, hard working, and proficient in a wide variety of disciplines, and we try to expose our interns to all of them. We like to think of ourselves as specialized generalists.  Prior experience in this type of work is valuable and may help your application, but is not necessary or required. Potential applicants should consider their ability to adapt to unfamiliar and occasionally uncomfortable conditions, especially as one is becoming accustomed to the work. You will sometimes have to tolerate heat or cold, dirty skin and clothes, sore muscles, calloused hands, repetitive tasks, and direct contact with insects. You may also have to tolerate silly song singing, cute barn cats trying to “help” you work, sharing/cooking yummy farm meals, meeting new people from around the country and the world, having your jobs change over the course of the season or even a day, and taking refreshing dips in the creek at lunchtime or after work.

Key qualities we are looking for in interns at Athena’s Harvest Farm are genuine friendliness and enthusiasm for life, willingness to learn and to work hard, possession of a good sense of humor, adaptability, and the ability to respect and work with others in a team. Our past experience suggests that those applicants with at least some college experience usually have the maturity level we are seeking, but we will consider applications from anyone 18 years or older.

Realistically, potential interns must be capable of sustained physical work outdoors in all weather conditions and temperatures. While we are not a huge wholesale operation that relies on a large labor pool of professional speed pickers, we do value efficiency and personal initiative, while also having fun. Farm work is more of a lifestyle than a typical 9-5 job, and it comes with a lot of perks even though we work hard. We do all the same work as our interns, and interns share in our lives, holidays, and fun events as we go through the year. We host a weekly community potluck that has become one of the events we most look forward to. For many people, practicing this kind of farming and living in community is a very satisfying kind of existence.

INTERN POSITIONS at ATHENA’S HARVEST FARM

Ideally, our two interns will begin at approximately the same time, arriving as a cohort for living and learning purposes. All Athena’s Harvest Farm interns will regularly do and be exposed to all of the types of work mentioned above (with planting, picking, weeding, harvesting, washing, and market related activities being the bulk of the work), but we prefer that our interns also take on a few areas of particular focus/interest, and increasing responsibility. Fear not, we will train you (or perhaps, you will train us, depending on your prior experience).

Possible areas of focus include (but are not limited to):

  • Mushroom Production
    • We plan to ramp up our our production of oyster mushrooms in 2018. We use a production system based on pasteurized straw and 5 gallon buckets. New straw must be chopped, pasteurized and seeded with spawn on a regular basis, and growing mushrooms must be misted and harvested as needed. You could become the king or queen of fungi.
  • Canning/fermenting/drying/food-preservation
    • We sell, eat, donate, or preserve as much of the harvest as possible each year, and food-preservation is an important way we try not to let our work go to waste. In some cases it also provides us with an additional revenue stream as a value-added product (ex. dried herbs). These are great skills for everyone to learn, but there is definitely a learning curve for doing it well, and practice is the only way to become proficient.
  • Social media engagement, and blog/newsletter management
    • We maintain a Facebook page, an Instagram feed, and a Twitter account in addition to a website with a blog and a CSA newsletter. You would regularly contribute to our social media output in all of these realms with input from us. Professional language, spelling, and online etiquette is a must.
  • Volunteer & School-Group Coordination
    • We plan to increase the number of volunteers and volunteer hours worked on the farm this year, while also beginning to host some school groups. A certain amount of logistics is required to reach out to people, respond to queries, and assist with volunteer/school visits. You would help plan and assist with these tasks as needed.
  • Light construction/carpentry
    • As a relatively new farm, we are still building out our facilities and infrastructure. The list of possible small construction/carpentry projects is nearly endless, and you would occasionally work/assist on some of these projects (to be prioritized together) in lieu of or in addition to agricultural work.
  • Farm equipment/tool/vehicle maintenance
    • We have a range of hand tools, small machines, and farm vehicles that need to be maintained (cleaned, sharpened, repaired, fluids changed, tires pumped, etc.). You would assist with these tasks and learn to take some of them on fully based on a schedule that we can work out together.
  • Orchard/woodlot maintenance
    • We have a small orchard (not yet in full production), berry plants, and a property full of old fences and field edges that need to be improved and maintained (pruned/ trained/ mulched/ mowed/ fertilized/ repaired, etc). Downed trees need to be sawed into firewood. You would assist with these tasks.
  • Permaculture Design & Implementation
    • We are at the beginning of our permaculture design process. This is a good time to get hands on permaculture training in a real world setting. This year we will be doing base-mapping, examining flows of water, air, sunlight, people, and animals, researching food forest species appropriate for our site, and beginning implementation of our design. You would be a co-conspirator!
  • Other areas
    • Past interns have taken on projects ranging from worm composting, to baking, to sign making. There are many possible ways to contribute to our farm livelihood and community life.

To be clear once again, everyone will learn/do a bit of everything outlined above, but we will specifically encourage you to pursue some focused interests (or nudge you in a direction we think you may be suited for) as time progresses.

For full information (stipend/housing/food/etc.), and to apply for an Athena’s Harvest Farm Internship, please go to:

http://athenasharvest.com/2018-internship-information

 

To learn more about farming jobs and internships or to post an opportunity on beginningfarmers.org, go to: http://www.beginningfarmers.org/internship-and-employment-opportunities/

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