Learn & Practice

Forest Farming

& Permaculture Design

with Michael Burns of Cayuta Sun Farm

and Steve Gabriel of Wellspring Forest Farm.


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 and design from May through September. Apprentices receive hands-on instruction at Cayuta Sun Farm through permaculture design assessment tasks and attend local forest farming workshops WellSpring Forest Farm & School. Apprentices are provided with all their food and camp at Cayuta Sun Farm.

Located between Ithaca and Watkins Glen, NY, Cayuta Sun Farm is a small woodland farm and permaculture education site. 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.


Apprentice Priorities

Apprentice work is focused on livestock management and chores that includes a daily schedule of running the food, water, health and safety chores, plus the maintenance and development of these livestock systems. If you are comfortable, observant and sensitive around animals, you will live and learn around the schedule, patterns and processes of raising pigs and chickens on pasture and under the canopy of trees. No experience is required but it is helpful if you have prior livestock care experience.

Additional time is spent with the ongoing permaculture assessment of Cayuta Sun Farm. Practice mapping and analyzing landscapes using permaculture principles. Observe and record the farm’s systems by creating ecological assessments of the landscape, including animal and human elements. No experience is required but it is helpful if you have any of the knowledge or skills: earned a Permaculture Design Certificate; an understanding of permaculture design methods; landscape design; the Scale of Permanence; mapping/cartography; or forestry, farming or gardening skills.

Additional Opportunities

You may be able to offer your own specific talent and skills if time and budgets permit. Feel free to offer your best in the application and interview. In the past apprentices have also worked our shiitake mushroom yard and in direct and online marketing.

No experience is required, just a willingness to learn and work collaboratively with the farmers and your fellow apprentices.



Apprentices are enrolled in the summer courses at Wellspring Forest Farm:

  • Growing a Woodland Farm & Homestead
    • June 14 – 16
  • Silvopasture in Practice
    • August 16 – 18
  • Fungi Foraging and Cultivation
    • September 20 – 22



No previous experience is necessary, although graduates of reputable permaculture courses will find this 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. 

You are expected to devote 20 hours per week to the apprenticeship. Past apprentices have immersed themselves into full-time farm life, gaining valuable skills and insights. Others have maintained part-time jobs off the farm. Many—as they network among the local scene 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. Please apply for a shorter volunteer visit through WWOOF-USA

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.

No special tools or materials are required, except a maybe a pair of rubber and/or steel toe boots. We provide chore gloves.


Other expectations and obligations include:

  • the ability to study and work alone and with others on projects and chores
  • careful record-keeping
  • attendance at scheduled farm meetings
  • participation in design 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 ours and nearby  farms, plus all other basic food staples and needs
  • Kitchen: located in the apprentice camp with cooking stove, cold water sink, off-grid electric, and seating
  • Camping in our beautiful pine woods with an outdoor hot shower and composting toilets
  • Direct instruction in permaculture assessment
  • Enrollment in Wellspring Forest Farm & School’s three onsite courses of 2019.

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 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.


College Credit

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. Please apply for a shorter volunteer visit 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.

  1. Name:
  2. Birthdate:
  3. Phone:
  4. Email:
  5. Postal address:
  6. Please attach your resume, if you have one.
  7. 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).
  8. Are you available in mid-May through mid-September?
  9. Why are you interested in this position?
  10. What previous experiences are you bringing to this position?
  11. What practical skills do you hope to acquire?
  12. What are your personal goals related to agriculture?
  13. Do you have experience living on a farm?
  14. We raise animals for meat on the farm. What is your perspective on the role animals play on a small farm?
  15. You will have to set up a campsite for sleeping. Do you have camping experience and/or a tent?
  16. 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?
  17. Please describe interesting qualities and experiences about yourself (hobbies, pastimes, travels, research, work, etc.)
  18. Please provide any additional information that you would like us to know.