Ecological Farm Internships: Modes, Experiences, and Justice

Posted by Moss Dance on August 15, 2017

Ecological Farm Internships

We are excited to share this report on ecological farm internships edited by Charles Z. Levkoe and Michael Ekers. Contributors to the report are farmers, past interns, non-profit organizations, and lawyers. The goal of the report is to “assess the implications and trajectories of the non-monetary exchanges of labour and education, among other things, taking place on ecological farms.”

Read the report here: Ecological Farm Internships – Models, Experiences and Justice – Levkoe and Ekers (Interactive)

The report takes a broad view of ecological farm internships—accounting for the need for labour on small farms, the educational benefits, as well as the risks and drawbacks of employing non-waged workers on the farm:

“Over the past decade, growing numbers of interns have been working on small-scale ecological farms across North America and Europe. Farmers are looking to young people seeking hands-on farm experiences as a way to train the next generation of ecological producers and to meet the labour demands of their operations. Interns typically exchange their labour for room and board, a stipend and importantly, training in ecological production methods. While many farms pay workers a minimum wage, or more, and provide benefits, interns as a relatively new type of non-waged worker have become a source of outside labour on many farms. At the core of the farm internship issue are a number of pressing questions about the financial challenges of ecological farming, the training of new farmers and the rise of precarious work. It should be stressed that labour issues exist across the agricultural sector and the reliance of some producers on migrant workers is emblematic of this issues. Nevertheless, as a relatively new and potentially defining trend within the ecological farming sector, the issues discussed in this report bear considerable significance for farm operators, interns and the broader food movement.

“The issue of farm internships raises a number of practical questions regarding how such work/education arrangements have emerged and how they have been facilitated and managed. However, the issue also points to deeper questions around farm viability, agricultural labour law, possibilities for exploitation, but also the potential to build a viable farm sector that can offer an alternative to the corporate, industrial food system. Given the intersection of new forms of farm work with these broader issues, it becomes clear that internships exist as a pivot point for the sector moving forward and raise difficult questions regarding how to build just and sustainable food and
farming futures.” 
The report includes a variety of perspectives and looks at the issue of ecological farm internships from a number of angles, including:
  • A profile of The Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) and the Grow A Farmer program with the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network

  • Lessons Learned from Farm Based Education

  • The Future Growers Scheme: Work-Based Training for New Organic Producers

  • A Moral Case f or Paying Farm Interns the Minimum Wage, and Some Attitudes that Prevent Farmers from Paying More

  • Interns Aren’t Free

  • Who Gets To Be a F armer?

  • Social Justice Perspectives on Urban Farm Internships

  • Employment Standards and Internships in Ontario: A Legal Perspective

  • Farm Workers in Ontario: How the Law Creates Insecurity f or Agricultural Workers and the Importance of Building Democracy through the Food System

We are excited to be sharing this work with our networks, and hope that this report will help farm interns, farmers-to-be, and current farmers with farm interns to work towards greater justice in the farm labour sector.

Here’s the report again: Ecological Farm Internships – Models, Experiences and Justice – Levkoe and Ekers (Interactive)