Frequently Asked Questions – CRAFT SW Ontario:
CRAFT (The Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) is an informal, member-driven network of farmers that offer internships on their organic and ecological farms. The goal of CRAFT is to enhance the internships offered by its member farms. The primary method of doing this is to offer regular field trips which usually take place at selected CRAFT farms.
There are several regional CRAFT nodes in Ontario. Each regional node is its own network of farms that offer internships. Each CRAFT node plans education workshops or field days for all the interns of the CRAFT farms in their node. This website is specific to CRAFT Southwest Ontario.
CRAFT Southwest Ontario farms are all distinct but they share several things in common. Each CRAFT farm:
- offers a full-season farming internship (details of these internships vary from farm to farm – see farm descriptions);
- uses ecological farming methods, i.e. the farm is certified organic or has adopted organic agriculture practices (click here for our definition of Ecological Agriculture);
- teaches and mentors their interns in ecological farming methods;
- brings their interns to all of the CRAFT field trips organized by their regional node.
Likewise, each regional CRAFT node is unique. The CRAFT SW Ontario node:
- ensures that their participating farms are using ecological farming methods;
- ensures that their participating farms are teaching ecological farming methods;
- informs member farmers of their responsibilities regarding CRAFT field days;
- designates an individual as the node liaison, who communicates with the other CRAFT nodes in Ontario;
- organizes field days/educational activities for all CRAFT farm interns in the node;
- conducts a common intern survey.
Internships are a relationship directly between the farm and the intern, not with CRAFT SW Ontario. CRAFT SW Ontario is a network of collaborating farms, not an organization overseeing farms and their internships.
CRAFT field trips are attended by all the CRAFT interns in the regional node as well as by CRAFT farmers. These field trips and other CRAFT activities are intended to:
- strengthen the interns’ and farmers’ skills and their understanding of organic farming and gardening;
- expose interns to a wider range of growing and management practices than they would receive on one farm;
- build a network of farmers and interns, creating a more cohesive organic growing community.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE CRAFT SW ONTARIO FIELD TRIPS?
Member farmers of CRAFT SW Ontario plan their field days according to the capacities and number of farmers involved, along with any external support they may have from a local organization.
A common CRAFT field trip schedule includes monthly field trips to six of the CRAFT farms. All farms arrange for their interns to participate fully in each field trip. The itinerary for each CRAFT field trip typically includes:
- a talk or workshop on a specific topic/activity that is an important element of a sustainable farm (e.g. farm equipment, soil fertility, livestock care, business planning);
- a pot-luck lunch;
- a farm tour/field-walk;
- a work project or group activity.
Each farm is unique so you need to review the farm descriptions and contact the farms that interest you for more details. Each CRAFT farm operates independently and offers its own internship which differs from the other farms with respect to such things as: living and eating arrangements, stipends, work hours, and training methods.
It is your responsibility to carefully research the farms so that you understand the expectations of the farmers that you will be working with, and how the internship matches up with what you hope to gain from the experience.
Basically, a farm internship works like this:
- You live on a farm for most or all of a full growing season (roughly April-November, depending on the farm).
- During that time you gain hands-on experience by doing lots of farm work, and you learn from the farmer(s).
- Each CRAFT farm is also committed to taking its intern(s) to the monthly CRAFT field trips.
- A farm may also offer other training, such as added fields trips, seminars, books, special projects or responsibilities.
Contact the CRAFT Farms that interest you for application details. Most farms accept applications year-round, but the best time to apply is before mid-February. Applying before this date gives you the best chance of receiving an internship offer from one of the CRAFT farms.
Please inquire with individual farms to find out if they are accepting applications following the deadline. Some CRAFT nodes have an application and selection process for candidates applying to multiple farms within their regional node.
Application and hiring steps:
- Review the CRAFT farm descriptions for South-West Ontario (Click here to access the member farm descriptions).
- Select the farms you are interested in and contact them for application details.
- Submit an application to each farm, according to their individual requirements.
- Schedule interviews/farm visits with the farms that offer you interviews.
- If and when you receive an offer for an internship from a farm, finalize the details of your internship arrangement.
- If you set up an internship with a farm, inform any other farms you have applied to.
- If you do not receive an internship with the farms you applied to, ask the farmer if they know of any farms that have an opening.
It’s often hard to know which farm you’d like to intern at. Applying early is your first step. If you are applying to multiple farms, and have arranged interviews with more than one farm, it is helpful to let the farm know that you have applied to multiple farms.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or a “WWOOF” visit (formerly known as Willing Workers on Organic Farms), is a great way to learn about organic farming while meeting lots of interesting people and traveling around. It is usually a temporary visit involving volunteer work on a farm in exchange for a great learning experience and accommodation. Arrangements are made directly with the host farm and vary from farm to farm. Check out wwoof.ca for more info.
A CRAFT internship, on the other hand, is a full-season learning experience aimed at immersing interns in the world of ecological farming. It is a practical, hands-on experience based on an exchange involving the intern’s labour and commitment and the farmer’s instruction, supervision, education, time and commitment.
A farming internship is meant to equip an intern with the kind of exposure to farming needed to consider a future in farming. But whatever an intern’s longer-term goals are, an internship is a powerful experience that will equip you with the tools and insights to make a real difference in the world.
Requirements for being a CRAFT farm in SW Ontario begin with those outlined under FAQ ‘What is CRAFT?‘. Further requirements are stipulated on the For Farmers page. Applications must be submitted to the co-ordinator by November 15th for membership in the following season. In order to consider an application, the farmer must have a current CRAFT SW Ontario member farm act as a sponsor. For more information, and to receive an application package, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
One good source is FarmLINK Ontario which provides opportunities to link up with farmland, as well as information resources for new farmers. On the FarmLINK website, CRAFT farms will usually be identified.
SOILS (Stewards of Irreplaceable Lands) is another organization that offers ecological farming internships.
Farms At Work offers mentorships which are curriculum-based, multi-day training programs in which expert farmers and trainers work with small groups of mentees throughout a farming season.