Labor Series: Pt 3 ~ Are there Legitimate Farm Apprenticeship Programs?


Apprentices harvest Swiss chard. Photo credit: Marta Abel

Many family farms with interns, also known as apprentices, have incurred heavy fines in the last few years for non-compliance with employment and workers’ compensation laws. Whether you call it an “internship”, “apprenticeship”, or “volunteer”, they are all considered the same under the federal labor law, and therefore fit in the legal definition of an employer-employee relationship. (There are a few rare, specific exemptions, but not applicable to most situations.)

While it is not recommended, many farmers choose to “fly under the radar” by hiring part-time or full-time help with customized payment plans. Examples of these payment plans could be paying a fixed price for a period of time, paying in-kind partially or fully, or establishing interns/apprentices as 1099 contractors (no, this is not legal!). Many have gotten away with these scenarios, but be warned that there are risks associated with loose arrangements.

So what are the parameters of a legal apprenticeship program? Read on as we share some legal ways, outlined in the CA Guide to Labor Laws for Small Farmers, published by ATTRA/NCAT and CA FarmLink, to hire part-time or full-time help.

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Farm Hack Davis – DIY Farm Innovation!


Farm Hack is a community-driven movement that brings farmers together with engineers, builders, welders, architects, software designers, and other skilled non-farmers to develop, document and build accessible, appropriate technology for more resilient agriculture. It’s based on the principles of sharing, open publication, and the evolution of design.  And, the first one in California is taking place in Davis on November 16-17!

Written by guest blogger, Marisa Alcorta of ATTRA/NCAT.

High tech agriculture, here’s your answer to how small and mid-size farms will feed the world: one region at a time. Guided by high ideals, which include self-determination, democracy, and open source sharing, Farm Hack has developed a community of 20,000 members who design, develop, improve and share tools that make farming and food production accessible to all. This community exists both on-line and in person, with most of the design work and collaboration happening at events held on farms across the country.

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