Stewards of Irreplaceable Lands (SOIL) is a Canadian organisation that links established farmers with those looking to work and learn on farms practicing sustainable methods.

As with many other countries, Canada is also suffering from a shrinking farming population, with the average age of farmers rising to 54. This raises the questions of who will farm our land in the future? SOIL are trying to buck that trend by encouraging the growth of sustainable agriculture with their network of established farms. Alongside promoting sustainable practices amongst prospective farmers, the organisation also aims to:

  • Expose potential apprentices to a rural lifestyle. For those with little or no farming experience an apprenticeship can offer a valuable hands on learning environment in which to acquire the basic skills or even provide the basis for an agricultural career.
  • Assist the farmer with the necessary support required to successfully run their operation. The farmers and farm community can also benefit greatly from the influx of new ideas, energy and enthusiasm of apprentices.

young farmer

Apprenticeships are available to anyone over the age of 18, who is self motivated and interested in pursuing a future career in farming. There are opportunities to learn about a wide range of farming practices, from growing in raised beds, using natural fertilisers and biological pest control to animal husbandry.

For farmers who don’t have previous experience of mentoring others, or vice versa, they may feel slightly apprehensive about how to make the experience as rewarding as possible. SOIL has provided an extensive manual for farmers and apprentices with sample questions and activities for a number of different topics from greenhouses to beekeeping.

Also included within their resources are sample contracts for both farmers and apprentices.

Apprentices are expected to commit to at least 8 weeks on the farm of their choice, although a full growing season is preferred. Most farms will offer accommodation in exchange for labour, although they are also encouraged to provide a small wage or allowance.

If you’re interested in taking part in an apprenticeship, follow the steps below:

  1. Review the list of farms, who are offering to take part
  2. Select which farms you are interested in and submit an application form along with the fee of $30
  3. Review the information sent back to you by SOIL, and make direct contact with the farm of your choice to come to a working agreement

For farms wanting to become hosts, the process is very similar. Once an application form has been completed, SOIL will add a description of your farm to their website along with photographs. You will simply need to wait for the requests to roll in!

Visit www.soilapprenticeships.com to get started.

Photographs: Rhiannon Boyle and Viaje a Canada

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