Farm Intern Positions in Tennessee

farm intern positions

2022 Full Season Farm Intern Positions at Athena’s Harvest Farm

Athena’s Harvest is a small vegetable farm run by former Peace Corps volunteers in Fly, TN, 33 miles (as the crow flies) from downtown Nashville. While our property consists of 55 acres, we intensively produce a wide diversity of sustainably grown vegetables and some fruit on less than 3 acres of land, with the majority of our sales occurring at retail farmers markets we attend in Nashville, through our CSA program (weekly subscription box of produce), and via some restaurant sales.

Our land consists of rolling pasture, wooded hills, and good bottom farm land. We have a long stretch of creek frontage and springs as well as our farm house, a greenhouse, two high tunnels, and two barns. We use a motley crew of interns (that’s potentially you if you are reading this), shorter term WWOOFers, and local volunteers to grow food and get it out into the community. Teaching and learning are integral parts of our mission, and we do regular check-ins with everyone to make sure that people are learning what they want, and so that feedback can flow both directions.

To learn more about us, check out our website () and Facebook page, and follow our stream on Instagram (@athenasharvest). We would be happy to answer any questions about us, our farm, and our internship positions via phone or email before you fill out an application, but reading this information and looking over our website should give you a good place to start.

THE WORK

**We are in need of at least 1 person who has experience with or particular passion for canning/preserving/fermentation in 2022**

We take on 3 full-season interns per season, plus will consider 1 summer only or summer through end of season intern, often college students taking some semesters off or looking for an internship, recent grads who want to learn about farming, or others with a genuine interest in the work and lifestyle of small scale sustainable agriculture. We have had interns use this experience as part of an “official” academic internship requirement, and we can work with you to see if we meet the requirements for your program.

Because we take the time to instruct new workers and give them additional responsibilities as they become more proficient, and because it naturally takes time for them to build their physical prowess, we prefer to take on interns who can work a full season or a large portion thereof. The “season” runs roughly 9 months from March 1 through late November, and we give preference to full-season interns who can commit to at least 8 months or more. Full season interns share a simple bunkhouse with AC/heat etc., though camping is also an option. The start date is important, as we prefer to train a cohort of people that are all learning at the same time.

Over the course of a season, activities will consist of a wide variety of field work, greenhouse work, planting, transplanting, harvesting, weeding, washing, irrigating, pruning, flower arranging, covering and uncovering beds, packing, delivering, mulching, market prep, produce selling, equipment/tool/vehicle maintenance, construction, land maintenance, mowing, fence mending, organic pest control, wood cutting, social media engagement, and a multitude of other tasks. Though not certified, we exclusively use organic best practices to grow diverse fruits and vegetables while maintaining our farm’s soil health and ecological balance. No synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides are used, and we don’t plant any GMOs.

Contrary to popular stereotypes, successful farmers must be intelligent, hard working, and proficient in a wide variety of disciplines, and we try to expose our interns to all of them. We like to think of ourselves as specialized generalists.  Prior experience in this type of work is valuable and may help your application, but is not necessary or required. Potential applicants should consider their ability to adapt to unfamiliar and occasionally uncomfortable conditions, especially as one is becoming accustomed to the work. You will sometimes have to tolerate heat or cold, dirty skin and clothes, sore muscles, calloused hands, repetitive tasks, and direct contact with insects. You may also have to tolerate silly song singing, cute barn cats trying to “help” you work, sharing/cooking yummy farm meals, meeting new people from around the country and the world, having your jobs change over the course of the season or even a day, and taking refreshing dips in the creek at lunchtime or after work.

Applicants for the farm intern positions should be in good physical, mental, and emotional health! Key qualities we are looking for in our interns are reliability, mental/emotional stability, genuine friendliness and enthusiasm for life, willingness to learn and to work hard, a high degree of self-motivation, and the ability to learn via observation and questioning in addition to “direct” teaching. In addition, patience, possession of a good sense of humor, adaptability, and the ability to respect and work with others in a team will serve you well. Being willing/able to interact with children and adults in social or farmers-market settings is a must. Our past experience suggests that those applicants with at least some college experience usually have the maturity level we are seeking, but we will consider applications from anyone 18 years or older. The internship will provide you with many opportunities for learning and skill building, but how much you get out of it will in large part be up to you and how actively you pursue these opportunities. We will nudge you in some critical directions, but have found those who ask us more questions and pursue more paths of personal interest will ultimately find more answers (and more questions!)

Having a drivers license, a safe driving record, and being comfortable driving a car or van (automatic transmission), may be a plus for your application, but is not required. We have actually taught some of our younger interns to drive in the past.

Realistically, applicants for the farm intern positions must be capable of sustained physical work outdoors in all weather conditions and temperatures. While we are not a huge wholesale operation that relies on a large labor pool of professional speed pickers, we do value efficiency and personal initiative, while also having fun. Farm work is more of a lifestyle than a typical 9-5 job, and it comes with a lot of perks even though we work hard. We do all the same work as our interns, and interns share in our lives, holidays, and fun events as we go through the year. We and our interns host a weekly community potluck that has become one of the events we most look forward to, but is also a bit of work to set up and take down from each week. For many people, practicing this kind of farming and living in community is a very satisfying kind of existence.

OUR THREE FARM INTERN POSITIONS

Ideally, our three full-season interns will begin at approximately the same time, arriving as a cohort for living and learning purposes. All of our interns will regularly do and be exposed to all of the types of work mentioned above (with planting, picking, weeding, harvesting, washing, food preservation/canning, and market related activities being the bulk of the work), but we prefer that our interns also take on a few areas of particular focus/interest, and increasing responsibility. Each intern may also get the opportunity to act as farm “manager” for a month or two (under Farmer Jesse’s supervision). Fear not, we will train you (or perhaps, you will train us, depending on your prior experience).

Possible areas of focus for the farm intern positions include (but are not limited to):

  • Cut Flower production and arranging for market
    • Using native farm wildflowers and plant materials in addition to some flowers planted specifically for cut flower harvesting. A relatively new area of interest for us. If you have significant experience in this realm, you may be able to teach us a thing or two… :). If not, then we can teach you what we know and all continue learning together.
  • Canning/fermenting/drying/food-preservation
    • A continuing focus in 2022 as in past years. We expect at least one of our interns in 2022 to spend a good bit of time on this set of tasks. We sell, eat, donate, or preserve as much of the harvest as possible each year, and food-preservation is an important way we try not to let our work go to waste. In some cases it also provides us with an additional revenue stream as a value-added product (ex. dried herbs). These are great skills for everyone to learn, but there is definitely a learning curve for doing it well, and practice is the only way to become proficient.
  • Mushroom Production
    • We plan to ramp up our our production of oyster mushrooms in 2022. We use a production system based on pasteurized straw and 5 gallon buckets. New straw must be chopped, pasteurized and seeded with spawn on a regular basis, and growing mushrooms must be misted and harvested as needed. You could become the king or queen of fungi.
  • Social media engagement, and blog/newsletter management
    • We maintain a Facebook page, an Instagram  feed, and a Twitter account in addition to a website with a blog and a CSA newsletter. You would regularly contribute to our social media output in all of these realms with input from us. Professional language, spelling, and online etiquette is a must.
  • Volunteer & School-Group Coordination
    • We plan to increase the number of volunteers and volunteer hours worked on the farm this year, while also continuing to host some school groups. A certain amount of logistics is required to reach out to people, respond to queries, and assist with volunteer/school visits. You would help plan and assist with these tasks as needed.
  • Light construction/carpentry
    • As a relatively new farm, we are still building out our facilities and infrastructure. The list of possible small construction/carpentry projects is nearly endless, and you would occasionally work/assist on some of these projects (to be prioritized together) in lieu of or in addition to agricultural work.
  • Farm equipment/tool/vehicle maintenance
    • We have a range of hand tools, small machines, and farm vehicles that need to be maintained (cleaned, sharpened, repaired, fluids changed, tires pumped, etc.). You would assist with these tasks and learn to take some of them on fully based on a schedule that we can work out together.
  • Orchard/woodlot maintenance
    • We have a small orchard (not yet in full production), berry plants, and a property full of old fences and field edges that need to be improved and maintained (pruned/ trained/ mulched/ mowed/ fertilized/ repaired, etc). Downed trees need to be sawed into firewood. Sawed firewood needs to be split with an axe. You would assist with these tasks.
  • Permaculture Design & Implementation
    • We are at the beginning of our permaculture design process. This is a good time to get hands on permaculture training in a real world setting. This year we will be doing base-mapping, examining flows of water, air, sunlight, people, and animals, researching food forest species appropriate for our site, and beginning implementation of our design. You would be a co-conspirator!
  • Other areas
    • Past interns have taken on projects ranging from worm composting, to baking, to sign painting, to farm systems design. 2020 interns built an outdoor shower and a wood-fired pizza oven. There are many possible ways to contribute to our farm livelihood and community life.

To be clear once again, everyone will learn/do a bit of everything outlined above, but we will specifically encourage you to pursue some focused interests (or nudge you in a direction we think you may be suited for) as time progresses.

To Apply for the Farm Intern Positions

For more information and to apply for the positions please go to: 

 

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