About the Apprenticeship

Apprentices harvest beans in the handworked gardens at the UCSC Farm.

The Farm & Garden Apprenticeship has trained organic farmers and gardeners since 1967. The program offers a 6-month intensive training course emphasizing experiential education blended with classroom sessions. As part of the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) at UC Santa Cruz, the Apprenticeship is the nation’s oldest university-based organic farmer and gardener training program.

The 6-month Apprenticeship includes instruction and daily work experience in organic gardening and farming, focusing on ecological interactions amongst plants, soils, climate, insects, and pathogens. In a hands-on education approach, apprentices work alongside staff in the greenhouse, gardens, fields, and orchards, as well as attend lectures, demonstrations, and field trips.

Apprentices are exposed to the different aspects of growing plants organically on both a hand-dug garden scale and a tractor-cultivated field scale. The apprentices selected to attend the course each year are interested in practical training that will prepare them to teach others and/or to run their own operations.

The Apprenticeship runs from mid April to mid October annually. To find out more about the Apprenticeship, including application deadlines, available scholarships such as the annual scholarship provided by the Simply Organic Scholarship Endowment, and other information, see the CASFS website.

More About the Apprenticeship

Apprenticeship instructor Orin Martin demonstrates how to place a codling moth trap.

While sustainable agriculture education programs are on the rise in the U.S., the CASFS Farm & Garden Apprenticeship remains the leader in integrated, experiential sustainable agricultural education. Two recent studies published in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development articulated the Apprenticeship’s unique standing relative to other programs. Niewolny & Lillard (2010) identified 17 new and beginning farmer training programs around the country but noted that only the CASFS Apprenticeship and Michigan State University’s Organic Farmer Training Program (developed by an Apprenticeship graduate) use both classroom instruction and hands-on farm-based experience. Of these two programs, only the Apprenticeship is residential—participants live on the farm for six months and report that doing so has a significant impact on their learning experience.

The Apprenticeship has a proven track record of training people who go on to work in the field of sustainable agriculture. In a 2009 survey of Apprenticeship graduates, 86% of those responding reported that they have worked in sustainable agriculture and 93% of these respondents have been involved in farming and gardening work.

After completing the Apprenticeship program, Matthew Sutton started Orchard Keepers, which specializes in organic fruit tree care and home food production. He also teaches community workshops.

Of the survey respondents working in sustainable agriculture fields, 55% reported that training and education were part of their work, many of them training new farmers or educating people about food growing. Among graduates from 1988 to 2008, 51% of respondents owned or operated their own farms, and over 80% have worked in farming or gardening as a job, vocation, or startup business. Of the farmer owner/operators responding, 82% reported using organic methods and 42% were certified organic. Most employed direct marketing methods and sought local markets; among 1999 to 2008 graduates, 58% sold their produce through farmers markets, 54% through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, and 65% through direct sales to stores and restaurants (Perez, Parr & Beckett 2010). You can read more about the survey results and the impact of the Apprenticeship in CASFS Research Brief #14.


Welcome Alumni
Search alumni database
Add your farm/project to map

Sign in | Forgot password