YA APPRENTICESHIP 2024: BRANDON, MB – CIRCLE H FARMS

Posted by Jennifer Sparling on December 21, 2023

Do you love animals, want to learn more about regenerative ranching practices and raise food directly for your community? Circle H Farms is excited to offer a hands-on apprenticeship just for you!

 

ABOUT CIRCLE H FARMS     

Circle H Farms is located near Brandon, Manitoba– Treaty 1 Territory

Circle H Farms is located on 600 acres of land which has been managed by Brian and Sonja Harper since 1990. Their daughter Kristelle grew up on the farm and continues to live and work there today alongside her partner Mike and their 2 kids (the second is actually on the way!) The farm originally ran a conventional seed stock cattle enterprise with about 70 cow calf pairs and a haying enterprise. Slowly the farm has transitioned to the operation it is today – a forage only seed stock operation focusing on soil health and grazing management. The farm continues to raise about 70 cow calf pairs but also brings in about 150 animals a year during the growing season as custom grazing and/or back grounding stockers. Circle H has grown into a conservation leader in the community and conducts tours on their operation for other producers, demonstrating the various management approaches he has applied to his land. They have also created a direct to consumer sales business under Solar Nutrition. Selling a wide variety of products that are all centered around soil health and regenerative farming principles. The farm has also integrated a market garden and pumpkin patch into the diversity of products they offer. 

 

About the apprenticeship:

This apprenticeship is a great learning opportunity to experience how cattle can enhance and conserve a grassland environment. Building soil health and improving their grazing lands are top priority for Circle H farms, and the apprentice will learn many techniques to sustainably manage for and assess ecological outcomes. 

For their cattle the season starts with calving from May to June, then rotational cell grazing April to December, and then bale grazing December to April. The Apprentice would assist with general care of all animals (checking water, feeding, bedding, cleaning, health checks). Summer tasks consist of fence repairs, moving cattle for rotational grazing, checking water systems, making and storing hay, and equipment maintenance. Fall tasks would consist of more cattle care, preparing feed, building and repairing fences and feeders, and other projects.

The responsibilities for the Pumpkin Patch will be field preparation and seeding in Mid June, upkeep (weeding/watering) June-September, and sales in September to October. The large market garden which they grow for a few produce sales and personal use, is busy from May-October with similar activities, i.e. planting, maintenance/upkeep and harvest and sales. Lastly the farm also does year round direct sales through their Solar Nutrition business which the apprentice is welcome to learn from and participate in.

As part of the apprenticeship, you will meet with other apprentices across Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta who are part of the Young Agrarians Apprenticeship program. Field days, learning opportunities and potlucks will be planned with the Manitoba group at each host’s farm.  You will also be invited to attend a regenerative or organic food conference during or following the apprenticeship.

 

About the farm mentors:

Brian Harper – Grew up in southern MB on a dairy cow operation. Brian is an innovative and open minded producer; he also is responsible for the majority of the cattle and equipment management on the farm. He is wanting to take a step back from the farm day to day operations and allow more time to enjoy off farm activities.

Kristelle Harper – Grew up at Circle H Farms and now manages the business side of the farm which includes record keeping, direct sales and the pumpkin Patch. Kristelle also works full time as a Farm Management Consultant. She has a Degree in Animal Science and Diploma in Applied Sustainable Ranching. She is working towards taking over more of the day to day responsibilities of the operation and she is excited to be welcoming her and Mike’s second child in April 2024! 

Sonja Harper– Comes from a farm from Virden but moved into Brandon at a young age. Sonja helps with yard maintenance, and the farm’s bookkeeping. She is newly retired and interested in getting more involved in the farm but also looking at enjoying time off the farm and taking care of the grand babies.

Mike Blais– While he has no background in farming and works off the farm full time, Mike is great with the animals, helps out with farm labour where he can and is always interested in learning more.

 

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 through a learning plan with the host farm.  

ANIMAL HEALTH & SAFETYMAINTENANCE OF MACHINERY
FENCING & ROTATIONAL GRAZINGCATTLE NUTRITION
CROP & LIVESTOCK INTEGRATIONSOIL HEALTH
CALVING, CARING FOR CALVES DIRECT SALES MARKETING
BASIC BOOKKEEPING & RECORD KEEPINGLIVESTOCK WATERING SYSTEMS

Skill required of the apprentice:

  • Any experience working with animals is a plus, but a desire to learn and an interest in regenerative practices is essential!
  • A good work ethic and ability to work independently. 
  • Physically fit and willing to work outdoors in all weather conditions. 
  • A valid driver’s license is an asset.

 

Housing, Stipend and Duration:

  •  If the apprentice is interested and has a camper or motorhome, bringing it on the farm site can be discussed. Otherwise, since the farm is so close to Brandon, MB renting accommodation there is recommended. The family owns a rental apartment in Brandon and is happy to house the apprentice there if a space is available. Either way, they will help the apprentice find accommodation that suits them in or around the Brandon area.
  • Between the two farm houses laundry and internet is available if needed. 
  • The apprentices will need their own transport to and from the farm. We normally use quads for farm activities and it will be provided.
  • The family would love to share at least 3 suppers a week as a team where meal prep and cleanup will rotate. Fresh farm produce, eggs (when available) as well as different meat products will be available in moderate quantities.
  • Minimum wage to $20 per hour. Dependent on experience and work ethic. Wage can be negotiable once they have had more training as well. Wage is also dependent on funding we are able to receive for the worker.
  • Stipend or pay deductions for living expenses will be reviewed when the living accommodations are determined.
  • Work is 4-6 hours a day. 5 days a week. We are flexible on if/when they need time off and will work together as a farm team to have a tentative summer schedule and review monthly
  • Duration: Mid April until end of September or Mid October

About the Community and Land:

The farm is located about 5km from Brandon, Manitoba which is the second largest city in the province. It has a great amount of activities for anyone and any interest. Brandon also has many short term rentals available which the family is willing to help in finding something suitable 

Circle H Farm is located on Treaty 1 lands. These are the original lands of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Ojibwe-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Red River Métis.

 

More Details about this Apprenticeship and How to Apply 

Deadline  – January 31st, 2024

Interested in an Apprenticeship but this isn’t quite the right one? Check out other Young Agrarians  Apprenticeships being offered in 2024 here.