Windhorse Farm Apprenticeship – Vancouver Island

Posted by Sara Dent on January 28, 2014 2 Comments

Cowichan Valley: Windhorse Farm Apprenticeship – 2014

Windhorse Farm is certified organic (IOPA #1902) and certified with the BCSPCA. The farm is a cow/calf to finished beef operation, all grass-fed/finished which sells top quality beef by-the-cut primarily to  retail customers via the web.

The home farm property is 15 acres (the balance of the farm is made up of leased lands) of fields with some wet lands. It is partially bordered by forest and the Trans-Canada Trail (which also connects with The Cowichan River Trail). Both trails offer miles of beautiful wilderness for walking, hiking, biking, horseback riding, swimming and fishing. We live in the small, beautiful rural/agriculture community of Glenora, which is a 7 min drive from the town of Duncan.

Windhorse Farm photo edits-5

Windhorse Farm is a small beef operation where we practice MiG (managed intensive grazing), composting and the use of compost teas. One of our primary goals on the farm is to build rich healthy soils that support superior pasture while sequestering carbon. The cattle play a critical role in all this.  Our cattle are grass-fed/grass finished and pastured 6 – 7 months of the year. During the grazing season, the herd is moved daily using portable electric fencing. Calves are born on the farm and raised to maturity at 2 years old before harvesting. As much as possible, alternative health care is used (i.e., homeopathics, herbals) but when/if necessary, regular allopathic vet care is administered by a local team of large animal vets. We hot compost winter manure (60-80 tonnes) and spread this on our fields. Compost teas are made from inoculated compost (fungal and bacterial) and sprayed on the fields. The farm also has some fruit and nut trees.

What is expected of you: Your work hours will range between 30-35 hours a week (half light to moderate and half intense physical work) – working hours are usually broken up throughout day/week depending on farm needs and intensity. You can expect one to two days off a week (times/days negotiable and will vary through the season depending on needs of the farm).

You will have an opportunity to be involved in most aspects of farm work including livestock care (feeding and nutrition, hoof care, worming, calving, weaning, breeding, homeopathic care, working with veterinarians, stock handling) mucking out barn, daily moving of electric fencing, maintaining and moving field watering system, building and monitoring compost piles, inoculating compost for tea brews, preparing compost teas using tea brewer, checking tea quality with microscope, spraying of teas on fields, cleaning and maintaining tea brewing equipment and sprayer, haying season – loading wagons and barns, general cleaning/maintenance of farm equipment, maintaining hedge rows and managing wetlands.

As well, you will be able to participate at “cut days” at the butcher shop, watching primary carcass breakdown and trimming along with labeling of packages and transporting of meat. There will be ample opportunity to hone skills in basic carpentry and fencing. There is also opportunity to learn farm record keeping related to all farm operations to meet Canadian Organic Standards and the SPCA Farm Program.

Windhorse Farm photo edits-6

What can you expect from us in terms of instruction and training: You will receive hands on training with skills or knowledge new to you. You will work with us, side-by-side, as you develop sufficient skill to take on tasks alone. We will welcome discussions at meal and break times related to farm activities and your interests. In 2014, Windhorse Farm will be in consultations with a permaculture expert and you will be welcome to join in on these consultations and planning sessions.

One of us has formal training in forestry, environmental sciences, and has consulting in the field of environmental sustainability for several decades. We also have considerable experience developing training programs.

If there are topics you wish to learn which we are not involved in, there may be opportunities to gain experience and support from one or more of the many excellent organic farms in the Cowichan Valley. We have and wide network of farming friends who may be able to fill in the gaps.

We realize that there will be some highly repetitive work during this apprenticeship. We therefore want to compensate you for some of this. In addition to room and board, we are offering a $200/month stipend.

The term of the apprenticeship is April 01 to October 20, 2014. This is approximate and can be adjusted as needed to match apprentice needs with those of the farm.

Room and board arrangements: We have a clean and comfortable travel trailer (17.5 foot, lots of storage, dinette, double bed , fridge, furnace, stove top) set up away from the family home for sleeping/private space. This is your private non-smoking space. Drinking allowed only in moderation. No drugs. Lunch, dinner and coffee/tea/treats breaks are had at the farm house but we will supply breakfast foods for you to prepare/have at your trailer. While most of the cooking on the farm will be done, if you would enjoy preparing meals sometimes, we would welcome sharing in meal prep. Everyone shares in clean up after meals. We are a beef farm so do not expect an all vegetarian diet. We do eat a varied healthy diet with lots of in season fresh veggies and fruit along with grain/pasta dishes as well as certified organic chicken and fresh fish in season.

You will use the guest bathroom in the house for showers and toilet until we have installed an outdoor shower, expected this summer, at which time you will have a choice re which shower you prefer. You will be expected to clean the trailer accommodation – very well – every week. The trailer is immaculate and it is important to us that it is well cared for. No smoking is allowed in doors(including trailer) or near farm buildings. Preference will be given to non smokers.

You will be most welcome to have friends over for visits but no sleep over guests.

Who are we: We are a couple in our fifties (married for 31 years!) warm, friendly, enjoy people, have good sense of humor, enjoy meaningful conversations and (sometimes silly ones) concerned about the environment, food scarcity, peak oil, GMOs, climate change, and the way animals and the soil are treated in conventional agriculture. We fell in love with this farm and decided we should do what we can to contribute to the transformation of farming practices in our region. We had little direct farming experience prior to owning Windhorse Farm, but we are fast learners! We research and plan, do trials, evaluate, adjust and keep going. The result is we now know quite a bit – but also know it is wise to continue refining our observations, skills and knowledge. Often by teaching someone you find out what you really don’t know that well and their questions often prompt new ways of looking at things and learning more. We know that everyone achieves more when we approach life with a posture of learning.

To this end, we are in the process of developing a vision for the farm that includes creating a space for training, learning, and sharing what we and others have to offer with others.
Our family is grown and live in the city but we see them on the farm regularly. Our son is a pro documentary film maker and he is working with us this year in creating a video blog, which you will have ample opportunity to be involved in.

We believe in truthfulness and that one of our prime reasons for being on earth is to be stewards of the earth and to be of service to mankind.

Contacting us:  Visit our website at for contact info. We look forward to hearing from you and if it works for us all, enjoying a productive and learning 6 months together.

Windhorse Farm photo edits-2


2 thoughts on “Windhorse Farm Apprenticeship – Vancouver Island

  1. This sounds like the most incredible experience! I am taking baby steps towards a similar goal, and I’m sure the skills and experiences gained working here would be invaluable.

  2. I’m interested in spending the growing season working on your farm. I am a 20 yr old male and I am in good shape. I’m a really hard worker and love organic food/nature. Please email me and we can talk some more or I can send a resume. Thanks hope to talk to you soon.

Comments are closed.