After some years of debate and discussion, Young Agrarians has decided to require all apprenticeship opportunities we post to be paid. We came to this decision for a few reasons, which we hope will lead to more just and enriching outcomes for both host farmers and apprentices:
- It is in the best interest of farms to adhere to provincial labour laws to avoid the risk of litigation. Unpaid apprenticeships for farming in many provinces is not allowed, even if in exchange for room and board. There are examples of legal cases for example in B.C. where apprentices received back-pay for unpaid or underpaid work.
- Having a well structured agreement between farms and apprentices helps to clarify the working relationship, and leads to better on-farm communication and learning experiences for all parties.
- Offering paid opportunities increases access for people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, and creates more entry points for future generations to farm and replace our dwindling and aging farming population. We want everyone to be able to learn how to farm, not just those who can forego paid employment.
What we recommend instead of unpaid or stipended internships:
A well-structured agreement with an apprentice will charge separately for room and board and pay at least minimum wage. The farmer may also choose to charge a formalized education fee to compensate for time spent training the apprentice.
We recognize that unpaid farming apprenticeships (or those offering a small stipend) can be wonderful learning opportunities. Many of the farmers reading this may have gotten their farm training through such experiences. However, we believe apprentices can be fairly compensated for their work, and these opportunities can be just as wonderful. In an effort to make these learning opportunities available for everyone, and since the cost of living continues to increase significantly, there is a growing need for these experiences to be paid.
To read more on this topic, please check out this great report on Ecological Farm Internships: Models, experiences, and justice by Food Secure Canada. Jordan Marr of Unearthed Farm in Kelowna, BC has a great article on page 20 in this report.
What if my farm can’t afford to pay wages?
The challenge of course is that farms often have very tight margins (especially in startup!) and many farmers are underpaid themselves. (Even so, keep in mind that the farm business and/or property generally continues to gain equity from the farmer’s efforts.) If you are in this position, consider applying for one of the wage subsidies available. If your farm cannot afford to pay wages, please look into the other apprenticeship and volunteer posting platforms below.
- Stewards Of Irreplaceable Land (SOIL) provides guidance, resources, and a listings catalogue for host Farmers and Farm Apprentices to peruse.
- World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF): These are typically unpaid volunteer opportunities that require 20 hours or less of labour per week in exchange for room and board.
Business Resources for Farmers
We offer a few different resources and programs in an effort to make Canadian farms more viable:
All in all we hope that these policy changes will contribute to making the ecological farming sector more viable and just. Thank you for being a farmer and feeding our communities!