YA Apprenticeship 2023: Pigeon Lake, AB – Reclaim Organics

Posted by Kolby Peterson on November 16, 2022

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. Ryan and Brittany began their farm 8 years ago in Edmonton on vacant land throughout the Whyte Avenue area. Four years ago they 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. They sell their product through 4 marketing streams, CSA box, wholesale to retailers, wholesale direct to restaurants and farmers markets.

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

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

See what’s going on at the farm on social media or on the 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. They would be included in some planning and starting transplants 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.

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.).

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 Ryan and Brittany do and may be assigned some tasks to help them learn more about 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.

Reclaim wants to help advance the current and the next generation of agrarians. They are hoping to grow their 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. They want apprentices to help us develop this idea into a reality and hopefully demonstrate the same commitment to regenerative agriculture that Ryan and Brittany 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.

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

Ryan Mason is the owner of Reclaim Organics and is a farmaholic. He began Reclaim Organics as an urban farm in Edmonton with a friend who has since moved to Vancouver. Ryan’s wife, Brittany Mason, works off-farm as a teacher and plans the flower side of our operation. Ryan grew up on this farm raising broiler breeder chickens, cats and hating gardening mainly because of chickweed. He still hates chickweed but loves gardening. He 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.

Natasha and Brittany are the flower growers.

Housing, Stipend, and Duration

Ryan and Brittany 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. They are open and will make sure there is safe, affordable and accessible housing for them to stay.

Internet and laundry are available on-farm. If staying on the farm, there is sports equipment including bikes and a kayak available. They also have vehicles and could negotiate with potential apprentices to use them on a part-time basis.

All staff are able to use the gardens as their gardens so vegetables are in no short supply. They are 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

Reclaim Organics is in a very unique place in the province. The farm is one hour from Edmonton and they mainly market to places in and around the city and find it accessible for anything urban they are missing. For the immediate vicinity, they are 1 mile from Pigeon Lake, which they have a view of from parts of the 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 they own or have access to.

There are hiking/atv trails right across the road, and land they 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 they go to Thorsby, a 12-minute drive straight north. This farm provides the rural rustic feel of agrarian life, but there are thousands of summer cottages on Summer Village beginning hundreds of feet away, making it feel like a peri-urban environment. This means seeing the stars on weeknights and fireworks on weekends. This means more people, housing and summer activities. Across the lake, 25 minutes away, is the Village at Pigeon Lake that has restaurants, a hotel, mini-golf, and summer activities. 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.

More Details about this Apprenticeship and How to Apply 

NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS. Apply by January 31, 2023. 

Interested in an Apprenticeship but this isn’t quite the right one? Check out other Young Agrarians Prairie Apprenticeships being offered in 2023 here.