On-farm workstays: Creating safe and lawful on-farm training opportunities in the Northeast
The “On-farm Workstays: Creating Safe and Lawful On-farm Training Opportunities in the Northeast” Project began on April 2007 with database preparation. Contact information for over 400 Northeast farmers who advertise their interest in hosting trainees (“interns,” “apprentices” or “willing workers”) on their farms was reviewed and confirmed. An information packet/survey instrument was prepared and circulated for peer review. It focused on three mentor “tasks” that ranked highest in an earlier region-wide survey of mentor training needs: research legal requirements; comply with regulatory requriements (start-up) and comply with regulatory requirements (ongoing). Three “Did you know…?” fact sheets provided information on trainees’ status as employees, workers’ compensation insurance requirements, and farmworker housing. A six-question, confidential survey assessed packet usefulmess and solicited interest in follow-up informational workshops, meetings or one-on-one consultations on the topics addressed. The packet, with SAS return envelope, was mailed to over 400 mentors in October 2007. On-line response was an option; follow-up included phone calls to those who had not responded by November 15.
By December 31, 2007, 82 mentors(21%) had responded to the Project survey. Of these, only 4 (5%) said they had not learned anything new from the packet; 63 (77%)indicated that they were “interested” or “might be interested” in a follow-up workshop or informational meeting, providing the Project with a solid foundation for planning next steps.
Comments included in the surveys indicate that mentoring farmers have a host of legitimate questions for which they are seeking serious answers. The Project is making an annotated list of these for future reference. Responses were overwhelmingly positive, with only three (5%)expressing dismay that such potentially challenging topics were being addressed. The following sampling of responses reflect both the high level of interest in and support for the project as well as the occasional expression of concern. “These topics are all right on.” “Thank you. This is a great idea and I’m glad to see information I would not have time to research myself.” “We used to host an intern but no longer do, due to …issues you bring up here.” “Please remove our name from your database. It is too risky for us to participate in this project. Not that we are not interested!!”
The “On-Farm Workstays: Creating Safe and Lawful On-farm Training Opportunities in the Northeast” Project achieved two milestones in 2007.
MILESTONE #1: A group of 400 Northeast farmers who host trainees on their farms are informed about the Project and its goal through an informational packet, to include general information about employment and housing and an invitation to become actively involved in Project activities. A brief survey/response form will be included, with both on-line response option and SASE.
Over 400 farmers received the packet in October 2007.
MILESTONE #2: Of 400 farmer-mentors who receive Project information, 60 (15%) will agree to attend one of ten Project-sponsored workshops or meetings….
By December 31, 2007, 82 farmers had responded to the survey; 63 (15.5%) agreed to attend or expressed interest in attending a Project-sponsored workshop or meeting.
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