Work-based learning such as apprenticeships and internships are viable strategies for growing sustainable
businesses and transferring skills and knowledge to a younger generation. Farming benefits from work-based learning because the transfer of farm knowledge is usually best done one-on-one and hands on. Currently, information on the legal requirements and knowledge about apprenticeship and internship labor laws on farms in New England is not readily available to farm business owners. Existing apprenticeship and mentoring programs desire shared guidelines and best practices to meet clearly articulated learning goals for producers apprenticing and gaining farm management skills. Developing a shared curriculum and best practices will elevate the quality of apprenticeship programs serving producers throughout New England. This project will bring together farmers and organizations sponsoring agricultural apprenticeships to identify gaps in current programing and develop new resources and training materials for farms looking to improve their management or facilitation of apprenticeship learning. The partnership project team will: research existing apprenticeship program design, curricula, and operations to understand best practices and successes/challenges, liaison with the Department of Labor in five New England states to understand formal Apprenticeship requirements for diverse agricultural sectors, and develop a comprehensive “Designing and Delivering a Quality Legal Apprenticeship Program in New England” Toolkit for regional distribution. Three regional workshops for farm mentors will allow Apprenticeship programs to share best practices, receive professional development, evaluate resource materials, and set agendas for future programming.
Prior research on on-farm labor, practical skills training and mentoring resulted in several 2008 publications by New England Small Farm Institute covering on-farm work stays, mentor readiness, and educational approaches to farm-based mentoring. Farm Commons developed a “legally sound intern and volunteer program” tutorial and developed several state-specific guides to tax and paperwork checklists for hiring ag employees. Quivera Coalition recently developed an Apprenticeship Guidebook featuring program models of quality apprenticeships. Other organizations have developed fact sheets, resource guides, and trainings on farm labor regulations. Yet, the Conservation Law Foundation’s Legal Services Food Hub had eight requests for legal support with employment and farm labor issues in the past year alone. Additionally, a 2016 survey by the Beginning Farmer Network of Massachusetts found farm employment and labor issues among the top concerns among new farmers. Agricultural labor laws can be complicated and producers often lack easy access to accurate information around hiring, wages, workers’ compensation and liability insurance, tax filings and payroll, OSHA and farmworker protections, migrant workers, classification of volunteers or independent contractors, and how to meet Department of Labor (DOL)’s formal definition of apprenticeship or internship. A majority of smaller-scale farms utilize “apprenticeship or internship” to mean education and training in exchange for reduced wages, possibly on- farm room and board, or other educational benefits. These employers may not be meeting federal or state requirements and in recent years, DOL has begun implementing steep fines in California and most recently New York.
While current educational resources exist, they are often dense, confusing, and the requirements vary by state. Producers are interested in easy-to-follow guidelines for ensuring a lawful farm employment structure that meets business and operational needs of the farm. Collaborating with our partners and farmers, we will compile existing resources, develop simple fact sheets and decision trees, and develop case studies and situational examples to educate producers. This project begins with an assessment of existing resources and adds industry specific research from individual state Departments of Labor and other sources to develop a comprehensive, plain- language “New England Apprenticeship Toolkit” which commercial specialty crop farmers can utilize for structuring their employment, apprenticeship or internship programs to comply with current regulations. We will also develop a regional workshop series for farm mentors and broadly disseminate information through agricultural service providers, commodity groups, listservs, and at regional farming conferences. The impacts of this project will benefit producers who will reduce their legal risks by making sound hiring decisions around their farm’s workforce, provide more tools and training approaches for farm mentors who want to engage a young, eager-to-learn workforce through apprenticeship or internship programs, and it will benefit aspiring farmers (trainees) with opportunities to gain meaningful (and compliant), formally-structured work-learning experiences.
Our goal is to strengthen New England apprenticeship training programs to provide high quality, legally compliant experiential education and training for beginning farmers. The question is “Will providing accessible information and training on the legal requirements for formal apprenticeship and internships reduce the risk for farm employers and improve learning outcomes for prospective farmers?” The objective is to research, analyze, and evaluate current programs in order to address gaps in curriculum for on-farm apprenticeship learning and improve professional development for farm mentors. In cooperation with our project partners, we will develop resources, training materials, and suggested “best practices” for farm mentors.
The project objectives are:
Objective 1: Assess Resources: Research, review, and assess existing curricula and identify gaps in mentoring resources
Objective 2: Research Formal Apprenticeship Requirements working with Department of Labor in each NewEngland state.
Objective 3: Develop a New England Apprenticeship Training “Toolkit”
Objective 4: Disseminate Educational Resources through broad outreach, three regional workshops, and connections to agricultural service provider networks.
Objective 5: Support a Community of Practice and learning network for apprentice training programs.
Objective 6: Track and Evaluate Project Outcomes to assess the effectiveness of project outputs and develop a framework to evaluate apprenticeship outcomes.
Our approach combines our detailed work plan/method and activities for each program objective.
Objective 1: Assess Existing Resources: Review existing farm labor guides and apprenticeship training curricula and identify gaps in information on experiential education and training, and in mentoring resources. Through web searches, resource clearinghouses, apprenticeship listings, and referrals to known apprenticeship programs (including the 40 organizations from the recent Quivira Coalition survey), solicit and compile existing curricula and resource materials (applications, self-assessments, learning plan templates, program frameworks, etc.) and sort by topics and organizational support materials. Review materials and identify gaps in available farm labor resources for New England. Using 2015 Quivira survey and data, review apprenticeship survey results and identify gaps in professional development /trainings available to address needs around apprenticeship program design and understanding of farm labor laws.
Objective 2: Research Formal Apprenticeship Requirements: Many agricultural apprenticeship training programs are not structured to meet industry-specific and Department of Labor requirements for formal apprenticeship; a framework is needed for industry engagement and accreditation of sector-specific training programs at the federal or state levels. We will review available resource materials and guidebooks on lawful apprenticeship training program requirements. We will identify federal and state-specific variations for further research and engage in conversations with the six New England states’ and the federal Department of Labor contacts for agricultural apprenticeship. We will compile a resource fact sheet aggregating the available guides, webinars, and information available on apprenticeship/farm labor laws per state and create a framework for a comprehensive Toolkit. We will also determine if it is possible to develop a regional approach to formal apprenticeship by understanding DOL interpretation of industry “sponsor” requirements for Apprenticeship in the trades.
Objective 3: Develop a Comprehensive “New England Apprenticeship” Toolkit to facilitate training-of-trainer programs for farm and ranch mentors. The guide will contain plain-language information and decision trees to support farm employers to design and deliver a quality, legally-compliant Apprenticeship or Internship program. The guide will contain additional resource materials including stand-alone fact sheets and examples of apprenticeship curricula, programming, case studies, and administrative structures to make the comprehensive Toolkit more accessible to a broader audience. The Toolkit will include specific content for New England States (and include references to New York). The Toolkit will be posted online and disseminated broadly through partner and service provider listservs and websites and through farm-specific networks and commodity associations.
Objective 4: Strengthen Farm and Ranch Mentor Skills through Regional “Train-of-Trainer” (TOT) and Technical Assistance (TA) Capacity Building Programs: In addition to conducting outreach and promoting the Toolkit on quality Apprenticeship training programs to a broad audience, we will develop programming to provide three, focused 1-day regional “training of trainer” workshops for farm mentors. We will conduct the day-long workshops throughout New England and eastern NY (one each in Maine (hosted by Cultivating Community/MOFGA), Massachusetts (hosted by New Entry in collaboration with NOFA Mass), and one in Eastern NY (hosted by Hawthorne Valley Place Based Learning Center) to attract a wide net of farm mentors and organizations sponsoring apprenticeship connection programs. We will also provide a resource and referral technical assistance program to organizations and farm mentors as a follow up to the trainings. We will target the TA to those farm mentors and organizations interested in sponsoring quality on-farm learning experiences and being part of a more structured learning network.
Objective 5: Support a Community of Practice and regional learning network for apprentice training programs in New England and the Northeast through peer-to-peer sharing and networking. As part of the regional training workshops, we will strengthen the network of apprenticeship training program and farm mentors that are able to connect and facilitate informal and more formal information exchange through a regional listserv (CRAFT listservs), connections at regional conferences (such as NOFA Mass Summer Conferences, NESAWG, and through the Northeast Beginning Farmer Learning Network meetings hosted annually by Cornell University.
Objective 6: Tracking and Evaluate Outcomes: We will document and assess the effectiveness of project outputs and develop a framework to evaluate apprenticeship outcomes via a pre- and post-survey of agricultural employers to engage on-farm work-learning opportunities. Our goal will be to capture at least 100-150 completed surveys prior to the launch of a scheduled training of trainer session and we will complete post-training evaluations immediately after completion of the training. We will also follow up with a second post-training evaluation survey between 3 and 4 months after completion of the training to determine what changes have been implemented and any positive or unexpected outcomes that resulted after attending the training.
Activities in 2017
Foundational steps in the development of educational products have been accomplished, and one day long workshop has been completed.
New Entry staff has reviewed existing farm labor guides and apprenticeship training curricula and identified gaps in information on experiential education and training, and in mentoring resources. We have worked with multiple partners including the Quivira Coalition, MOFGA, Conservation Law Foundation, Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship, Vilicus Training Institute, Rogue Farm Corps and DOL to compile existing curricula and resource materials. These materials have been sorted and annotated. Through communication with federal DOL representatives, we have obtained resources related to federal labor laws pertaining to agriculture, and are being connected to state representatives who will assist in identifying state specific variations.
We have begun to compile a resource fact sheet and a framework for a comprehensive Toolkit, including a thorough review of federal agricultural labor laws and specifications in Massachusetts. The possibility of developing detailed state level components to the toolkit is being explored, however it may prove more difficult than originally thought due to the complexity of the laws, variation between states, and lack of trained professionals specializing in these areas. We hope that continued communication with state-level DOL officials will help us to better understand what support is available in charting and developing resources.
On December 5, 2017 forty mentor farmers and beginning farmer program staff gathered in Boston for a full-day pre-conference session prior to the Community Food Systems Conference. This group included 7 mentor farmers and 12 program staff from the Northeast. The day long workshop included sessions ranging from Legal Structures for on-Farm/Ranch Labor to Establishing Expectations and Effective Communications with Apprentices.
In January 2018, New Entry and CLF will partner to host a workshop on Farm Employment Law 101. This workshop will provide an overview of key employment issues that farmers need to know. From apprenticeships to agricultural minimum wage, the workshop will cover key topics that come up on the farm and provide attendees with an agricultural employment law handbook. It will also include case studies that provide an opportunity to apply the topics to real situations.
Results will be determined at the end of the project period.
Conclusions will be determined at the end of the project period.
Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary
Workshop evaluations demonstrated that farmers better understood the risks/opportunities of developing ag apprenticeship programs, and felt better equipped to improve their program and/or engage with local and state-level efforts to train new farmers.
Responses from the workshop evaluations:
“It was a huge benefit to get together in person with the folks who I’ve been on the phone with so many times.”
“I will be reporting the information I heard back to the food systems program leader as she works to create a state-wide farmer training program.”
“I look forward to sharing the information I learned with folks around my state that are interested in building apprenticeship programs.”
“I gathered many good resources and made several valuable connections that will expedite and improve the development of our apprenticeship program.”
“Good to know all the hazards of trying to start an apprenticeship program! We will definitely re-think our plans.”
Our apprenticeship survey for farm mentors is currently still open and responses are being collected. Upon analysis of the Northeast Apprenticeship survey, we will have information about farmer practices and behaviors around labor management and apprentice training programs. Additionally, in workshops and mentor trainings that will be held in 2018, we will develop pre- and post-workshop evaluations to assess knowledge gained and desired or anticipated changes in employment practices as a result of the workshops.