2016 Paid Farm Internship Program

Our 2016 intern program is now full.

We are leaving the below description up for those who would like to consider being an intern in future years when we are likely to have similar programs.


Plow Creek Farm hopes to make the world a tiny bit better by growing food and we need some help. We are seeking three enthusiastic interns who want to work hard and laugh a lot to join us for the 2016 growing season.

Historically, Plow Creek Farm has been a berry operation, with strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries being our largest crops and vegetable production constituting a smaller part of our operation. Last year we ran a successful 40-member CSA program which we plan to expand this season so our vegetable production will be increasing. In addition to our berries and vegetables, we also raise some small grains (primarily wheat and oats) and have a herd of heritage breed hogs which we raise on pasture. We also raise a small number of grass-fed cattle and are planning to experiment with egg production this year. Besides our CSA program we sell our products through our u-pick operation and at three farmers' markets.

Interns at Plow Creek Farm are primarily apprentices: people who learn by doing. We also provide opportunities for some formal learning during afternoon classes (ie. strawberry production, blueberry production, soil management, organic fertility, wild foods, etc.) two or three times a month. We plan to spend at least one day during the season visiting other farms. Interns will work with all aspects of crop production including planting, weeding, harvesting, washing, processing and storing. Interns will learn to manage a farmers' market stand. Interns will also help with our u-pick berry operation. We have a lot of fun working, but interns should be prepared to perform tasks that are physically strenuous and sometimes repetitive.

Plow Creek Farm is a business of Plow Creek Fellowship, a Mennonite affiliated Christian community in NW Illinois. Sundays the community meets for worship in our Common Building, followed by lunch together. We also eat together Friday evenings. Plow Creek Bakery operates out of the Common Building kitchen most mornings and they go with us to most markets. Many people who live in our community are not directly involved with the farm. All this is to say that we would like to hire people who are comfortable working and living with Christians. If you are a Christian who wants to experience a slice of intentional Christian community that would also be great. We pray at the start of the workday for 10-15 minutes and everyone is expected to attend.

Previous farm experience is not required, but an applicant should expect to use your body to work hard every day. A valid driver's license is also required.

The internship runs from the beginning of May through September or October. Interns will work around 45 hours per week, 7 a.m. - noon and 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. Monday to Friday with one half day off each week, a market day on Saturday, and off on Sundays. Start and end times are subject to change depending on the needs of the season (example: during strawberry season we sometimes start at 5:30 a.m. and get done early). Interns will accrue one vacation day for every month they work on the farm.

We do not allow pets, smoking, illegal drugs, drunkenness or underage drinking, or sex outside of marriage.

In addition to our full season interns, we are also interested in June-only intern to help during the busiest time of year.

Compensation

Compensation includes $650/month, on site housing with use of a kitchen and high speed internet, hopefully a prepared lunch 4 days/week, and fruit and vegetables produced on the farm.

How to apply

To apply, please send a resume, two professional references, and a brief description of your farming experience and why you are interested in working on our farm to intern@plowcreek.org. Please feel free send any questions about the position to the same address.

Principles

Some of the things we hold important or try to put into practice

  • Take Care of God's good earth. Leave it better than we found it.
  • Build the health of the soil: healthy soil = healthy plants = healthy fruit = healthy people
  • Rotate Crops: to control disease and weed pressure and to take care of the soil at the same time.
  • Use cover crops whenever possible
  • Integrate livestock in the farming system: Cattle provide manure for fertility, hogs are fed grain produced on the farm, hogs and chickens are fed excess and produce we can't sell or use ourselves.
  • Direct marketing: our relationship with the customer is highly important and where ever possible we want to have direct contact.
  • Working together to build community, relationships, and learn from one another.

The Whole Season

For a better understanding of the various tasks interns will be involved, here is a glance of what a season looks like….

February –March is the time for pruning Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and grapes

April-May: we gear up into planting, with much depending on the weather. We put our tractor in very low gear and creep across the field putting in new strawberry rows for the year. The mulch is pulled off all the older strawberry plants. We begin a serious effort to reduce the weed population in the strawberries. A plethora of vegetables are planted and mulched intensively, a few of them can even be harvested already.

June: the strawberry harvest comes in. This is our heaviest month for work. All hands are needed for picking at 5:30 A.M. almost every day, with the berries sold at markets and through special orders made by phone; the U-Pick is open most days except Sunday; the whole month is a big push to get as many strawberries sold as possible. On the second Saturday of the month we hold our annual Strawberry Festival in the town of Tiskilwa, with the whole community pitching in to help. By the end of June we are digging the first new potatoes.

July: the blueberry harvest comes in. The pace is a bit slower, and you don't have to bend over as much. We pick blueberries day after day, and which is much easier physically and a good rest from strawberry season. Blueberry picking is peaceful; it can be a good time for thinking, praying, meditating, singing, or good conversations with fellow pickers. Also in July tomatoes, sweet corn and muskmelons come into season. We have a blueberry U-Pick open several days a week. Weed control is ongoing.

August and September: it's pretty hot by now; but nature's abundance is in full swing. After the end of the blueberries, we harvest a wider variety of fruits and vegetables: tomatoes, watermelons and cantaloupes, peppers, corn, potatoes, red raspberries and blackberries. It's during these months in which the yield potential for next year's strawberry crop is set. So when we are not picking other produce for market, we're in the strawberry patch doing more weed control and adding fertility if necessary.

October and November: the work slowly gears down. We continue to harvest potatoes. We harvest squash. We try to finish up the weeding as best we can. We put our minds to thoughts of winter storage, and also to a big push to sell as much as we can before the farmers' markets close and the season ends. We watch the weather for the first frosts and freezes and are ready to be called out suddenly to prepare the garden or barn for a freeze. By November we're mostly tying up loose ends. Many plants are dead, others dormant. As the strawberry plants go dormant towards the end of November, they are mulched/covered with straw. With the strawberry plants “put to bed” we can drift off to sleep ourselves catch up with some of the things we didn't manage to do when busier, and begin to dream about doing it all over again next year!

December and January: If the strawberries didn't get mulched in late November we do it in December. Then we start planning for the next year. Time for seed orders and maintenance projects.



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