There are thousands of people willing to work on organic/permaculture farms for free or nearly free. Many farmers have explored this path and found it too frustrating and subsequently elected to no longer do this. Here are two well known farmers, Doug Bullock and Jacqueline Freeman, who have had great success and this is their advice to farmers considering this path.
The Bullock Brothers Permaculture Homestead at Orcas Island, Washington, is famous for being a powerful intern magnet. Interns actually pay to go there. As a result, the Bullocks get to pick from a large pool of interns queuing to go. And they have had excellent results with their intern program.
Some of Doug Bullock’s advice:
- Establish your farm before you get interns.
- Don’t ask your interns to do just the dirty work and never ask an intern to do anything which you wouldn’t do.
- A lot of interns come from a privileged background – be prepared for that. Many come from middle class, upper middle class, affluent families, people who have been through good universities.
- Keep the work interesting. Mix monotonous work with really interesting once.
- Look for interns with some skills and maturity. People with some social skill or those who already have worked in farms are most suitable candidates.
- If you have three or fewer interns, you should include them in your family. If more, they make a social group of their own.
- A hot tub, sauna or pizza oven really helps.
- Interns look for some structured education, so organize yourself to present them.
Jacqueline Freeman of Friendly Haven Rise Farm, Battleground, Washington, is famous for her beekeeping skills. Every year she has a large number of interns working on her farm.
Some of Jacqueline’s advice:
- Give interns work that matches their personality. Assigned jobs should match their skills, something which they are really going to enjoy and what they are really good at.
- Praise interns when they have earned it. This is really important as it creates a lot of positive vibes on the farm.
- Teach interns something every day. Twice or thrice a day teach them verbally and by physically showing them how to do. They have come to your farm to get educated, so teach them things they can take back to their own farm.
- Good food!. Feed them really well and get them involved in preparing the food.
- Fun with work. A swim on a hot day is a good idea!
Apart from Doug Bullock and Jacqueline Freeman, there are many other permaculturists and farmers who also have a wealth of experience in having interns on their farms. If they can also share their experience below, it will be of great help.