Advice for Farmers
an intern is
a time honored tradition
that can benefit both the
intern and the farmer. Interns
are committed to learning
all they can about sustainable
agriculture and have devoted
weeks of their life to learn
and gain experience, often
at considerable financial sacrifice.
Host farmers should respect
their commitment; a host farmer
should be prepared to spend
considerable time with interns
providing adequate instruction,
discussing farming methods,
and constructing learning opportunities.
While interns will help out
on the farm, hosting interns
should not be used primarily
as a source of cheap labor.
A farmer needs to do far more
than simply explain and demonstrate
a certain task (as one would
do for an ordinary employee).
Farmers need to also explain
why this activity needs to
be done (at all, or at this
time), what other methods are
possible to get the same goals
accomplished, why at your farm
you do it the way you do, etc.
Whenever possible, a farmers
should discuss with interns
the broader health, environmental,
and economic implications of
his/her farm’s particular
practices: weed control methods,
soil fertility plan, grazing
plan, crop rotation plan, marketing
methods, and the like. Farmers
should encourage questions,
both specific and general,
from the intern and be extremely
receptive to questions asked.
It is strongly
suggested that, at the beginning
of the internship, farmers ask
interns to make a list of what
they want to learn by the end
of the internship experience.
Farmers should also make a list
of what they think they can best
teach. After reviewing each other’s
lists, farmers and interns should
work together to make a plan
to realize as many of the intern’s
goals as possible. As a farmer,
you need to be honest about where
your expertise is not able to
meet your intern’s expectations.
Interns can be flexible and modify
their goals to meet the opportunity
at hand. However, do consider
arranging other experiences to
enrich your intern’s learning
(and possibly your own!) such
as mutual reading and discussion
of a book, article, or chapter.
Consider sending your intern
to agricultural workshops offered
during the internship, or on
a "field trip" to
a neighboring farm for a day
or two for the intern to learn
what you cannot teach, and then
discussing this afterwards.
Remuneration and logistics:
Most host farmers
provide room and at least partial
board for interns who are working
full time. However, in recent
years farmers within commuting
distances of urban areas have
successfully offered full or
part-time internships without
on-farm housing. Either way,
most farmers offer modest stipends
on an hourly, weekly, or monthly
basis. Check your farm's liability
insurance policy to ensure that
you are properly prepared to
host a live-in intern. IMPORTANT:
intern stipends, if offered,
are taxable just like earned
wages. Ohio’s state law
mandates that interns, whether
full or part-time, be covered
by workers compensation insurance
just like regular farm employees.
Under rare circumstances, minimum
wage laws may also apply. Check
with your state labor relations
Be as clear as
possible in your farmer application
about what you are offering in
terms of stipend, room, board,
benefits, etc. Even if there
is room for negotiation, it’s
best to state a base-line offer(for
a candidate with minimal experience)
as clearly as possible in your
application materials. interns
without any prior experience
may be uncomfortable about negotiating,
and may shy away from an opportunity
where too much is "negotiable."
Screening, Interviewing, and
accepting an intern:
Farmers should periodically
review the list of applicants
on the OEFFA website and make
efforts to contact intern applicants
who appear to be a good match
for your needs and type of offering.
(Save the link you are sent;
you cannot access the farm job
application pages from the public
OEFFA website.) If at all possible,
talk to the intern candidate
on the phone once, and encourage
him or her to visit the farm
for an extended interview before
committing. The OEFFA conference
in March can also be a good opportunity
to interview potential interns.
During the interview
and decision making process,
it is sometimes difficult to
think of all the situations that
might come up during an internship,
especially if this is the first
time you are hosting an intern.
The following ideas may help
you fill out your farmer application
as well as guide you in the interviewing
process. In your interviews,
be sure to clarify mutual expectations
and ground rules in regard to
- How many hours
of work are expected in a typical
day? Week? Month?
of time off? Regular "off" hours
during the day or week?
regular/irregular and flexible/inflexible
is the work schedule? Which
times/days/hours is work
almost always expected? Which
times/days/hours are more
open to scheduling of another
part-time job, doctor’s
opportunities, social events,
visits by friends and relatives?
- Seasonal activities which
may affect time off, such as
lambing, haying, etc.
- Usual quitting and rising
times, breaks during the day,
does the intern want to learn
from this experience? (Ask
the intern to make a detailed
list, at or before the interview,
or no later than the first
week of the experience.)
- What skills and knowledge
are you, the farmer, best able
to teach on your farm? (The
farmer should make a detailed
list and share this with the
intern. intern and farmer should
compare lists and discuss these
either before making an agreement
or no later than the first
week of the experience.)
- What books, magazines, or
on-line resources on sustainable
agriculture are available for
interns for reading and discussion
during non-work hours? Will
there be regularly scheduled
reading, discussion or other
educational times during the
- What other resources (field
trips to other farms, retail
or wholesale businesses or
markets, seminars or workshops
etc.) can be arranged to meet
the educational goals of the
intern? Transportation to these?
- Is an hourly,
weekly or monthly stipend
being offered? Are state, local
and federal tax withholding
regulations being followed?
How often or at what intervals
will payment be made?
- Will the intern be reimbursed
for gas or expenses for commuting
to the farm, making deliveries,
running farm errands, etc.
in his/her own vehicle?
- Is workers' compensation
insurance provided? (This is
mandatory under Ohio law, and
a certificate of coverage needs
to be posted in a visible place
on the farm.)
and record- keeping: A system
(such as a log book) needs
to be set up where the intern
can record his/her "on-duty" work
hours on a daily basis. This
is very important to maintain
a clear distinction between work
hours covered by workers compensation
and off-duty hours (which are
not so covered). Without this
log, a workers compensation claim
might be denied, even if coverage
payments have been made. Check
your homeowner’s liability
insurance to make sure intern
or visitor injuries which are
not work-related will be covered.
An hours log can also serve
as a basis for stipend payment.
The system should also allow
for proper recording of any
intern-occurred expenses for
which the farmer would reimburse
Workings of the
- Will an intern
work with livestock? Does
he/she have any philosophical,
ethical, health and safety
concerns about that?
- Expectations of interns during
time off or in case of the
absence of the farmer (monitoring
livestock or greenhouse, etc.)
- Private family times or space
and level of intern involvement.
- Work clothing and equipment
needs (boots, rain gear, etc.)
- Teaching techniques and farming
philosophies. Is there a good
match between intern and farmer
live-in interns.) Are intern
living quarters safe, healthy,
reasonably private and comfortable?
Are the quarters reasonably
temperature controlled? (Air
conditioning? Heat? Fans?)Are
interns expected to share a bedroom
with another intern? (Do not
expect interns to share a bedroom
with other members of your own
family, but they do not need
their own bathroom.)
in the house or on the farm
for relaxing, recreation, storage
of possessions or equipment.
Which areas of the farmer’s
house can the intern freely
use? Bathroom facilities?
- Are either the host or intern
- Cooking and clean up responsibilities?
- Meal and cooking arrangements,
food purchasing, special dietary
needs. What meals are offered
by the farmer? Are interns
expected to prepare some meals
on their own? If so, do they
have designated food storage
areas, kitchen privileges?
Who shops and pays for this
house cleaning - to what
extent is intern help expected?
Standards of cleanliness
expected for intern’s
own quarters? Shared bathrooms?
- Bedding and towels -Who provides?
Who changes and cleans?
- Privacy issues for all parties
- Intern use of host property-
telephone, stereos, computers,
musical instruments, television,
car, etc. (Note: Farmers who
have computers may need to
allow interns living on the
farm some time to use their
computers for internet access
to check e-mail, etc. and should
establish any rules or time
restrictions for this. What
about long-distance calls?)
- Is childcare an issue?
the intern have (or need)
a car? Is it insured? Where
to park it? Does he/she have
access to the farmer’s
vehicle either for personal
or farm-related use?
What recreational or sports
facilities are there (on the
farm or in the area) for interns
to use? interns need recreation
time and opportunities to socialize
with their own friends or people
their own age. Farmers in remote
areas with live-in interns
may need to help interns make
- Chronic health problems which
may affect work performance.
- Smoking, drug and alcohol
- Health insurance.
- Phobias, fantasies,
pet peeves and personal quirks.
Make and share a list of
yours, and ask the intern to
do the same.
- Visitation of friends, during
the day or overnight. Any restrictions
or requests? What sleeping
arrangements are available
and/or acceptable for overnight
- Does the intern have pets?
Are they permitted?
Go over this checklist at your
on-farm interview or no later
than the beginning of the internship
to make sure a strong agreement
has been reached between you
and your intern. Create an atmosphere
of easy communication so that
problems or misunderstandings
can be discussed and dealt with
quickly and amicably. Don’t
allow tensions to simmer and
build! Seek out feedback often
and try to react constructively,
without defensiveness, to complaints
or criticism received.