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Mark Shepard on farm interns

 
J D Horn
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I heard mention on another show that you have a somewhat novel approach to interns (length of internship, responsibilities, ect.), vs. what seems to be standard. Thanks and I look forward to reading your book.
 
Marvin Warren
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As I recall, you didn't have what would normally be called an internship, and ran it as a sort of guided business-incubator model. I was wondering what you would suggest as an intermediate step between that and entry-level folks who have, say, a PDC and some volunteer work?
 
J D Horn
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Marvin Warren wrote: ran it as a sort of guided business-incubator model


That's what I heard. The reason I am interested is that I'm trying to figure how to put these folks that have worked for Mark Shepard, Greg Judy, Joel Salatin, etc. into a nexus with the "green money" investment community. The capital is out there, and the entrepreneurial drive rests with these (mostly younger) folks that do not have the access to capital. I think its an attractive ROI, from a green investor standpoint, to buy abused farmland or cutover timberland that will not be replanted at a discount and turn it into a successful permie/regen Ag/holistic farm. A food hub could ease the stress of sales while the marketing side for the newbie farmers while they get the farm established. I think the deal could be structured in such a way as to allow the investor to participate and thus reap the tax losses on the startup, and the young farmer could build a business to "buy out" the investor after a period of time, either through traditional Ag financing or another green money vehicle.
 
Mark Shepard
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Dictionary definition of intern:.... Noun: One who works without pay in order to gain work experience
Verb: To confine as a prisoner

We operate under the ethic that human beings who exert labor have a right to fair compensation for said labor. Farmers who have interns (slaves, indentured servants) are able to produce their farm goods at a lower dollar cost which is totally unfair. I find it morally reprehensible that many organic folks bemoan the fact that many larger farms hire "immigrant guest workers" who get grossly underpaid, yet those same organic folks don't pay their laborers at all...

When folks want to learn and train here, we set them up as an IRS Schedule F Farming business. They are then responsible for their own business. When I need help on my operation, I custom hire theirs. When they need tractor work done on their enterprise, they custom hire me. Since they want to learn about farming, they get to learn FOR REAL that farmers "risk" money up-front, then work their keisters off all season long (or have huge payments on monster equipment to do their work) in the hopes that they will have a bountiful harvest and get paid.
"Summer folk" here have had various enterprises... Cut flower growing, ointment, salve and lip balm manufacturing, grazing cattle, growing medicinal herbs and mostly growing produce.

Instead of merely being cheap labor to weed the radishes, they learn how to budget their time and money. They learn about financial risk-taking. They learn the value of conscientious labor.
Instead of quitting at 4 because that is when the work day is done, a co-enterpriser realizes that their paycheck is directly linked to their effort. They learn in a hurry to be much better workers...

Part of how it works in the plant/animal system, is that we all learn together how to mesh our enterprises... Since I'm the one with the most experience I kinda get to be somewhat of a conductor... My part of the operation (the edible woody crops are my main focus) is supported by the others. If you're weeding the zucchini that is planted between rows of hazelnut bushes, yes, you're weeding your zucchinis. but that is also weeding my hazelnuts. If you're grazing your cattle beneath the chestnut trees, you're reducing the grass competition for my chestnuts and giving them a shot of fertilizer as a side-effect...

If there are those of you who want to hook us up with financial resources, we'd be more than happy to increase the size of our growing community of permaculture farmers... I'm especially interested in help with finishing the setup our nut processing facility...
 
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