YA Apprenticeship: Reflections from Steel Pony Farm, Red Deer AB

Posted by Dana Penrice on February 25, 2019

Ohhhhhh the farm!

When I think about my time spent as an apprentice at Steel Pony Farm, my heart just warms right up and my face turns into this expansive grin.  It was seriously the best time.  I’m stoked to have the chance to say a few words about it!

 Apprenticing at Steel Pony Farm was my first real exposure to farm labour, and the daily ins and outs of operating a small vegetable farm.  I specifically remember one afternoon early in the season, when Mike and I were setting up a hose and pump at our water source (a dugout about 1 km away from the farm).  We had to ensure the hose wound up in the centre (deepest part) of the dugout, and secure the hose to keep it from sinking.  I remember standing across the dugout from Mike, holding on to the string we had attached to the hose, preparing to dynamically pull as Mike javelined the hose into the dugout, so as to centre the hose.  I distinctly remember him calling out to me, just before he made the toss: “bet they didn’t teach you this in university!!!”.

No Mike, they sure didn’t.
Julia Steel Pony Farm4

This speaks to Mike’s skills as a mentor, his Macgyver-like ingenuity, and his turning farming into a hilarious adventure. Mike taught me how to work with less than the ideal, and to always strive for improvement.

I also learned pretty quickly, that farming is hard.  Mike willingly shared with me tough lessons he had learned in his early years as a farmer and how he bounced back.  He was constantly thinking about our processes, and how to minimize inefficiencies.  He showed me that farming requires creativity, persistence and conscious, constant learning. 

The team at Steel Pony felt more like family than co-workers.  I knew I could tell these folks when I was having a rough time and they were right there to listen, make me laugh (or cry –  in a good way) and help me realize that hey, everything was/is alright.  I can’t speak for other farms, but on this farm, we sing and dance, rather regularly.  It could probably be our side hustle, we got really good…       Julia Steel Pony Farm

My greatest takeaway from the whole apprenticeship experience was the introduction to an amazing community of hard-working, caring and generous people, who willingly gave their time and energy to share their knowledge and most evidently, their dedication to being stewards of the land.  I really respect and admire them all.

It has been a treat to share in the farming excitement with the other apprentices.  We’re all in a similar boat as new and aspiring farmers, with lots to learn and lots of questions. The excitement quadruples when we’re all together, learning from and teaching each other, and gorging ourselves at potlucks =). I am excited to see how our respective farming journeys evolve and have no doubt that our paths will cross again.

For anyone considering the apprenticeship program, JUST DO IT! Do it do it do it.  For me it got to the point where I just had to take the leap, and I am beyond grateful I did.  I now feel like farming is an actual possibility for my future, and am enjoying the process of getting there (even if it is very gradual).

Julia Steel Pony Farm2

Written by Julia Fisher, Young Agrarians Apprentice at Steel Pony Farm.

Learn more about the Steel Pony Farm YA Apprenticeship here.

NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS. Apply by February 28, 2019. 

Interested in an Apprenticeship but this isn’t quite the right one? Check out other Young Agrarians Alberta Apprenticeships being offered in 2019 here.