The EAT! Small Farm Apprenticeship Program is designed to provide a full-immersion experience, encouraging students to explore cultural diversity, philosophical perspectives and farming as a means to personal, family, community and financial wellness. Although place-based within the City of Norco, our curriculum is derived from generations of practical farming wisdom & emerging practices impacting the present and future of agriculture.
-Our Small Farm Apprenticeship Program lasts 10 months and requires a minimum of 540 hours in the field.
-Apprenticeship Students spend approximately 3 hours in class and 8 hours in the field each week, and approximately 4 weeks mastering each of the 9 Core agricultural knowledge areas—both on paper and in practice.
-Apprentices spend the 10th month of their program creating a Farm Business plan that details their path to Farm Business ownership, and qualifies the apprentice for participation in the Small Farm Business Incubator program.
-For students who have successfully completed their apprenticeship training, Five Keys Schools and Programs (through the EAT! Center) will support them in finding land to start and run their own Small Farm Business operation.
-The benefits of our incubator program are shared equipment & supplies, as well as continued mentorship.
1) SAFE & SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES
This module provides an introductory exploration of the general theories and concepts of sustainable agriculture and food systems, while providing in-depth study of safety practices for field, shop and packing facility. Good Agricultural Practices, Food Safety Planning and OSHA standards are emphasized throughout the course. Participants in the course are exposed to more than economic sustainability. In fact, organic, French intensive, wild farming and biodynamic processes are introduced to ensure that the true cultures of Sustainable Agriculture are covered. Emphasis is placed on smaller, family-sized operations where environmental, social and production sustainability can be achieved, monitored and measured.
2) SOIL SCIENCE & COMPOSTING
Wendell Berry describes soil as “… the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.” We simply call it the soul of our operation. This module will cover soil structure, biology and chemistry with a focus on fertility management through composting and other organic and regenerative practices.
3) ECOLOGICAL HORTICULTURE
More than 80 percent of the agricultural activities associated with North American farms are horticultural in nature. This module will focus on the systems utilized to grow horticultural crops including soil preparation, planting, maintaining and harvesting various types of crops. All processes and practices covered in the course will have an ecological focus that emphasizes soil health, biodiversity and Natural Resource Conservation. Regenerative Practices that ensure long-term whole system sustainability are at the core of the educational experience.
The purpose of irrigation is to mimic precipitation. In this module we study irrigation from water source to soil saturation with a focus on water conservation practices. Design, installation and operation of row crop, orchard, vineyard and pasture irrigation systems are covered.
5) INTEGRATED PEST & PATHOGEN MANAGEMENT
Farms are faced with pest pressures every season of every year. However, farms that practice Integrated Pest Management are more equipped to battle and control those pests than farms that do not. This module covers the principles and practices of Integrated pest management including cultural, chemical and mechanical approaches. Skilled observation and record keeping are key components of this course.
6) REGENERATIVE ANIMAL AGRICULTURE
Animals are an important part of the regenerative agriculture process as well as important contributors to soil nutrition management. Whether you raise animals for their manure, eggs, meat, hair or just for your pleasure, understanding basic biology, care and uses are important parts of a diversified operation. This module covers livestock from rabbits to cattle.
7) GREENHOUSE MANAGEMENT
Season extension has long been a part of agricultural practice. This module looks at the principles of season extension and covers various “greenhouse” designs and applications.
8) PRINCIPLES OF DIRECT MARKETING
Direct to consumer marketing is one way small farmers can excel. Where most conventional farm operations grow a few products and sell to a wholesaler for 8-10 cents on the dollar, a diversified small farmer who sells directly to the consumer regularly makes 50-80 cents on the dollar. Numerous market outlets are covered in this module including non-direct marketed Food hubs and cooperatives.
9) SMALL FARM BUSINESS PLANNING
Most farmers excel at horticulture or animal husbandry, but many struggle at the business side of farming. This module helps new and prospective farmers develop a plan for starting and growing their businesses. These plans serve as a guide for the farmers themselves, as well as other who may be asked to support the operation in one way or another.
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