New 2017 Cornercopia Apprenticeship Program

Cornercopia Student Organic Farm Apprenticeship Program:
Do you want to learn about organic agriculture through a season-long paid opportunity? In 2017 we will start an exciting new apprenticeship program that will begin in January and span the entire growing season. Our goal is for students to gain a comprehensive view of organic farm management, practice leadership and practical farming skills, and strengthen our organic agriculture program at the University of Minnesota through more continuous involvement with the student farm. 
Applicants have the option to participate in one or more seasons of work, with preference given to students opting for the full three seasons. Apprentices will participate in all aspects of the farm from helping create the crop plan, to implementing it throughout the growing season, and marketing the crops we grow. We anticipate having a weekly set meeting time followed by fairly flexible options for M-F work.
A sample seasonal schedule looks like this:
Spring: 5-10 (paid) hours per week. Activities include ordering seeds, growing microgreens, making soil blocks, planting seeds, preparing and planting greenhouse and high tunnels, record keeping, and supervising volunteers. Although a large sum of our work spring semester will take place in the greenhouse, by the end of the semester we will be working outside on the farm. 
Summer: Full time (40h) week. Activities include marketing the farm’s produce, coordinating volunteers and outreach efforts, helping raise chickens, manage weeds, pests and diseases on the farm and /or carrying out on farm research, and more! Part time options for summer are also available.
Fall: 10-15 hours per week. Activities will include harvesting and marketing (early fall is one of the busiest times of year on the farm!), and end of season wrap up.

Enrollment at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus Spring Semester is required for the Apprenticeship. Applicants interested in the Apprenticeship Program at Cornercopia should complete the application and submit it to Courtney Tchida either by email at or to the MISA office (in person 413 Hayes Hall or by mail in 411 Borlaug Hall). The Cornercopia Apprenticeship Program is funded in part by the Martha Anderson Fund for Organic and Sustainable Agriculture.
Applications received by Friday January 20th 2017 will receive top priority. We anticipate the apprenticeship will start the week of January 30th 2017. 

May 31st 2016 Season Update

by Casey Selle
It’s been a busy few weeks out in the Cornercopia fields! We had some help planting and getting the fields ready with students from the Student Organic Farming Class offered on the St. Paul campus but the last 3-4 weeks we’ve had our 10 interns out in the field.
Market Manger/ Food Safety: Sarah, Moriah, & Angie
Volunteer Coordinator: Jorie
Outreach Coordinator: Ashley
Weed Management: Reo
Chickens: Casey, Reo, Richard & Joel
Ginger Research: Kalley
One of our first projects of the season was to take everything out of our shed so we could clean and organize it so we will all be able to easily access tools and equipment.
We’ve all been busy preparing the beds for planting by tilling, weeding, and laying down tarps for the onion beds. We’ve transplanted lettuce, turnips, beets, kohlrabi, scallions, cabbage, kale, chard and others! We also helped some of the graduate researchers plant strawberries.
We spent a few days weeding and preparing the high tunnels so that we can could dig 12 inch pits for our ginger research. We also planted some turmeric and galangal root in the high tunnel since they prefer the warm conditions just like ginger.
There’s not much to harvest this early in the season but we’ve harvested plenty of chives and asparagus and a few winter onions.  
We were looking forward to our Potato planting UDS crop mob day, were a bunch of volunteers come out and help us plant all of our potatoes, it unfortunately rained all day but with the help of our interns we got all of the potatoes planted in a few hours!

We’ve been blessed with many sunny days out in the field but it is spring after all so bring on the rain. Just because it’s raining doesn’t mean we stop working! When we’re inside it gives us time to make soil blocks and get more transplants started and move growing transplants from the mist bench into the green house. We also had time to clean out the cooler and scrub all the shelves down as well as clean out all of the bins well be using for produce this season.

2016 Internships now accepting applications!

2016 Cornercopia Student Organic Farm Internships

All Internships (Research & UMSOF Positions)
Working hours on the student organic farm are typically 8 am (or earlier) until 3 or 4pm M-F. Weekend and evening hours can be put in but not exclusively. Weekly group intern meetings and field walks will be held so that everyone understands the goals for the week. There is a fair amount of overlap with duties between all interns. Non-market managers will help out at the farmer’s market. Everyone will help plant, weed, harvest and process crops.

Marketing Manager Position
The sales/marketing manager is responsible for the marketing activities focusing on product, pricing, promotion and placement. Duties may include but are not limited to:

*Coordinating harvesting and post-harvest processing
*Taking inventory pre- and post-market
*Coordinating the market stand
*Ability to project/determine the demands & needs of the market
*Website, facebook and email updates
*Various record-keeping

This position is typically 15-30 hours a week Mid May through September. Often Cornercopia hires two marketing managers which share the responsibilities for both Minneapolis and St. Paul market stands. Cornercopia Student Organic Farm has established markets that this position would follow up with in addition to exploring new options. Both market stands are currently on Wednesdays (11-2 in MPLS, 3-5 in St. Paul).

Volunteer Coordinator Position
Volunteers are an essential part of our labor strategy on the farm and we have lots of interest from all types of people in volunteering on the student organic farm. Recruiting and communicating with volunteers and utilizing them effectively is the motive behind this position. In past years we have organized a number of crop mob volunteer days which were highly successful (20-30 people gathering to volunteer on a weekend day for bigger projects, lunch provided). The Volunteer Coordinator would be encouraged to continue organizing crop mobs and other such events. This has typically been a 20-25 hour a week position Mid May through September. In 2015 we are planning on hosting several UDS crop mobs and working on partnering with master gardeners for volunteering opportunities as well.

Duties include:
*Recruitment of volunteers
*Schedule dates & times for volunteer workers
*Assignment of tasks to volunteers as needed

Outreach Coordinator
An important component of the mission of the Student Organic Farm is reaching out to our surrounding community to develop relationships that benefit the University community and our neighbors. The intern filling this position will both work on the Student Organic Farm becoming familiar with all farm operations and perform outreach activities on the farm and potentially in the community. About half of the time will be spent in day to day farm operations, and half of the time on developing other community outreach connections. In the past Cornercopia has conducted outreach activities to a wide range of audiences everyone from elementary age school groups through middle and high school groups, incoming freshmen, and college students, to alumni and the general public. This position is typically 15-20 hours a week Mid May through September.

Food Safety & Composting Coordinator
Overseeing the implementation of Cornercopia’s food safety plan is the primary duty of this position. Tracking the onsite composting process is also a responsibility of this position. Both of these tasks are fairly simple but require attention to detail as record keeping is involved. An in-depth orientation will be provided for the food safety and composting aspects. This position is typically 15-20 hours / week and goes mid-May through September.

Weed Management Intern
Weed Management is part of every intern’s job on the farm but this internship will focus on weed management utilizing tractors and mowers. This intern will receive training to safely run and operate various tractors. Primarily the farm’s walk behind tractor but others as well as needed to help with day to day operations that include rototilling or power harrowing areas for bed prep or cultivating for weed control. Other tasks will include: hitching and unhitching implements safely and efficiently; checking and maintaining fluids in our equipment; reporting breakdowns and disrepair immediately to staff; keeping daily records on labor and equipment use; and regular creative problem solving. This position will be 15-20 hours / week Mid May- October.

Ginger Research Intern:
Ginger and Turmeric are Tropical crops that are usually grown in Hawaii, a few adventurous farmers having been trying to grow them in High Tunnels in Minnesota with some success. Farms typically have limited high tunnel space, which is prime real estate for other crops. In 2016 & 2017 Cornercopia Student Organic Farm is participating in a study to grow Ginger and Turmeric both in high tunnels and in field conditions with a few innovative ideas to grow it outside the high tunnel in low tunnels.
We are looking for students interested in helping with this innovated research project. Students will plant, collect data, help manage the plots and have additional opportunities to help with other aspects of the farms. This position will be 15-20 hours/ week and goes from Mid-May – through the beginning of October

Livestock Interns: 
For the past several seasons we have been slowly refining the process we use for raising broiler chickens on pasture at Cornercopia. In 2016 our normal meat processing location (The Andrew Boss Meat Lab) will be closed for remodeling. At this point we are open to student interest for what livestock we will raise- could be broiler chickens, lambs or pigs. Currently we have infrastructure for broilers, other options would have to be developed. The intern can be experienced raising birds or other animals, or have a desire to learn about raising livestock in a pasture setting. Wayne Martin, Alternative Livestock Specialist with Extension is the adviser for this project. This position is typically 15-20 hours/ week and goes Mid- May through September- some weekend shifts are requested. 

To apply for any of the above listed positions:
Fill out and return Student Application Form to MISA office (413 Hayes Hall in person drop off or mail to 411 Borlaug Hall) or submit via email to
Additional questions can be sent to Courtney Tchida at

Applications received by April 8th 2016 at 4:00pm will be given priority.  

Cornercopia U of M Student Farm Intern Application                                     Date Received:
Applications received by April 8th will be given priority, drop off in 413 Hayes (MISA Office) or 411 Borlaug Hall (mailing address for MISA office) or email to  

Position Seeking (check all that you are interested in)
 Sales and Marketing Manager
 Volunteer Coordinator
 Outreach Coordinator
 Food Safety & Compost Coordinator
 Weed Management Intern
 Ginger Research Intern
 Livestock Intern  
 Research Intern (additional application to either UROP or Johnson Internship program required)

Student Information

            Your Name:______________________________________________________________
            Degree Program & Year : (indicate if you are a non-degree student)_________________
            Anticipated Date of Graduation: ____________________ Student ID: _______________
            Email Address:  __________________________________________________________
            Street Address:  __________________________________________________________
            Phone Number: ________________________Is this a cell phone number?____________
Do you have other summer commitments that need to be considered (other jobs, lengthy vacations? ______________________________________________________________

1. Describe your previous garden or farm experience.

2. Describe any related course work you have previously taken.

3. Describe any previous record keeping experience you have.

4. In terms of your professional development, what are your expectations for this internship?

5. Describe any previous management experience you have.

6. Describe any previous experience you have specific to the position you are applying for marketing, volunteer coordinator, outreach, etc.

7. Are you seeking Credit or Pay (typical wage is $10/ hr) for this internship? 

Reflections of a Service Learner at Cornercopia Student Organic Farm

By Lauren Arndt a Student in Hort 1905: Growing Food & Building Community, Urban Ag in the Twin Cities

To fulfill my Service Learning requirement, I decided to volunteer at Cornercopia Urban Farm on the St. Paul campus. I volunteered on Monday, October 19th from 12 to 3 in the afternoon, right before Horticulture class. I worked with two other undergraduate students, as well as with the head of the organic garden, Courtney. One undergraduate student was a Fisheries and Wildlife Management major and I spoke to her about her experiences so far, as she was a sophomore. The other undergraduate student I worked with was an Applied Economics major. He was also a transfer student who had come here all the way from Malaysia for the school year. We all worked together to clean up the garden, as harvesting any produce like tomatoes was certainly out of the question at this time of the year. We mostly cleaned up the sections of the garden that had held tomatoes over the course of the growing season. Each row of tomatoes had plastic netting strung between two stakes and there were plastic clips at the base of each tomato plant. The netting was placed between each row so that the tomato plants could grow along the plastic. This allows the plant’s fruit to stay above the ground so that it does not become as susceptible to disease and bugs. The plastic clips at the base of each were placed there while the plants were still young in order to give them some support. We were there to clean out these clips and netting from the endless rows of dead tomatoes, as Courtney absolutely loved every type of tomato known to mankind. It took much longer than expected to clear just one row of netting: We all took clippers and cleared all tomato plants that were entwined through the netting while also collecting each and every plastic clip at the base of the plants. When each net was clear of all plants, three people worked together to roll the netting up and tie it together with twine. Each roll of netting is reusable, so each roll was organized in a pile so that it could be stored for next year. Some rows had netting entwined with so many tomato plants, that it took 15 to 20 minutes just to finish one roll. This is the process that we repeated for 3 hours, clearing about 15 rows in all.
Even though the process of clearing these rows sounds repetitive and slightly boring, it was rather satisfying in its own way. We didn’t have the pleasure of picking any fruit or vegetables, but it was still nice to help Courtney clean up and therefore, prepare for the next year. I was very involved in high school, especially in a volunteer group called Key Club and ever since college started, I had been missing that one piece in my life. It felt very good to give my time to help someone out again and it was actually slightly hard to leave that day to go to class. When I arrived I assumed and more just expected that Courtney would act as a boss more than anything else, so when I started out working I kept to myself and didn’t talk unless spoken to. However, that assumption was quickly proved wrong as Courtney started talking to us about our year so far and asking what we liked most about our college experience. It wasn’t long before all four of us – Courtney and us three students – were talking and having fun while clearing out tomato plants. I had also assumed before coming to Cornercopia, that my volunteering experience would be pretty boring, seeing as the growing season was virtually over and there would be no harvesting to be done. This made me a little disappointed from the start; however, as stated previously, that assumption was quickly overturned when I found how satisfying clearing out all those sets of netting was. This activity definitely did not require much skill but it did reveal to me that I have not had enough experience in the garden. Blisters began to form on my thumbs after only 15 minutes and my legs were tired from squatting so much to clip tomato plants. After only the first hour it was clear to me that gardening takes a special type of physical endurance, one that comes with plenty of gardening. I obviously do not know much about gardening either. Courtney would tell us things about the garden off the top of her head, things that I had never heard of before. Even though all this garden work revealed to me my lack of gardening skill, it did reveal to me that I enjoy gardening. I was definitely more than willing to get my hands dirty and I didn’t care much about kneeling in the dirt and working in the rain, in fact, I rather enjoyed it. The lack of gardening knowledge that I possess may have been disheartening at first but I found that just doing this one small thing was satisfaction enough and after talking to Courtney more and more, I reminded myself that learning all this is what experience will bring. So, while I may not know much now I could get the hang of gardening and the knowledge that comes with it and in the meantime, I can just enjoy getting dirty and full of tomato residue.
All the volunteer work I completed at Cornercopia that day was collaborative. While we all cut tomato plants on our own, we worked from one end to the other and met in the middle. Since there were four people all working on this particular project, we split up in to two groups and made clearing a row go a little faster. When each row was clear, one person held the netting while the other started to bind it with twisty ties and both worked to roll it up afterwards. It was a very efficient way to get things done and made me open up and talk to the people more since I got to work with them instead of just beside them.
All four of the people that worked on the garden that day, including Courtney, had certain privileges. We were all able to make it to Cornercopia; we all had easy transportation and access to it. All I needed to do to get involved was email Courtney and take the campus connector to the St. Paul campus. Our privilege came from college itself. If I did not go the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, I probably would never have heard of Cornercopia urban garden. The two other students I worked with, as well as myself, have the access to go to college, hear about such places and become involved. There are many people that may not have the means to get to gardens or fresh food in general. Others may not even hear about anything of the sort. They have every right to access to fresh foods and to privileges such as mine, yet they have somehow become forgotten in a world where money is everything, even privilege itself. It is my hope that with help and time, all people have access to the privileges that I take advantage of everyday.
During my volunteer experience, even in the short three hours, I learned much about Cornercopia’s organization. It mostly plays a large role within the University of Minnesota campus. Some of the vegetables that are grown throughout the season are given to the dining halls so that students have access to fresh food even in the dorms. Another part of the produce is sold at a farmer’s market on Wednesdays in the summer and early fall. Also, a lot of the time and effort that goes into Cornercopia goes into research. Many students eager to discover new things about plant behavior and urban farming are allowed to conduct their own research in the garden. This allows for growth in not only the student’s knowledge but the entire campus’ knowledge as well. This research can lead to new discoveries about irrigation methods or protection from pests – each new discovery leads to the development of urban farming. So while other urban gardens and farms have more of a connection with the community, Cornercopia mostly works within the University to discover to methods as well as work with the students; however, they have been working on also joining in with the community especially since a new urban garden has been built directly next to the University. Cornercopia is expanding its boundaries to help the community as much as it helps the University.
While working at the garden that day, I mostly applied what I have learned so far to the gardening itself. I asked Courtney questions that applied to being the head of a garden, so naturally, I applied the elements of organization and leadership. What would you do if the tomatoes were wrought with disease and pests? What would happen if it was a dry summer? Questions such as these that pertain mostly to being in charge of an urban garden or farm. In class, we have talked of such decisions and how much work goes into creating and maintaining a garden. By applying such a focus while volunteering, I was able to ask Courtney questions that I may understand a little better, now that I have seen and heard so many stories of people creating urban gardens and farms. I learned so much in the short three hours that I worked at Cornercopia, mostly due to my conversations with Courtney. I learned that since tomatoes are very susceptible to disease, they should not be planted in the same spot for the next seven to eight years. That is much longer than I had ever expected as I had always assumed that one to two years in between would suffice. Courtney also talked of the very system we were cleaning up. In previous years, she and other volunteers would put an individual stake next to each tomato plant and clip them together. This was long, tedious work and it wasn’t until this very year that they had decided to try the plastic netting. It was definitely a lot more efficient and easier for everyone especially since this plastic netting is reusable. I also learned about the walkways between the beds. All paths contained White Dutch Clover, a perennial that restores nitrogen in the soil. This will distinguish the paths as well as restore a necessary nutrient back into the soil for the benefit of the garden. This idea hadn’t been put into place until a few years ago and Courtney says it has been doing very well thus far. These are just some examples of development within a garden. A garden is not perfect the first year it begins; it will progress with time as people learn more. All this I learned just by asking questions. Talking to people about their hard work is very interesting because they get excited about it and are eager to tell you all that they have done; you are able to share their excitement and learn from them. No I am able to apply some of this to Horticulture class. When we go on field trips and I hear the plans and the stories of the hard work beginning a garden, I can use Courtney’s own stories in order to understand where these people come from. By talking to one person, I am now able to understand more and more people as they tell their stories.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Cornercopia. I got to work outside, get my hands dirty and give my time to help out. Not only did I learn a lot about the people I worked with that day, I also learned a little bit about what Cornercopia is all about and the opportunities it presents to both the University and its students. I also learned much about urban farming in general, which was very helpful since I do not know too much about gardening myself. I plan on using what I learned there at Cornercopia as well as what I learn in Horticulture on my own garden at home, such as crop families, soil nutrition and garden tips. I will be able to apply all that I have learned and may even learn a little more as I try things for myself, and for that I am thoroughly excited. I plan on continuing involvement in Cornercopia especially in the spring when the growing season begins again and I also plan on looking into volunteering at other urban gardens that we have visited throughout the semester so that I can learn more about gardening as well as help people that need access to these fresh fruits and vegetables.

Second Market Stand

Our outdoor processing station. All bright and shiny with new buckets and a new tent,
 and a 
shining smile on our faces as we cleaned about 70 lbs of spinach/arugula/salad mix.
 This week's market stand had 4 times as many kinds of produce. And we put up our outdoor processing tent to expedite the cleaning of our vegetables and fruits. And we set up the tent and had the market outside. And we set up the signs and brought our own tables. It really felt like the beginning of the season.

And now we can only look forward to an increasing volume of product. The tomatoes and potatoes are all planted and set for success. The lettuce is doing better than it ever has before. Peas are weighing down the trellises, and when you walk through our small orchard you can see the beginnings of fruits. Did I mention there are ground cherries hanging upside down in a hoop house? And we haven't even planted the beans or peppers or or cucurbits outside.

This is going to be a wonderful year on the organic farm, and we hope you enjoy your growing season as much as we enjoy ours. Because after yesterday, it really feels like our growing season and our farm.

We had people picking strawberries as the market stand was happening. Courtney 
 brought 17 more pints halfway through and we still sold out. They were delicious.

The bright face of the student organic farm
market stand.
Anyone else in the mood for a nice radish salad?

I think after our second market stand, we all feel a little more in the groove of things. Collectively, the feeling of the day was:

And maybe our feelings of success can be attributed to how nice the  salad mix looked piled high on the table. Or to tasting the delicious strawberries we grew. Or maybe we all felt so proud just because we finally figured out how to make the old industrial elevator work on the first try every time. 

It doesn't matter why we feel good, we just do.

See you all next week at market,