Many of us, at farm museums, CSA’s, in community based farming or any farm based venture rely on motivated interns who come to us and spend varying lengths of time assisting us in our agricultural work, with educational outreach and in overall business management.
Here on our farm we could not do without interns.
Interns can add alot of "sweat equity" and can be very helpful to your work, but did you ever consider why people intern and what some of the motivators might be? Consider the following list and think about how much interns can gain from you.
Employers value experience. But getting the “foot in the door” in any profession or field can be challenging. An internship provides a low risk entry into a professional arena. Once an intern has successfully completed their internship, they can always point to this experience. Having learned the tricks of a trade from an expert in maple syrup making, bee keeping or sheep shearing allows interns to leave with marketable skills.
2. Moving Up
Talented interns are always in a good position to move into open full time jobs. Having shown to be a good fit with the farm often gives interns a decided advantage over more experienced applicants from the outside. Just like raising ones own food makes sense- it also is sensible to raise ones own staff.
3. Finding Ones Calling
Many people are unhappy in their current career. A time limited internship can quickly lay to rest any illusions about a “dream career” in another profession. Many people believe that working in farming or in farm education would be “cool” – most do not see the hidden challenges and the hardships this career choice can bring with it. An internship can clue them in.
4. Building Contacts
Getting a job can depend on who you know. Farm based education and farming in general relies on the building of relationships. Having access to people who are professional farm educators or farmers can be very valuable. Interns are in the process of establishing their credibility, they will need professional references and when it goes well, the time spent with you will help them to build a network of contacts.
5. From Theory to Practice
The gritty reality of any profession can’t be discovered in text books or on-line. Students that may have learned about farm based education and farming in a college setting can supplement theoretical studies through hands-on experience. An internship can be the first attempt to take theoretical learning and apply it in practice. Hosting tours, conducting educational programs, participating in a hay harvest puts theoretical knowledge to a test.
6. Just For the Heck of It
Many people reach a transition point in their life when they just want to do something different temporarily. Students who just finished school, people past retirement age, people who are able to take some time off, and others who just want to take a break from their regular career, may be candidates for a short term farm based internship. For these individuals, the farm intern experience may just be a perfect interlude.
7. A Personal Journey
Many people have a career that does not fulfill them emotionally or spiritually. Interns like this often choose farms and especially mission driven non-profit organizations that work toward a greater cause. This is especially true in the progressive sustainable agriculture movement, where many come to the “work” with a calling and a special affinity to the beneficial interaction between people, their food and the environment.
8. Academic Credit
Many colleges, universities and even some High Schools provide academic course credit for farm internships. Generally this kind of intern is under the supervision of an academic advisor who together with the internship sight ensures that the work during the internship corresponds with a set requirement. Students in plant science, agriculture, but also in education and related fields might be perfect candidates for credit based internships on your farm.
9. Apprenticeship Requirement
Interns who are seeking to complete a specific professional education may have to complete a set amount of field work. This can be done during an internship. Establishing contact with university programs and other academic institutions may alert these sources of interns to your organization and your intern needs.
10. International Experience
For many people living abroad, it is a dream to come to the United States for an immersion experience in our culture. A time limited international internship is ideal. There are special international visas that allow students to intern with organizations and there even are organizations that help to match internationals with internship sites. Since agriculture is international in scope, this kind of exchange offers exciting learning opportunities on all sides. There even are special sponsors or programs that can help facilitate this kind of international intern exchange.