YA Apprenticeship 2022: Pigeon Lake, AB – Reclaim Organics

Posted by Kolby Peterson on November 16, 2021

Are you an aspiring farmer looking to gain mad skills in organic market gardening, cut flowers, and microgreens? Do you want to be a part of a farm team, working with others sharing the same passion for food growing and community building? Join Reclaim Organics for a farm apprenticeship!

About the Farm

Reclaim Organics is a multi-enterprised certified organic market garden. We grow microgreens year round indoors, cut flowers and vegetables seasonally, and process seasonal product into preserves and pickles. We began our farm 8 years ago in Edmonton on vacant land throughout the Whyte Avenue area. Four years ago we returned to Ryan’s family farm 1 mile from Pigeon Lake and changed how it operated from conventional animal and grain to organic market garden. We sell our product through 4 marketing streams, CSA box, wholesale to retailers, wholesale direct to restaurants and farmers markets.

We work within the organic standards to ensure that both the least harm comes to the environment while farming but also trying to adapt our food system to be stronger and healthier for the next generation. One priority we have is increasing biodiversity (except gophers). We grow several hundred varieties of plants on our land and as a result we have seen increased insect, pollinator, bird and mammalian activity as they feed and are housed in these ecosystems. We plan our land around ecosystem management to provide soil, plant and animal health and habitat. We do have things we want to keep improving such as weed management practices and minimizing tillage.

As a farm we want to become a collective of like minded regenerative growers helping each other out and using the land and energy that we have cooperatively. 

Farm website: www.reclaimurbanfarm.com

About the Apprenticeship

An apprentice would likely be one of 6-8 seasonal staff members. They will be the right-hand person in the growing of vegetables and flowers on farm. We would include them in some planning, have them work on transplant starts indoors and in greenhouses. They will transplant and seed crops in the spring as part of a team using machinery on farm including waterwheel transplanters, tractors and hand seeders. Apprentices may be required to take soil and water samples and work with lab results to better understand soil health and improve on it. Soil will be amended using certified organic amendments based on those tests as well as add compost and other organic matter.

2022 will be our first year with large hoop houses and an apprentice will have an opportunity to learn how to grow plants in hoop houses and possibly building greenhouses. Irrigation and polyculture installation will also be worked on in the spring.

Throughout the summer months the apprentice will be taught and get to practice irrigating crops, crop maintenance, harvesting crops for a variety of market preferences, and post harvest handling for those crops (cold chain, washing, packaging etc.).

In the fall, we will be renovating our cold storage system, harvesting storable vegetables, and prepping for 2022.

The apprentice will learn to drive tractors, ATVs, and cube vans. Apprentices will be taught about microgreen growing from bottom to top. Most importantly, the apprentice will learn about the back end of the operation. They will do some office work training in the spring early on to see what we do and may be assigned some tasks to help them learn more of what we do from marketing and sales to bookkeeping, cost of goods, and finances. This will not be many hours of their work but is crucial to their development in the agriculture industry.

We want to help advance the current and the next generation of agrarians. We are hoping to grow our farm into a collective and have begun taking the first step by giving access to land to other budding farmers. Part of hosting apprentices is to find others interested in this collective and advancing this chapter of the farm. We want apprentices to help us develop this idea into a reality and hopefully demonstrate the same commitment to regenerative agriculture that we have,

As part of the apprenticeship, you will meet with other apprentices across Alberta who are part of the Young Agrarians Apprenticeship program. Field days, learning opportunities and potlucks will be planned with this group at each host’s farm.  You will also be invited to attend the 2022 Organic Alberta Conference.

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 market gardening soil sampling & soil health
growing flowers irrigation
seeding & transplants harvesting/washing/packing veggies
hoop house & greenhouse production microgreen growing
machinery operation marketing/sales/bookkeeping

About the Mentors

My name is Ryan Mason and I am a farmaholic. I am the owner of Reclaim Organics and began this farm with a friend who has since moved to Vancouver. I have a wife Brittany Mason who works off farm as a teacher and plans the flower side of our operation. I grew up on this farm raising broiler breeder chickens, cats and hating gardening mainly because of chickweed. I still hate chickweed but love gardening. I went to university for global development (BA) and Environmental Sociology (MSc) and have travelled to Tanzania, Mexica, Cuba and other parts of Rural Canada to work with other agrarians. I love working in the producing of food, but want more for it and for us. I will be the staff supervisor for the crew.

Melissa Woodard is the market manager and provides quality control. Natasha and Brittany are the flower growers.

Housing, Stipend, and Duration

We will work with apprentices that apply to find them housing that is affordable and lifestyle appropriate. This may mean renting a summer cabin in one of the summer villages, or providing a 5th wheel on-farm. We are open and will make sure there is safe, affordable and accessible housing for them to stay.

We have internet and laundry. If staying on the farm, we have sports equipment including bikes and a kayak. We have vehicles and could negotiate with potential apprentices to use them on a part-time basis.

All staff are able to use our gardens as their gardens so vegetables are in no short supply. We are also willing to share meals with an apprentice if they live on farm with us and they can have access to our kitchen and bbq.

A farm wage will be supplied – $16/hour. The work week is Monday-Friday with weekends off.

This apprenticeship will be 6-7 months plus option for year round. It will begin mid-April. 

About the Community

We are in a very unique place in the province. Our farm is one hour from Edmonton and we mainly market to places in and around the city and find it accessible for anything urban we are missing. For the immediate vicinity we are 1 mile from Pigeon Lake, which we have a view of from parts of our farm. It is a downhill bike or walk paved all the way for a quick dip, waterski, sail, kayak or beach day. Most of these things we own or have access to.

There are hiking/atv trails right across the road from us and land we rent is adjacent to the Greves Wildlife Sanctuary. Pigeon Lake is known for great road cycling and a nice 15-minute bike ride gets you to the hamlet of Mulhurst.

For sports, fitness, library, restaurants, groceries we go to Thorsby, a 12-minute drive straight north. Because we are so close to a major recreational lake we are, in some ways, peri-urban. We have the rural rustic feel of agrarian life, but there are thousands of summer cottages on Summer Village beginning hundreds of feet away. This means seeing the stars on weeknights and fireworks on weekends. This means more people, housing and summer activities. Across the lake from us, 25 minutes away, is the Village at Pigeon Lake that has restaurants, a hotel, mini-golf, and summer activities. Recently we just found out that Verge Permaculture is also setting up shop to the west of Pigeon Lake – more like-minded folks coming together.

Reclaim Organics grows and sells vegetables on Treaty 6 Territory and understand that our farm exists only from Treaty formed with the first peoples of this land. We promise to care for land we farm, act as stewards of creation and treat the ecosystems around us with respect. We acknowledge the land we are on as a traditional gathering place for diverse Indigenous peoples including the Cree, Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux, Dene and many others.

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 coloniality, in 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 

NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS. Apply by January 31, 2022. 

Interested in an Apprenticeship but this isn’t quite the right one? Check out other Young Agrarians Prairie Apprenticeships being offered in 2022 here. 

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