Forest Farming & Permaculture Design Practicum
This apprenticeship is ideal for Permaculture Design Certificate graduates and others interested in forest farming, small farm design, mushroom cultivation, pastured animal and perennial agriculture.
Cayuta Sun Farm is seeking individuals for a part-time program (20 hours per week) of farm projects, design, and study from May through September. Apprentices receive weekly instruction through a permaculture design practicum based on continuing assessment and analysis of the farm’s systems. Apprentices are provided with all their food and live at the farm.
Located between Ithaca and Watkins Glen, NY, Cayuta Sun Farm is a small woodland farm and permaculture education site. Currently, log-grown shiitake mushrooms, grass-pastured poultry and forest-pastured pork are grown for market. The farm occasionally hosts visitors, tours, and permaculture-related educational events, including those organized by the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute.
Each apprentice will be chosen to fit any one of the following roles: 1) shiitake mushroom production 2) farm marketing or 3) livestock management. Additional activities include daily farm chores and the ongoing permaculture assessment of Cayuta Sun Farm .
Our shiitake mushroom apprentice will learn the entire process of producing high quality, log-grown mushrooms. You will learn how to inoculate logs, manage forced fruiting, grade mushroom quality, harvest and package for market, and to schedule the production of over 1000 logs across a growing season. POSITION FILLED
Marketing: If you can write well, take great photographs, and communicate effectively in public you may be selected to learn about developing and delivering content for small farm promotions and to represent our farm and its brand at farmers markets.
If you are comfortable, observant and sensitive around animals, you may want to learn about the management patterns and process of raising animals on pasture and under the canopy of trees to produce superior poultry and pork. POSITION FILLED
No experience is required for any of these positions, just a willingness to learn and work collaboratively with the farmers and your fellow apprentices.
Design and Assessment Practicum
Apprentices will also study outside their specialty in practicum sessions that are scheduled most weeks. These instructional sessions look at the farm systems by creating assessments of the landscape, farm goals, and existing challenges through the framework of permaculture. Learn and practice reviewing, mapping and analyzing the landscape using permaculture principles to continue the ongoing design of our small farm.
No special tools or materials are required. No previous experience is necessary, although graduates of reputable permaculture courses will find an ideal opportunity to practice permaculture design skills and to build their design portfolio. Only an interest in sustainable, regenerative design is necessary to benefit from the practicum.
You are expected to devote 20 hours per week to the apprenticeship, that includes mastering your specialty, learning along with others apprentices’ projects, design and assessment practice and instruction, and helping out with daily chores. Past apprentices have immersed themselves into full-time farm life, gaining valuable skills and insights. Others have maintained part-time jobs off the farm. Some—as they network and gain practical experience—find opportunities for paid work later in the summer and fall. We seek persons who can begin in May and continuing through mid-September.
Our weekly farm meetings will set priorities alongside chore and project schedules. The meetings are also an opportunity to ensure that food, infrastructure, education and other apprenticeship needs are being met.
Other expectations and obligations include:
- the ability to study and work alone and with others on projects and chores
- a commitment to learning the big picture and details of your specialty
- careful record-keeping
- attendance at weekly farm meeting
- attendance at design practicum instruction
- learning the specific mapping and assessment skills related to the farm’s ongoing design
- assisting occassional visitors to the farm, including during the Finger Lakes Permaculture Tour weekend in August.
Farm owners Michael Burns and Kelly Dietz offer:
- Food: a CSA share of vegetables, produce and meats grown on the farm, plus all other basic food staples and needs
- Kitchen and living space: a kitchen located in the campground yurt with cooking stove, cold water sink, off-grid electric, comfortable seating area, and library
- Camping in our beautiful pine woods with an outdoor hot shower and composting toilets
- Direct instruction in permaculture assessment and design each week
An ideal candidate will have great communication skills, maturity, integrity, initiative, flexibility and decent physical strength. You should expect to be outside in all weather conditions including rain, cold and summer heat of 90-100 degrees.
Previous farming experience is valued but not required. A valid driver’s license helps. A car is not required but is recommended, as it will allow you greater access to the beautiful environment and vibrant cultural life found in the Finger Lakes and in nearby Ithaca and Watkins Glen.
We can work with administrators and professors to document and supervise your work to earn credit from your institution. Students have earned credit while studying with us through Ithaca College, Cornell University, Paul Smith College, and Empire State College. Co-owners Michael Burns and Kelly Dietz are both professional educators with decades of experience teaching in high schools, universities and in community education.
This apprenticeship assumes your arrival in May and a committment into September. Shorter stays are possible at times. Please apply for a shorter program or for short-term volunteer visits through WWOOF-USA. Otherwise, please provide the information requested below and email it to <Michael@CayutaSunFarm.com>. We will consider applicants until we have found qualified candidates.
- Postal address:
- Please attach your resume, if you have one.
- Please provide at least two references, preferably previous employers or teachers, who can vouch for the quality of your learning and communication skills, reliability, maturity and integrity. Include their names, where you worked for them and for how long, and a brief description of your responsibilities. Please list their phone numbers (and an email address if available).
- Are you available in mid-May through mid-September?
- Why are you interested in this position?
- What previous experiences are you bringing to this position?
- What practical skills do you hope to acquire?
- What are your personal goals related to agriculture?
- Do you have experience living on a farm?
- We raise animals for meat on the farm. What is your perspective on the role animals play on a small farm?
- You will have to set up a campsite for sleeping. Do you have camping experience and/or a tent?
- Do you have any allergies, food restrictions, or physical limitations that might affect your ability to live in a rural setting and do farm work?
- Please describe interesting qualities and experiences about yourself (hobbies, pastimes, travels, research, work, etc.)
- Please provide any additional information that you would like us to know.