YA Apprenticeship 2024: South Surrey, BC – A Rocha Farm

Posted by Marsha Shack on November 27, 2023 1 Comment

Are you an aspiring ecological farmer who wants hands on experience working the land and living in community? A Rocha Farm might be the place for you.
About the Farm

The A Rocha farm exists within the larger organization of the BC Environmental Centre in Surrey, BC which is a dynamic environmental centre with staff conducting conservation science research, running environmental education programming, and maintaining the farm.  

The BC Centre Brooksdale’s 27-acre property is a living lab of forests, a threatened river system, a wetland, heritage houses, and a farm. This unique combination of sensitive wildlife habitat and agricultural land makes this centre a place where critical environmental issues are researched, addressed, and solved.

The farm at A Rocha has been around for 18 years and is currently transitioning to no-till production.  With 2.5 acres of production, we run a 170+ member vegetables & flowers CSA, farmer’s market, on-site farm stand, and restaurant sales. We are growing over 50 vegetable crops and over 200 varieties and are expanding our flower production as well.

air view of farm

About the Apprenticeship

This apprenticeship is open for applications now via A Rocha’s website – https://arocha.ca/employment/

We have been focused on being an educational farm since the farm started in 2005. This means offering space for people to learn in the midst of the relentless demands of farming. The spring consists of a variety of tasks including farm planning, preparing the fields, planting, seeding, building farm infrastructure (i.e. caterpillar tunnels and irrigation systems). 

Summer will include weeding, planting, bed prep & transition, harvest, sales.  Fall activities will include things such as harvesting of storage crops, cover cropping, farm season review, crop planning, building compost piles, cleaning up the fields & breaking down tunnels and other infrastructure.

In the course of the season, apprentices are given information and time to learn the essential skills of running a mixed farm using organic growing practices in both tilled and no-till production while receiving structured educational time alongside daily hands-on learning. Apprentices are expected to use their labor for the daily work of the farm as a major part of their learning experience. Apprentices work in all aspects of farm production from soil preparation to harvest, seeding to cultivation, tractors to hand hoes, and farm planning to marketing.

You will meet with other apprentices across the province 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.

people in a bean field

About the Farm Mentors

The apprentices will be working alongside a variety of folks, including the main mentor Carly Richardson.  Carly arrived at A Rocha from California with nearly a decade of experience — including one season as an intern with A Rocha.  Her title is ‘CSA farm coordinator’ and is in charge of managing the day to day on the farm. She creates the plan for the week, delegates tasks, does the crop planning and is usually in the field alongside the team doing the work of farming.

Leah Hart  ‘Assistant CSA Farm Coordinator’ is often the crew field lead and would also be assisting in teaching farm tasks and mentorship through her leadership in that role.

Abby Simonin ‘Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator’ runs our farm administration and back-end, manages public farm education events, and creates a cohesive educational plan and structured teaching times for learners on the farm (i.e. apprentices and our shorter-term farm residents). She would be interacting with the apprentices in bi-weekly 1 hour teaching sessions and occasionally working alongside them in the fields.

three people smiling

The farm at the BC Environmental Centre has the following purposes:

  1. Operates a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) program with vegetable and flower subscriptions from June to October annually and sells vegetables and flowers at farmers markets and through wholesale outlets to cover the operating costs of agriculture programming at Brooksdale.
  2. Connect community member customers to the source of their food, allowing households to experience seasonal, local eating.
  3. Provide donations to under-resourced community members through our Farm to Families program.
  4. Produce food for daily meals and events at the BC Environmental Centre.
  5.  Educate and support new/beginner farmers.
  6. Offer a “living classroom” of regenerative agriculture with a conservation focus for visitors, kid’s groups, and the Brooksdale community.
  7.  Complement and support A Rocha’s conservation and education work, and to be a demonstration of A Rocha Canada’s commitments and core values.

 composting

Skills the 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.

BIODIVERSITY OF FLORA & FAUNA basic tractor operation
market gardening farm stand management
assessing soil health community capacity building
watershed management cut flower production & sale
rainwater harvesting compost/compost tea brewing
greenhouse management irrigation set-up/use
no-till vegetable growing Customer relations
Skills Required of the Apprentice

Adaptability and flexibility, along with significant interest in learning about regenerative agriculture, are key skills for a successful apprenticeship.  At least one season of experience working at a market farm/garden in vegetable and/or flower production would be an asset.  The ability to do physical labour on a day-to-day basis is essential, so being physically fit and able to lift weight in the range of 30 to 80 pounds is essential.  This role also requires the ability to work early mornings (e.g starting harvest at 7 am on hot days) and beyond 8 hours per day between June and August.  

Being able to comfortably make decisions, execute tasks, and train others in a diverse and dynamic working environment.  After training and onboarding, the ability to work quickly, efficiently and calmly in physically challenging contexts for long hours in variable weather is essential to enjoying work on the farm.

Apprentices must be between 18 and 30 years of age at the start of the employment (for our grant funding) and able to obtain a Criminal Record Background and Vulnerable Sector check.

planting

Housing, Stipend and Duration

Apprentices will have access to renting a space with a private bedroom, shared living space, and a shared full bathroom with a shower. This is a separate living space than host farm mentors.  Apprentices will have a small refrigerator, pantry space, electric kettle, and toaster oven in their unit. Using refrigerator and pantry space in the communal kitchen will be coordinated with our Guest House manager. 

The available kitchen is a short walk (200m) to our historic Guest House building. The kitchen is communal where our Guest House manager cooks lunches for staff, volunteers, and guests (Tuesday-Fridays and some Saturdays). 

The apprentices will be part of a residential community with other staff on the property. There is a residential living document and agreement. There is an expectation to help with shared communal activities, which may include yard maintenance, joining the cooking rotation for a weekly community dinner, helping to clean dishes at the community dinner, and joining the rotation for orienting guests.

The housing is a four-season dwelling that has floor-board heating for the cool months. There is no air conditioning but temperature can be regulated in the summer through window ventilation and fans.There is laundry and internet on site for free use.

There is a beautiful prayer chapel on site that is free to use for reflective time, reading, prayer, writing, etc.

Apprentices will have access to veggies from the farm, as well as any excess flowers.

We have a small library of farming books available to borrow as well.

There are many children living on site and apprentices will be required to receive a background check in order to be accepted as an apprentice.

Apprentices will be paid an hourly wage and will need to pay for housing and food separately. Pay will be 18.50/hour, FTE (40 hrs/week) Tuesday-Saturday.
Paid stat holidays (or time taken in lieu when farm tasks demand work on holidays)

The ideal length of apprenticeship is March to November.

About the Community

The A Rocha Canada farm is grateful to work within the Tatalu (Little Campbell River) Watershed on the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish people: including Semiahmoo, Kwantlen, Stó:lō and W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations.
Read more about our commitment to reconciliation: https://arocha.ca/the-land-were-on/

Our location is a bit of a mix of rural and urban sprawl from Vancouver near South Surrey. Our farm is neighboured by other farmers and folks with more sprawling property, urban neighbourhoods, and warehouses.  There is access close by to groceries and most amenities you might need.

Our farm is a part of the A Rocha BC Center which has a residential community and there are often community meals, events, pizza nights in our cobb oven, and weekly music nights.

A beautiful stretch of the Tatalu or Little Campbell River runs through our property and many of us enjoy dipping in there to cool off from the summer heat and watching the salmon come up the river in the fall. We have some forest trails on our property for walking and running that connect into a section of forest owned by the city of Surrey. 

We are also near a really beautiful park, Campbell Valley, and about 15 minutes from the town of Langley. We are located about 15 minutes from the border, about 45 minutes from Vancouver, and an hour by car from mountains in almost all directions. There are many fun opportunities for outdoor recreation in this area (especially if you have access to a vehicle).  Unfortunately, we are not especially close to any major Public transit. It is possible to use public transportation to travel from the farm, but it takes a number of connections to do so.

Be sure to check out the A Rocha BC Centre’s website.

More Details about this Apprenticeship and How to Apply 

Applications open: December 8, 2023
Deadline to apply: January 31, 2024.

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

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