Ploughshare Farm

Contact: Gary or Jennifer Brever
6653 Harvest Place NW
Parkers Prairie, MN 56361
Email: gjbrever@midwestinfo.net
Website: www.ploughsharefarm.com
Best way to contact us: email

--Awarded the “Best Farm/Farmer of the Year” award in 2009 by the “Edible Twin Cities”
--Featured on the “The Splendid Table” in December of 2011.
 

Internship:

We have hosted over 70 interns at our farm over the past 10 years. You should know that Ploughshare Farm is well known for the quality of vegetables and as a successful CSA model. We gained this status through hard work and dedication. The season ends up being some of the hardest work any of our interns have ever experienced. However, the knowledge they gain about growing along with the personal growth that occurs during the season ends up being a pivotal point in many of our interns’ lives. These experiences they take into the future no matter if they go onto a career in agriculture or not.

We try to give a thorough description of the internship so that our interns know what they are getting into. So that there are no conflicts over what is offered and what is expected please read thoroughly the description below.

Note: if you have at least one year’s experience on another CSA farm of over 100 members, the compensation will differ than a first year intern.

A Definition

An internship is an opportunity to experience a career by working within a successful business similar to your own interests. It is a time to observe, listen, actively experience, ask many questions and most of all learn. Internships are hard work with long hours and little pay, but offer the invaluable benefit of observing the inner workings of a company from an inside perspective. The experience and knowledge gained from an internship provides you with valuable tools needed to take that next step towards pursuing your goal.

At Ploughshare Farm, our Internship Program is demanding yet offers a very rewarding experience for those who are willing to fully engage and challenge themselves. It is not a passive opportunity, but rather a place where self motivated individuals will thrive and enrich their farm experience, increase their agricultural knowledge base and build a strong foundation for future opportunities.

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What to Expect

As a Ploughshare Farm intern you can expect many things. You can expect hard work with long days in the field. You can expect blazing hot days under the sun with a shovel and rocky dry soil. You can expect cool rainy days on your knees in puddles transplanting seedlings. You will eat some of the best tasting most amazing organic produce ever! You will get dirty almost every day. You will have strong arms and a sore back. You can expect doing things you never thought you would, or maybe even could; pushing yourself on many levels. You can expect times of serenity and times of frantic rush and mayhem. You will question the daily activities and wonder why anyone wants to farm. You will learn and participate in the everyday functions it takes to operate an organic farm. You will benefit from the observation, discussion and involvement with the farm staff and be able to further refine your future involvement in agriculture.

Farm Description

Ploughshare Farm has been in existence since 2002, selling vegetables to the local lakes community and the Minneapolis area by way of CSA and wholesale to the various food coops. We are located on 160 acres. The land is a sanctuary for many migratory bird species including Cranes, Eagles and Falcons. The Alexandria area is also a prime spot for fishing, swimming, and other Lake activities.

My wife Jennifer, our 4 children and myself moved to this farm in 2002 from the Olympia, WA area where we worked on Catholic Worker farms, got involved in the Organic farming movement and grew vegetables for the market. We came back to my home state, MN with hopes of, "busting through the mid-west" with the ideas of sustainable agriculture. Our main mission work includes educating our local community and customers about the value of buying locally and supporting this "endangered species"-the small farmer.

Of the 160 acres our family owns, we presently manage 25 acres with approximately 20 acres in vegetables on an annual basis and the remaining acreage in "green manure" (crops such as soybeans, rye, and vetch that are plowed under as fertilizer rather than being harvested). Our crops are mainly grown in a row crop style. We are semi-mechanized, though most harvesting is still done by hand.

We use hand tools, rototillers, and small and large tractors. Our methods are based on the latest advances in agricultural ecology. We are constantly evaluating our methods and adapting our systems to meet market demand and the concerns of our customers and the organic/sustainable agriculture community.

Interns will be taught the proper use and maintenance of equipment and be expected to operate it throughout the season. The farm is run very similarly to any business. Scheduled days and hours of employment, a top down management structure, and attention to profits and losses are all important and constant issues. It is our belief that the farm has to be economically sustainable for the owners and employees while providing a good quality of life (limits on work hours and stress) as well as nurture the soil, environment and community. This attention to the business aspects of farming are an integral part of our success and a valuable source of information.

The season runs April through November. To gain the most benefit out of your intern experience, it is recommended that you commit to the entire season. Applications of those that can commit to the entire season get priority for acceptance. As an intern you become a member of our farm team and thus an integral part of tending the land and providing produce to our community.

What you will learn (a partial list):

 

  • greenhouse operation
  • variety selection
  • garden site selection
  • soil preparation and care
  • planting techniques
  • fertilizer application methods
  • green manure planting and management
  • weed control: preventative, mechanical, manual
  • pest management: preventative, curative
  • harvest skills and methods
  • marketing skills for retail and wholesale sales
  • equipment needs, care and use

 

What happens in a typical year?

Keep in mind that, in farming, no year is really "typical."

March: greenhouse setup and planting, compost application in field, machinery preparation.
April: continued greenhouse planting, continued machinery preparation, soil preparation (hand and mechanical), field selection for various crops, compost application, early plantings of brassicas
May: continue greenhouse work, continue machinery preparation, soil care, variety selection, intense planting. Work long days end of May on crop care, cultivation, green manure planting and incorporation.
June: planting tapers off, plant care picks up (weed control, cultivation, side dressing, pest management), plus green manure planting and incorporation. Our CSA share delivery begins in early June
July: planting of fall crops, cultivation and plant care, green manures planting, CSA weekly harvest,
August: harvesting, marketing, green manures, 4 day weekend in August,
September: harvesting, harvesting, harvesting! Everything is ripe! End of month,, possible first frost. Fall green manures planted.
October: continue harvest, field and soil preparation for winter, continue marketing. Last regular CSA delivery early-October and first storage share delivery in late-October
November: farm gradually shuts down, though this month we will be delivering frozen and storage shares throughout the winter
 

Salary and benefits

In exchange for their time commitment and labor, apprentices receive hands-on training, experience-based education, room, and produce from the farm for personal consumption. Interns will also receive a stipend 5.25/hour, (overtime after 48 hour/week). $150 is taken out each month for meal/housing. Typical monthly stipends are between $860 and $1140 (depending on hours worked).

Work schedule

For the 2012 season Ploughshare Farm will be in need of two apprentices to begin mid April. Four other interns will be needed May 1st until the end of the season. We also have mid-summer (May-September) opportunities for those attending college.

Monday through Friday we generally start at 7 or 7:30 a.m., depending on the season. We expect people to be ready to go at start time, breakfast finished, coffee or tea finished, well-rested and fully awake, clothing on to match the weather, personal needs taken care of. We typically have a short meeting at this time where we discuss plans for the day. Again, it's very important to be punctual for this meeting. After the meeting we start work. We ourselves have often been up and in the field since 5 a.m. and have come in to have this meeting. We will not be responsible for waking you up. There are occasionally times when we all have to start earlier than 7:00. If rain is expected by 10 a.m., we may have to plant early before the rain comes in. If we are in a long hot spell we may choose to work early and break from 12-3, then work into the cool evening hours. We usually make these decisions a day ahead and keep you informed of our plans. Spring planting is much more unpredictable in this regard than is the harvest season. In spring we're always working around the weather, and sometimes this causes us to either work feverishly or sit on our hands for a while. We can't emphasize enough the fact that, ultimately, the weather runs the farm, and that to farm successfully one must adapt one's work schedule to the weather. Also, on the days that we are harvesting for the CSA delivery, interns may be expected to work until all the work is completed.

On normal days, we take an hour long break for lunch at about noon.

Apprentices are involved with the farm 60+ hours per week, and most of these will be weekday hours. In the month of June and early July interns will be expected to work most Saturdays until about 2pm. Interns will have every Sunday off the entire season (except for greenhouse duty and animal chores) and most Saturdays off after July 15th. . There will probably be times when the weather has been wet all week and we ask you to take time off in the middle of the week and be with us on the weekend. Usually we can see this coming and talk it over with you in advance.

One important note on the hours spent working: Be prepared that this experience interning will encompass 90% of your time and energy for this season. You know the saying, “Make hay while the sun is shining?” The reality of farming is that it requires not only hard work and efficiency but it also requires dedication through the entire season. It also means that our lives are intertwined with the demands of the plants, delivery schedules, and weather and not a time clock. I compare going through a season of vegetable farming much like that of an extreme sport mixed in with a marathon. An internship is not for everyone and before sending in your application please consider how serious you are in giving up an entire growing season (with very little pay) to this kind of work.

Living space and food

Ploughshare Farm has a 3 bedroom house, a cabin with 3 bedrooms, a summer Yurt styled high-wall tent that has 4 bedrooms, a 25 foot camper trailer with kitchen. Most years, interns will have their own sleeping quarters. In addition there is a “worker” kitchen, community space, and bathroom. You should bring your own bedding and towels. You are welcome to stay on the farm or leave during your time off.

Apprentices are welcome to eat produce from the farm at no cost. Noon day lunches Tuesdays – Thursdays are provided for. Mondays, employees and interns take turns cooking lunches and on Fridays everyone is responsible for their own lunch. Interns’ other food is their own financial responsibility. Apprentices decide amongst themselves whether they wish to cook and eat alone or as a group. Apprentices are expected to be respectful to the other people using the kitchen and clean up after themselves. Other items (such as toiletry) are interns responsibility.

Apprentices are welcome to have visitors on the farm. If the visitors are here during work hours they are expected to join in with the work and be part of the farm. It's distracting to have non-helping visitors hanging out in the field. If visitors will be here for more than two days we need to approve their stay in advance. If you have visitors to whom you want to give a farm tour, it's best to plan that during off-work hours.

We have a farm library. Apprentices are welcome and encouraged to borrow materials and to bring their reading into discussions with us and other interns.

Pets are discouraged and allowed to live on the farm only on a case by case basis.

Clothing you will need

(please note: items on the following list are a REQUIREMENT for all interns BEFORE they arrive)

  • Sturdy, comfortable work shoes or boots. Some people prefer tennis shoes.
  • Water proof boots for wet, muddy days
  • Thin, cotton, long-sleeved shirts, protection for hot scratchy days.
  • Rain gear (this means rain bibs and rain coat—high quality, durable. Do not come to work without these)
  • Sun hat and sun block.
  • Assorted clothes that you don't care about. They will get wrecked by dirt and work.
  • Leatherman
  • cotton work gloves. (several pairs) and several pairs of rubber garden gloves for cold and rainy days.
  • Water bottle
  • Knee pads (a couple cheap pair with velcro straps)