Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians have come to realize how important farmers are to providing the food that we eat. This, combined with pandemic job loss, means, for some, there may be no better time to explore a career in agriculture or in agri-business. Opportunities for learning are many and varied: through teaching farms, volunteer and apprenticeship programs, and post-secondary education.
Gain Practical Experience on a Teaching Farm
Teaching farms aim to help Canadians obtain hands-on, as well as practical, farming experience. Participants gain this experience either through volunteering or engaging in formal education offered by a teaching farm. Since each teaching farm offers a different mix of programming, if you are interested in agriculture, you can find a farm that meets your unique interests.
Hayes Farm, a teaching farm in Fredericton, New Brunswick, “aims to inspire and mobilize New Brunswickers toward a resilient and thriving food system,” states Hayes Farm’s website. The farm offers both informal and formal education programs as well as volunteer opportunities.
The Hayes Farm Regenerative Farming Certificate is an 18-week program. “With a balance of in-field and classroom time (roughly 70:30), program interns are actively involved in feeding local people through a community farm. Each intern takes on ownership and management of a small field block (production area),” explains Claire May, Hayes Farm’s Program Coordinator.
Hayes Farm offers drop-in discussion sessions where community members can learn more about a variety of topics. The Farm’s Growers Guild sessions gather like-minded people to discuss a common topic. Individuals can also volunteer on the farm for a one-time or routine commitment.
According to their website, Everdale, a teaching farm in Hillsburgh, Ontario, is “a farm-based organization that provides hands-on, solution-based food and farming education to build and engage healthy local communities.”
Everdale offers a progressive approach to farm education based upon an individual’s comfort and skill level. They offer various volunteer opportunities including helping with community events or volunteering on the farm for a week. Individuals looking to advance their skills may be interested in Everdale’s Sustainable Farming Certificate (SFC) or Farmer Planning programs.
The SFC is a 32-week program, which runs from early April to late November. SFC apprentices receive a combination of hands-on and knowledge-based training. They attend a series of training events hosted by Everdale and their partners. In addition, they take six field trips to other farms and there are opportunities to take on special interest projects on the Everdale farm.
“We pack as much as possible into a seven-month span to get students fast tracked… in terms of knowledge gain… You can really skip a couple years almost, just in spending seven months [on the farm],” stated an instructor in Everdale’s SFC video.
Everdale’s Farm Planner program is for individuals looking to increase their business knowledge related to agriculture. The program offers full-day learning sessions based on topics such as marketing and distribution, financial basics and regulations, risk management and record keeping.
Volunteer to Live and Learn on Organic Farms in 132 Countries
The WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) organization aims to promote ecological farming practices, while providing visitors an opportunity to live and learn on organic farms. Participants, referred to as WWOOFers, volunteer their time on organic farms, living and working alongside a host farmer as well as other WWOOFers. WWOOF has a global network of host farms across 132 countries, including Canada. This means there are opportunities to travel all over the world.
Individuals interested in joining WWOOF must register and purchase a membership for each country they plan to visit. You must also ensure that you have the appropriate travel visa to enter that country. Then you log into that country’s WWOOF portal to contact WWOOF hosts and arrange your stay at their farms. You then can travel to that host’s farm to work and live.
Apprentice with an Experienced Farmer
The Young Agrarians organization offers an apprenticeship program for aspiring farmers across the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The apprenticeship program seeks to bridge the gap between the current and future generation of Canadian farmers.
The Young Agrarians Apprenticeship Program is a mentorship program that pairs new farmers with experienced farmers. Apprentices are immersed in day-in and day-out operations of the farm to gain valuable hands-on experience.
Study Agriculture at Canadian Universities
Many Canadian universities offer post-secondary education related to agriculture. These programs range in length from eight months to four years. Program specializations include the following: Agricultural Economics, Agricultural Sciences, Agricultural Management, Agronomy, Horticulture Science and Organic Agriculture. If you are interested in learning more, check out FarmOn.com’s Agricultural Education in Canada: The Ultimate List of Programs.
Exploring agricultural education offers great value, whether you’re looking to learn how to grow your own food or are interested in exploring a career in farming. There are many opportunities for growth waiting for you. If you would like to learn more about farmwork or jobs in agriculture, visit Farmwork to Feed Canada’s Farmwork website.