What The Apprenticeship Has Taught Me So Far
By Nick Roth

When I first read about the apprenticeship program, I was extremely excited to find a hands on learning program that would let me experience all the planning, organizing, and work that goes into running an organic farm. I recently left behind a career of number crunching and corporate culture to come to the university of Minnesota and pursue a dream of being a successful farmer. I put a lot of thought into that decision and battled a lot of apprehension. I wasn’t sure that I could really run my own farm let alone make a living from it.  Though I have had a number of great classes at the university and learned more than I ever expected, I was lacking the chance to put that new knowledge to work on an actual farm. There are lots of farm internships out there, but they typically are only offered a few weeks during the summer and are little more than free labor for the farmer. They grant insight into only a small portion of the farm operations and do not encourage development of all the skills a novice farmer will need.

We are only about six weeks into the program so far here at Cornercopia, and I already feel like I have learned more than I would have at any of those other internships. I have not only been shown what needs to be done for early season planning, but have been allowed to be part of the decision making process. That’s a very empowering feeling, and a skill I will need for the rest of my life. I have also been allowed to go along to meetings with potential customers to hear what their needs are and ask them questions. I gained insights there I would have never come to any other way.

I have also been introduced to microgreen production and the use of soil blocks for seed starting. These are areas I have always been interested in learning more about, but I lacked the space and tools to delve into. I have a growing list of tips and procedures that I have been writing down as crucial to remember, and I can see myself going back to that for the rest of my career.

I have also written an undergraduate research proposal for field research that I hope to conduct this summer on the farm. Coming in to the university, I wouldn’t have thought that doing my own research was something I would pursue or learn much from, but the more I learn in my classes, the more I realize I have questions there aren’t good answers to. Courtney has helped me shape those questions into a practical field study that has given me better connections with faculty here at the school and also taught me a framework I can use to answer questions I might have twenty years from now.

In short, I am extremely happy with how much I have learned so far and excited about the new knowledge that is waiting for me over the rest for the season.

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