Apprenticing, Briefly

Farm apprenticeships explained and the farmer wannabes express cabin fever anxiety.

Our first season of actual farming on our own land will begin, cross your fingers, in the spring of 2019. As mentioned in our first post, we’ll be apprenticing at Ferme Alva Farm. (Serendipitously, the lady half of Ferme Alva Farm is Jodi’s Czech-Canadian childhood friend Eva. She and her partner Alain moved to New Brunswick many years ago and started their farm and family, doing precisely what we’re wanting to do. (Only, they’re formally qualified to do so) Like their parents, Eva and Alain’s children are on their way to becoming trilingual: French, Czech, and English, which means that even after leaving the Czech Republic, my inexcusable and disrespectful ignorance of the country’s impossible language will continue to gracelessly display itself for at least another six months. U-S-A! U-S-A!) I won’t speculate on what exactly we will learn at Ferme Alva Farm, but we both look forward to all the bubbles that will swell and all that will burst in the attendance of reality.

“An apprentice is given room and board . . . and a hands-on education in agriculture. The exchange is labor.”

Jodi and I didn’t even know that apprenticing was a thing until we started researching all the what’s and who’s of farming. In short, an apprentice is generally given room and board, sometimes a small stipend, and most importantly, a hands-on education in agriculture. The exchange is labor. There’s no uniformity in expectations from either side, but ideally, the dependency of one party checks the dependency of the other into ready civility. While the apprentice needs the master for food, shelter, and knowledge, the latter has calculated a season to include an extra set of hands. Both participants would suffer some level of hardship should one or the other douche out.

We’ll be leaving the Toronto area for New Brunswick next week. We expect to work up a sweat at Ferme Alva Farm, while simultaneously viewing land in the surrounding countryside. If all goes as scheduled, we’ll be Lord and Lady of property by October. (More on purchasing land as the pressure mounts) It’s a snug timetable, made even more close-fitting by the winter that will be approaching. We’ll need to scratch up the land after sampling the soil; amend it with compost-y elements such as N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S* and/or whatever other inputs a soil test reveals to be lacking; insulate our prepared growing beds with straw so that all the beneficial microorganisms present don’t die over winter; and finally, endure the bone-chilling New Brunswick winter without choking each other out (or the cats). Sigh.

Elora, Ontario

*nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur. I only knew, like, two of these periodic symbols, but writing them out makes me feel like a boss.

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