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Farmer Internships

 

Goals of Farmer Internships Program - To provide a hands-on learning environment in which interns may build a skill set that improves their knowledge, understanding and opportunities in sustainable agriculture.

Cloud Mountain is a working farm, so interns gain genuine experiences in agricultural production and management. They join the staff 40 hours a week, learning all aspects of production, marketing and sales. Of those 40 hours, interns are paid for 32 hours of farm labor, and eight unpaid hours a week are designated for discussion of specific subjects outlined in the syllabus. Interns are expected to participate in workshops at Cloud Mountain and are encouraged to attend off-site workshops and farm tours.

As a nonprofit community education and training center, Cloud Mountain is dedicated to providing learning opportunities to new and experienced farmers, as well as home gardeners, while managing and operating our working farm and nursery, as we have since 1978.
Cloud Mountain produces some of the highest quality tree fruits and vine fruits in the region. Decades of work has gone into developing sustainable management systems for all tree fruits grown. Cloud Mountain also produces a diverse mix of vegetable crops, using organic practices. We continue to experiment in new crop-development strategies, as well as carry out variety trials in many of the crops we grow. Our nursery sells more than 1,000 varieties of ornamental and fruit plants, most propagated and grown on site.

Crop Production at Cloud Mountain Farm Center

  • Apple and Pear Production
  • Stone Fruit Production- Cherry, peach, plum
  • Wine and Table Grapes- Production and variety trials
  • High Tunnel Vegetable Crops
  • Vegetable Field Crops
  • Greenhouse Production
  • High Tunnel Cherry Production
  • Plant Propagation: Woody plants/perennials/grafting, cuttings, starts

Essential Skills Topics and Syllabus
The new farmer intern program instills essential skills needed for success in farming. The topics below focus on areas covered in the program, giving interns a strong foundation in agricultural education.

  1. Soil Management, including:
    Basic soil science, soil fertility, ecological soil management, compost/manures/cover crops, crop rotations, nutrients and the water table, analyzing soil tests, petiole analysis, greenhouse production, soilless mediums, container growing, making the most of fertility inputs
  2. The Business of Farming, including:
    Business planning, market development, creating community co-ops and networks, understanding variable costs in diversified crop production, experimentation and innovation, farm safety
  3. Farm Equipment, including:
    Field implements, specialized equipment, tractors, equipment maintenance. Questions to consider: What is your time worth? Equipment vs. Manual Labor? Equipment purchases?
  4. Crop Production, including:
    Planning for the season --vegetables, berries, tree fruits, vineyards, and nursery plant material. How to use operating budget actuals from past years' experience as a planning tool. Crop rotations -- disease, flora and nutrient issues, pest management
  5. Labor and the law, including:
    How to be an employer -- Labor & Industries, unemployment, tracking labor costs
  6. Physicality, including:  
    Body mechanics and staying healthy
  7. Water Management, including:
    Irrigation design and filtration options. Delivery systems -- drip, micros, impact sprinklers, fertigation. Washington Water Law -- water rights
  8. Social Issues in Agriculture, including:
    History of U.S. agricultural development, agriculture and food system structure, sustainable agricultural offshoots.

Internships are eight months long, beginning in February. The program is 40 hours per week: 32 hours of paid farm labor, eight hours of unpaid classroom time. At this time, housing is not provided.

Tuition for the season is $3,000 per intern. Some scholarships are available. If you have questions or would like an application, contact us at Cloud Mountain Farm Center, 360-966-5859, or email us.

Cloud Mountain Intern Program FAQ's

  1. Is on-farm housing available? Currently there is no housing available at Cloud Mountain. We hope this will become available in future years.
  2. How does the paid internship work in conjunction with the tuition charged for the program? Cloud Mountain is committed to paying all interns for their work. Interns are paid Washington State minimum wage. Interns are part of the farm team, working 32 hours a week. Tuition is to be paid the first month of the program, or, if needed, a payment plan can be discussed for you.
  3. Can tuition be deducted directly from paychecks? No. Washington State Labor & Industry rules prohibit us from taking tuition deductions from your paycheck.
  4. How will time be spent during the educational part of the program? The entire program is educationally based. In addition to working 32 hours per week, we estimate six to eight hours per week will be dedicated to formal education. Some trainings involve actively participating in the field. For example, interns learn the proper way to fix irrigation mainlines. This type of education requires interns to have hands-on experience doing the work under supervision, with instruction on technical concepts and principles, examples of materials, and explanation for why the repair needs to be done a certain way.

Training for orchard pruning concepts includes multiple presentations and demonstrations. Interns observe pruning strategies and types of cuts and then actively make pruning cuts and explain their thought process during the practicum. These examples show how the six to eight additional unpaid hours are integrated into the program. Some of this time may be spent in a question-and-answer format during many of the field programs, and some hours may be spent in a classroom setting.

  1. Will there be classroom presentations and workshops as part of this program? Yes, there will be some formal presentations by staff and guest speakers. Interns are expected to participate fully and, on occasion, may be asked to make presentations themselves. In some cases, farmers from the local community may join these educational activities to improve their understanding on a specific subject.
  2. Will interns be involved in research opportunities and real-time problem solving? If research needs to done on an emerging issue on the farm, interns will have the opportunity to tackle the problem in real time. Sometimes this requires working late. Interns must understand that agriculture runs on a seasonal clock and that work schedules can --and will-- vary, depending on the demands of the farm. Cloud Mountain currently has several ongoing research projects for interns to be involved with. The design, evaluation, and analysis of this work is considered part of the educational program. We believe that research and innovation play a significant role in developing a sustainable business that leads to stronger, sustainable agriculture.
  3. How do I know if this program is for me? This program is educationally and experientially intensive, demonstrating the rigors of market farming. It has physical demands on a daily basis that combine with an ever-shifting list of priorities that don't turn off at the end of a traditional work day. If you like learning in a dynamic, demanding, fun, and exhilarating place, this program is a great opportunity.
  4. What is Cloud Mountain's responsibility for my learning? Our job here is to work with you to develop a well-rounded set of technical skills and to empower you to move forward with your work in sustainable agriculture.
  5. Work schedules: Schedules will change throughout the seasons. All interns should expect to work one day on weekends throughout the internship program at Cloud Mountain.