YA APPRENTICESHIP 2021: Calgary, AB – Dirtboys Urban Farming

Posted by Kolby Peterson on December 02, 2020 2 Comments

Are you an aspiring farmer looking to gain experience on an urban farm, learning about market gardening and creating opportunities for people to grow their own food? Join Michael Gavin for an apprenticeship at Dirtboys Urban Farming.

About the Farm

Dirtboys Urban farming has been running for about 6 years, though this is the second year that Michael has been running the farm. It was originally started by Dennis Scaland who also was a founding member of YYCGrowers farming co-op. The goal of Dirtboys is to grow produce for the Calgary community, which is mainly sold through a Community Supported Agriculture program as well as through YYCGrowers. The other goal of Dirtboys is to help community members in Calgary grow their own food. This is mainly through building and consulting on people’s gardens as well as giving workshops, farm tours, and having conversations with members and visitors. Dirtboys produces a wide range of vegetables and some fruit (tomatoes and few berries), as well as wildflower bouquets and seed for CSA members.

Michael Gavin, owner of Dirtboys and mentor in the 2021 YA Apprenticeship program

About the Apprenticeship

In the spring, the apprentice will help with planting, prepping plots, and doing garden builds/consulting. Once summer rolls around, the work entails garden maintenance, harvesting, and planting. Come fall, the apprentice will help Michael put garden plots to rest, finish harvests, end-of-season odd jobs, and garden building/consulting.

The apprentice will work in both aspects of Dirtboys, which include urban farming as well as garden building and consulting. The apprentice will take part in consultations with clients, help with design and plant selection, and learn to build raised and in-ground gardens. For the urban farming operation, they will take part in all of the growing and maintenance aspects of the farm such as growing starts, transplanting, weeding, new plot creation, harvesting, washing/packaging, crop planning, and microgreen production. They will also get to learn about running a CSA program and farmers markets, and learn what it is like being a member of a farming co-operative, in this case, YYCGrowers. They will be part of farm tours and other miscellaneous projects like building compost bins and bird houses.

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.

About the Mentor

Michael Gavin has a background in ecology and has worked on projects looking at the impacts of agricultural landscapes on pollinator populations, which eventually led him to begin farming. Michael sees the need for more people to be growing high quality food intensively on smaller land plots, and the opportunity for food production in urban spaces.

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.

urban agriculture market gardening
COMMUNITY SUPPORT AGRICULTURE MODEL microgreen production
farming co-operative crop planning
FARMERS MARKET SALES starts/transplanting
building/creating gardens vegetable harvesting
consultation process washing/packaging
garden design + planning small construction projects

Housing, Stipend and Duration

This apprenticeship takes place within the city of Calgary, so while there is no on-site housing, there are many opportunities for renting. The apprentice will receive a weekly share in the CSA plus any extra/left-over produce. This apprenticeship is 6 months, and the apprentice will receive a wage.

About the Community

Calgary has a great local food community with lots of people involved in different projects from urban farming to community gardens and lots of restaurants interested in supporting the local food movement. When you’re here be sure to check out some of those awesome restaurants; one which Gavin recommends is The Allium – a worker cooperative with great local vegetarian dishes and libations!

The summer in Calgary is never complete without hanging out at the river or going on a rafting trip in the sun. If you apprentice with Dirtboys – keep Gavin accountable at making river hangs at least once a month! There is an awesome music scene with shows and festivals throughout the summer – and the Dirtboys bring some of that to the jobsite – you’ll often catch them jamming out while working.

The farm is on Treaty 7 territory and the traditional and ancestral lands of the Blackfoot Confederacy (comprising the Siksika, Piikani, and Kainai First Nations), the Tsuut’ina First Nation, and the Stoney Nakoda (which includes the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nations). The City of Calgary (Mohkinstsis) is also home to the Métis Nation of Alberta. 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 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.

Be sure to check out Dirtboys Urban Farming on social media!

More Details about this Apprenticeship and How to Apply 

Deadline January 31, 2021.

Interested in an Apprenticeship but this isn’t quite the right one? Check out other Young Agrarians Alberta Apprenticeships being offered in 2021 here. 

2 thoughts on “YA APPRENTICESHIP 2021: Calgary, AB – Dirtboys Urban Farming

  1. I’m trying to check out more details about this apprenticeship and how to apply, but when I click on the link for it, it takes me back to the other apprenticeship listings. Can anyone help with this? Thank you!

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