YA APPRENTICESHIP 2021: Minto, MB – Rourke Farms Ltd. Organics

Posted by Justin Girard on March 15, 2021


Do you want to build your skill, knowledge, and experience in organic grain farming?
Rourke Farms LTD. Organics is offering an apprenticeship to take a step into the world of larger scale grain production, both conventional and organic.

DEADLINE TO APPLY IS EXTENDED – APPLY TODAY (link at bottom of the page)

About the Farm

Rourke Farm is located near Minto, MB.

Rourke Farms  is an organic grain farm made up of David, Diane, Don (their son), Dorian (their daughter) and Dorian’s husband, John, plus a couple of hired hands. They are a big farm with lots of people and a diversity of learning opportunities. 

Rourke Farms is continually improving and more and more incorporating regenerative principles and practices as they progress. The farm has been challenged with increasing frequency of severe weather over the last 10 years. The team is passionate about mitigating climate change. The objectives of the farm are:

  1. increase net profit by 4x
  2. sequester carbon by 2x
  3. feed lots of people
  4. reduce fossil fuel use by 90%
  5. increase nutrient density of their products

Rourke Farms strive to be able to farm organically using regenerative principles, which they find a challenge especially without cattle and perennials.  The farm is on a basic diversified 3 year crop rotation. In year 1, they plant green manures. This allows them in year 2 to plant a high nitrogen using crop  and in year 3 a low nitrogen requiring crop.

David conducts a series of strip trials as well as small plot replicated trials to help asses some new ideas and options for continual improvement. They have also recently started vegetable gardening, where there is always opportunity to grow and help.

About the Apprenticeship

The apprentice will be involved in field preparation, transporting seeding supplies, mechanical weed control. They would be shown seeding , swathing and combining operations , but are less likely to run those pieces of equipment, although, seeding cover crops in the late summer is a possibility.

They will learn equipment maintenance and repair. The farm has two camera guided row crop cultivators, a 15,000 volt electrocute weeder,  and some other unique mechanical weed control equipment. There will also be opportunities to help with yard work and building.

Rourke Farms  is looking for an apprentice with a willingness to learn and mutual enthusiasm, particularly for learning how people can adapt agriculture to be part of the climate change solution.

As part of the apprenticeship, you will meet with other apprentices across Manitoba who are part of the Young Agrarians Apprenticeship program.

About the mentors

David and Diane have been married for 44 years. Three of their four children work directly on their farm and research business. David has a BSc in Ag and a MSC from University of Manitoba. His MSc thesis was in zero till crop production in the late 1970’s. Diane grew up on a mixed farm helping the family with all aspects of cropping, haying, cattle and gardening, plus stealing eggs from chickens and being weary of the geese and turkeys.

Diane and David had limited resources when they started on their farming journey, and no farm to take over. So they juggled with David working as a research associate for the university, starting their own contract research company, which their oldest daughter now runs. They started by renting a 1/2 section of land and now own 6000 acres. In 2016 , Don (their son), decided to take the farm organic.

David’s major effort these days is to help build a workable regenerative organic grain farm which will be compatible with the 2018 UNIPPC SR1.5 report, which says people need to stop all fossil fuel use by 2050 and bring down the excess CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Agriculture has a large role to addressing these goals.

David Rourke would be the main mentor. Diane focuses on finances, daughter Dorian – Sales and Marketing, organic certification, and son, Don, will also help. There will also be learning opportunities with other members of the team.

Skills this farm has to teach: 

The following skills are being offered by this farm. While you’ll get exposure to many of these areas, it is likely that not all will be covered. Apprentices will work to identify the skills they want to develop to a learning plan with the host farm.

Organic crop production and certificationgardening
carbon sequestrationfarm marketing
machine maintenancelarge scale farm equipment
crop rotation / cover cropsbasic mechanics
agricultural researchbuilding / carpentry
haying / bailingFarm economics and budgets both large and small and ways to Get started

Skills Required of the Apprentice

The apprentice needs to have a great attitude and willingness to get up with the rest of the team. They must have their drivers license and own vehicle for recreation, a vehicle will be provided for work.

They should have some study in agriculture with a basic knowledge of crop nutrition, biology, physiology, weeds and disease basics. They should have a desire to know the numbers, production, financial. They must be curious and ask questions. 

Housing, Stipend and Duration

A stipend will be negotiated based on knowledge and experience.  There are a few options for housing including the apprentice finding their own accommodations,  the apprentice living in a seasonal camper in the yard, or the apprentice living in the house with the family.

The apprentice will be responsible for their own food and meals with the exception of suppers during harvest and perhaps spring seeding.

Laundry and internet available in house along with access to a great farm library: plant science, farming, regenerative ag, climate change , animal science, gardening, homemade fuel, composting.

This apprenticeship is 4-8 months (May – September or April – November)

About the Community and Land

Minto is the nearest small town to the farm. With a larger agricultural and farming population surrounding the town. Grasslands and rolling hills in the heart of the prairies.
The farm is 30 minutes to Brandon and 2 hours and 40 minutes to Winnipeg.

Young Agrarians acknowledges:
This farm is located on the edge of Treaty 1 and 2 Territory which are  the traditional territories of the Dakota, Anishinaabe, Oji-Cree, Cree, Dene and the homelands of the Metis peoples. These communities have a deep relationship with this land based on, among other things, a spiritual connection and subsistence extending back thousands of years.

Young Agrarians recognizes the unresolved Indigenous land title and rights in the diverse territories in what is today called Canada. As we live and work in the context of and in response to a colonial system of laws and policies, it is important to acknowledge the historical and ongoing impact of agriculture and land enclosure on Indigenous lands and food systems. In this context, we acknowledge our collective responsibility to position Indigenous Peoples and their experiences with colonization in mind, working towards a narrative of reconciliation that places ecology, land stewardship, and Indigenous land title and rights at the forefront – if we are to sustain the Earth’s ecosystems in today’s rapidly changing climate.

Our deepest hope is that the future of our food systems is diverse, interconnected, and resilient, embraces people of all walks of life and sustains the water, plants, and creatures in ways that benefit and work alongside Indigenous Peoples and narratives and ways of knowing and caring for the land.

This farm, like many others, is surrounded by agricultural cultivated land, uncultivated land, Indigenous people and voices from non-settler walks of life. We encourage everyone to build relationship with the land and community that surrounds the place where you will be learning.

More Details about this Apprenticeship and How to Apply 


Contact Sara – Manitoba Apprenticeship Coordinator for questions: