BEING A FARMER MENTOR: INCORPORATING EDUCATION INTO THE WORKDAY
Farmer networks like CRAFT WNC offer support in your educational mission. You will have guidance in your role as an educator, as well as the opportunity to introduce your apprentices to diverse farming methods. You can incorporate education in several different ways. Here are a few examples provided from practices reported by CRAFT farmers
- Walk the farm and discuss the work that needs to be done. This will help apprentices get a sense of what the farmers look for as they plan daily tasks, and may empower them to look for these things as their apprenticeship progresses.
- Have specific classes periodically to get in-depth on things like soils, water systems, greenhouse growing, etc. If you don’t feel comfortable teaching these concepts, look for online videos to suggest to apprentices, or local classes taught through extension programs, the Organic Growers School, or the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP).
- Have a resource library of books for the apprentices to borrow.
- Spend some time educating your apprentices on that day’s activities. This would include not only the “what” and “how” but also the “why” of what they’ll be doing to assist in critical thinking and problem solving for the future.
- Crop and tool identification to avoid micromanagement are good basics to reinforce from the beginning.
- Give an apprentice more independence by assigning them a regular chore or plot to manage, or even an independent project to take on. Ideally, projects would stem from longer term goals you have for your farm, not something that will fall by the wayside or get in the way as soon as the apprentice is gone.
- Promotions that allow for more responsibility can often motivate workers to take more pride in their work, which may lead to higher motivation.
Want to get in touch with CRAFT farmers to ask about the network? Here’s a list of participating farmer members.