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We run a small-scale sheep dairy just outside Marshall and currently sell raw sheep milk, Grade A sheep milk yogurt, labneh, lamb, sheepskins and wool bedding at three weekly tailgate markets in Asheville and Brevard. We also sell raw milk through a herdshare program for on-farm and in town pick ups. We have about 50 sheep on the farm except for lambing and after when our numbers are closer to 100. We milk about 40 ewes each year from March 15th to October 1st. We also raise out a flock of 40 - 50 market lambs for meat and skins and we raise out a flock of replacement breeding ewe lambs.

Apprenticeships on a dairy are quite different than apprenticeships on a vegetable operation. We don’t have “crew days” where everyone works together. Quite often you will be working by yourself, carrying out tasks that can be seen as quite repetitive. We are a small team and we (the farm owners) also juggle 2 small kids and 1 off-farm job. You need to be sure that you both enjoy working alone and that you can stay focused and productive while working alone. This said we are always ready to stop and answer questions, we are very transparent about all parts of the farm and we want you to feel comfortable asking us any questions about how things run! We are also a relatively new farm (this will be our 4th season in production) so there are still many inefficiencies and a lot of figuring things out on the fly. Your patience with this process and your ability to communicate openly about what works and what doesn’t is essential. We welcome families to apply - more details on housing below.

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Our work schedule…

This position is from March 15th - November 15th with the option to stay through the winter if it’s a good fit. The hours vary across the seasons: March through November you can expect to work close to 35 hours / week. If you stay through the winter (November - March) you’ll be working closer to 20 hours / week and the stipend is reduced.

The work will be made up of milking shifts, one tailgate market and yogurt and cheese makes. You will have 5 milking shifts - we milk twice a day at 6:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. every day from mid-March through October 1st. Milking requires a lot of attention to detail, responsibility to a schedule and willingness to find value in repetitive work - please apply only if you’re up for this! We move the milking flock with our Border Collie - we’ll train you to work with him to move the flock everyday for milking. You will also be doing 1 tailgate market / week (Tuesday afternoon or Saturday a.m.). Market requires you to be super personable, on-time and fluent in all aspects of the farm. You need to be good at record keeping and math as well! Other main tasks include morning chores, and 2 - 3 makes per week. The makes take about 5-6 hours in the kitchen and they require a high level of detail, quality control and ability to follow very set protocol. As we are a Grade A dairy, there are many protocols that need to be carefully followed. You will also be in charge of all bottle washing - we bottle in glass and take a deposit to encourage glass returns. This position requires you to enjoy spending a lot of time in the parlor! The ideal person is passionate about food crafting, highly organized, efficient and likes to clean 🙂 .

Cell Phones + Work:
We understand the addiction of cell phones and are fighting it ourselves! Our goal for work time is that it’s work time. . . not texting and catching up while also trying to work...and not texting making plans while also trying to work. This is especially important when working alone - texting and checking one’s phone breaks concentration and lends itself to forgetfulness. We need to trust that you can work alone and fully complete multiple tasks while being very aware of your surroundings.

We have a two tier system for dealing with cell phone usage. First, we ask that you are extremely mindful and do not use your cell phone for personal use while working. If this does not work, we have a farm phone that we will ask you to use. You can put your personal phone in the office and use it on established breaks. You’ll be able to play music and text / call us with questions on the farm phone but it is not to be used for personal communication.

Time Off:
We aim to give you 2 days off / week but in the busy part of the year it’s usually 1 day off / week with several half days of work. You get 1 full week vacation time that is paid, you can split this up or take it all at once but please not during March - May! Please be ready and willing to work weekends.

Compensation offered...

First year:
We pay a $600 / month stipend to start and this goes up to $700 / month after 4 months of working on the farm. This position also comes with housing (valued at $450 / month), utilities (we pay up to $50 / month) and farm food (you’re given 1 dozen eggs, 2 gallons raw milk, 2 quarts yogurt and 1 labneh or feta each week. When we have lamb it can be purchased at a 15% discount).

Second year:
We pay a $800 / month stipend to start and this goes up to $900 / month after 4 months on the farm. Housing, utilities (up to $50 / month) and food still included.

Housing:
Housing is a converted school bus that is parked on flat land by the creek with its own drive separate from our house. You will be sharing this space with the other full time farm worker and a family with young children who pay rent to park their bus there. They have been with us for almost 3 years and are sweet, respectful and kind. We ask that you be the same: this is not the space for partying and staying up all hours. There is a very large communal garden plot if you’re interested to grow your own veggies. We also grow a large garden and offer up all surplus veggies to folks who work here.

Our farm is a very active member in the CRAFT network.

Our location...

We live in a beautiful part of the world! We're 30 minutes to Asheville, 10 minutes to downtown Marshall and 20 minutes to Hot Springs. We live on a dead-end road and we have an amazing community of neighbors who love to help and hang out. We are open minded people who love to work hard, laugh and learn from others.

What we’re looking for...

A good sense of humor and a willingness to find value in this work is a must. We are still relatively new to sheep dairying and we’re figuring out the best system for our farm so patience and a willingness to share your thoughts is key. You must also have awareness and respect for animals and all others who come to work on the farm. Having your own transportation will make your time here most enjoyable!

To inquire about employment opportunities, please contact Andrea VanGunst (farm owner/operator) by phone during the day or by email.

About working for Grassroots...

“It’s always great to go and work with [Tim & Andrea]. Though I should say that my working with them was more from the standpoint of a friend lending a hand (though they did compensate me for my time).”

- Ryan, friend, employee, neighbor and operator of Fiddler’s Green

We welcome visitors but would like this to be by appointment out of consideration for our schedule. Please contact Andrea, either by phone during the day or by email, to arrange a time to stop by.

Please visit our website for more information.

About purchasing from Grassroots...

“Tim and Andrea both excel at animal husbandry and produce quality farm products.”

- Katie, farmer peer and owner/operator of Homemade in Marshall

About working for Grassroots...

“It’s always great to go and work with [Tim & Andrea]. Though I should say that my working with them was more from the standpoint of a friend lending a hand (though they did compensate me for my time).”

- Ryan, friend, employee, neighbor and operator of Fiddler’s Green


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