2017 Internship Information

Please read this information completely before filling out an application.

INTERN POSITIONS AT

ATHENA’S HARVEST FARM & TRAINING CENTER

Jesse Fleisher & Athena Childs Fleisher

(athenasharvest@gmail.com)

4025 New Highway 7 Santa Fe, TN 38482

615-495-1614

Athena’s Harvest is a small vegetable farm run by former Peace Corps volunteers in Santa Fe, TN, 33 miles (as the crow flies) from downtown Nashville. While our property consists of 55 acres, we intensively produce a wide diversity of sustainably grown vegetables and some fruit on less than 1.5 acres of land, with the majority of our sales occurring at retail farmers markets we attend in Nashville, through our CSA program (weekly subscription box of produce), and via some restaurant sales. Our land consists of rolling pasture, wooded hills, and good bottom farm land. We have a long stretch of creek frontage and springs as well as our farm house, a small greenhouse, and two barns. We use a motley crew of interns (that’s potentially you if you are reading this), shorter term WWOOFers, and local volunteers to grow food and get it out into the community. Teaching and learning are integral parts of our mission, and we do weekly check-ins with everyone to make sure that people are learning what they want, and so that feedback can flow both directions. To learn more about us, check out our website (athenasharvest.com) and Facebook page, and follow our stream on Instagram. We would be happy to answer any questions about us, our farm, and our internship positions via phone or email before you fill out an application, but reading this information and looking over our website should give you a good place to start.

 

THE WORK

We take on 2 interns per season, often college students taking some semesters off or looking for an internship, recent grads who want to learn about farming, or others with a genuine interest in the work and lifestyle of small scale sustainable agriculture. Because we take the time to instruct new workers and give them additional responsibilities as they become more proficient, and because it naturally takes time for them to build their physical prowess, we prefer to take on interns who can work a full season or a large portion thereof. The “season” runs roughly 9 months from early March through late November, and we give preference to interns who can commit to at least 7 months or more.

Over the course of a season, activities will consist of a wide variety of field work, greenhouse work, planting, transplanting, harvesting, weeding, washing, irrigating, pruning, covering and uncovering, packing, delivering, mulching, market prep, produce selling, equipment/tool/vehicle maintenance, construction, land maintenance, mowing, fence mending, organic pest control, social media engagement, and a multitude of other tasks. Though not certified, we exclusively use organic best practices to grow diverse fruits and vegetables while maintaining our farm's soil health and ecological balance. No synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides are used, and we don't plant any GMOs. Contrary to popular stereotypes, successful farmers must be intelligent, hard working, and proficient in a wide variety of disciplines, and we try to expose our interns to all of them. We like to think of ourselves as specialized generalists.  

Prior experience in this type of work is valuable and may help your application, but is not necessary or required. Potential applicants should consider their ability to adapt to unfamiliar and occasionally uncomfortable conditions, especially as one is becoming accustomed to the work. You will sometimes have to tolerate heat or cold, dirty skin and clothes, sore muscles, calloused hands, repetitive tasks, and contact with insects. You may also have to tolerate silly song singing, cute barn cats trying to “help” you work, sharing/cooking yummy farm meals, meeting new people from around the country and the world, having your jobs change over the course of the season or even a day, and taking refreshing dips in the creek at lunchtime or after work.

Key qualities we are looking for in our interns are genuine friendliness and enthusiasm for life, willingness to learn and to work hard, possession of a good sense of humor, adaptability, and the ability to respect and work with others in a team. Our past experience suggests that those applicants with at least some college experience usually have the maturity level we are seeking, but we will consider applications from anyone 18 years or older. Realistically, potential interns must be capable of sustained physical work outdoors in all weather conditions and temperatures. While we are not a huge wholesale operation that relies on a large labor pool of professional speed pickers, we do value efficiency and personal initiative, while also having fun. Farm work is more of a lifestyle than a typical 9-5 job, and it comes with a lot of perks even though we work hard. We do all the same work as our interns, and interns share in our lives, holidays, and fun events as we go through the year. For many people, it is a very satisfying kind of existence.

 

OUR TWO INTERN POSITIONS

Ideally, our two interns will begin at approximately the same time, arriving as a cohort for living and learning purposes. All of our interns will regularly do and be exposed to all of the types of work mentioned above (with planting, picking, weeding, harvesting, and market related activities being the bulk of the work), but we prefer that our interns also take on an area of particular focus, and increasing responsibility. Fear not, we will train you (or perhaps, you will train us, depending on your prior experience).

Position 1 Focus: Farming/field work + social media engagement, blog/newsletter management, and volunteer coordination.

  • Farm work as outlined above.
  • We maintain a Facebook page, an Instagram  feed, and a Twitter account in addition to a website with a blog and a CSA newsletter. You will regularly contribute to our social media output in all of these realms with input from us. Professional language, spelling, and online etiquette is a must.
  • We would like to increase the number of volunteers and volunteer hours worked on the farm this year, but a certain amount of logistics is required to reach out to people, respond to queries, and assist with volunteer visits. You would assist with these tasks as needed.

Position 2 Focus: Farming/field work + light construction/carpentry, farm equipment/tool/vehicle maintenance, orchard/woodlot maintenance.

  • Farm work as outlined above.
  • As a relatively new farm, we are still building out our facilities and infrastructure. The list of possible small construction/carpentry projects is nearly endless, and you would occasionally work/assist on some of these projects (to be prioritized together) in lieu of or in addition to agricultural work.
  • We have a range of hand tools, small machines, and farm vehicles that need to be maintained (cleaned, sharpened, repaired, fluids changed, tires pumped, etc.). You will assist with these tasks and learn to take some of them on fully based on a schedule that we can work out together.
  • We have a small orchard (not yet in full production), berry plants, and a property full of old fences and field edges that need to be improved and maintained (pruned/ trained/ mulched/ mowed/ fertilized/ repaired, etc). You would assist with these tasks.

 

BENEFITS/HOURS

  • Modest Stipend: $3500/season for folks who work the full season (March 1 – November 30), prorated for people who work a shorter amount of time. Stipend also includes simple accommodation/utilities, surplus farm produce + partial board, and a one week vacation.
    • Plus a $100 bonus for completing the full time period you commit to.
    • There will be a $75 service charge for anybody who leaves prior to their agreed upon leave date.
    • Stipend is based on a per day work period rather than an hourly rate. Our hours can vary considerably based on the day of the week and the time of the season. Summer days are longer, and we take full advantage of the light, but even as we strive to get all the work done on any given day, the limits dictated by our needs to eat, engage in recreation, and take care of our physical/mental health ultimately decides how long we work. One way or another, we generally work as long as our interns on any given day, and then some, as we tend to do administrative/ computer work and planning at night and in the very early morning.
    • Interns are expected to work 6 days a week with their one day off occurring from Sunday – Wednesday only. Interns are required to coordinate so that both interns are not off duty on the same day in any given week. Sign-ups for days off can be made up to 2 weeks in advance.
    • Interns working 8 months or more may take a one week (“paid” - does not count against your stipend) vacation prior to July 15 or after October 1. Interns must coordinate so that their vacations do not overlap.
    • Most interns choose to take the bulk of their stipend in a single check when they leave, but interns may withdraw $50 or more in any given week, up to the prorated amount owed.
    • Please be aware that as a very small family farm, we do not provide interns or WWOOFers with health insurance or workers compensation.
  • Extensive Hands-On Experience with all aspects of operating and maintaining a small sustainable vegetable farm, including direct mentorship. This is the real benefit of working with us. We are transparent with our interns about what it takes to start a small farm from scratch, farm finances, decision making, and past successes and mistakes. *We want more people to want to become farmers or at least serious gardeners!* You will learn a lot about what to do and what not to do and why, as well as gaining enough experience to begin forming your own opinions about which techniques and practices you might want to adopt yourself, and which ones you don’t agree with or would like to improve upon in your own future endeavors.
  • Fun. Satisfaction. Camaraderie. Fitness. Healthy, frugal lifestyle. Few expenses.  Increased awareness of and knowledge about botany, soil, water, weather, and seasonal changes. Intimate knowledge of a new place/culture. Not having to work in an office or indoor retail environment. No dress code. Opportunities to meet other organic and sustainable farmers. Working with your hands and gaining real, functional, “hard” skills. Sharing stories, food, music, and life experiences with good people.
  • We will be starting in on our Permaculture Design work this year, and you can be a part of planning and building our future environment!

 

ACCOMMODATIONS

  • Housing. We provide a simple, furnished, climate controlled sleeping area in a converted utility building (think “tiny house,” but probably not as flashy as whatever pops up first in Google Images). Interns sleep in the two separate loft spaces of the tiny house. Privacy is minimal, but we can rig up curtains as needed. The tiny house also contains a cold-water sink, a small cooktop and mini-fridge, and a dry composting toilet system in a small bathroom. Tent camping options are also available. For showers, interns may use our indoor farmhouse shower from 6AM to 8PM (keeping in mind that there is one indoor hot shower available for however many of us are living on the farm at any given moment). We also have a solar shower for use outdoors, and hope to engage in a project to install a proper outdoor shower this year. Past interns and visitors have also enjoyed bathing in the creek during the warmer months. In general, we try to provide interns with a bit of their own space, while also allowing access to our small home and it’s kitchen/ bathroom/ living space during the day and early evening (6AM-8PM). Occasionally we have folks stay later as time or events warrant (we can feel it out together). Interns are also welcome to hang out in the barn, and store items in the cold room, house fridge, or barn freezer as space allows. Upon arrival, we require a $75 deposit (actually just a withholding from your final stipend payment) for your living space, to be fully reimbursed to you upon your departure assuming the living space has been kept in a good condition.
  • Food. Surplus vegetables and unsold “seconds” are available free for all of us to share. We also provide some basic bulk food supplies for interns and WWOOFers, like rice, beans/lentils, oats, and other food staples (we’ve got a list) + toilet paper & bar soap. Beyond these vegetables and staples, interns are expected to pool their money and purchase additional food items of their choosing. A system that has worked well in the past is for each intern to contribute ~$17/week (or interns can mutually choose a different amount) to a pot that can be used as needed. If desired, we can make this contribution for you and deduct it from your stipend. We will also make this contribution of staples and $ on the behalf of any WWOOFers who may be present. Breakfast is usually prepared individually unless someone volunteers to prepare breakfast for all. Other meals (often lunch, and always dinner) are potluck between Athena and I and all of our interns/volunteers. Alternatively, we can set up a schedule of rotating cooking duties as needed. Athena is generally pescatarian (eats vegetarian + fish & dairy), as is Jesse by default, so we don’t usually purchase meat for our interns and WWOOFers, but we don’t mind if you want to cook and eat meat in our facilities. Interns are expected to share in cooking and cleaning and other household/ community duties as mature, responsible community members according to a weekly chore schedule. We don’t want or need to act as supervisors or parents when you are off-duty.

 

TRANSPORTATION

Nashville is the closest place to the farm that you can reach with easy public transportation (Greyhound bus, Megabus, or one of many airlines). We can pick you up or take you to one of these stations at the beginning or end of your stay only. While you are here, you will find that our rural area is just as the word indicates. There is a very limited general store within walking distance, a few more things within biking distance, and everything else is car distance away. We do make frequent trips to local towns for shopping (Columbia, TN is about 20 minutes by car and is where we go most frequently, Franklin is 25 minutes, Leiper’s Fork is 15 minutes but much smaller). We also go into Nashville 2 or 3 times per week. Interns are welcome to ride in and out with us on any of these ventures when space is available. An Uber ride from Nashville back to the farm costs in the range of $55, but getting Uber to pick you up at the farm is difficult. If you bring your own vehicle, you will have more freedom of movement, and you can make arrangements with other interns & WWOOFers as you see fit.

 

OTHER DETAILS

Interns should use their own personal toiletries, sunscreen, medicines, towels, laundry detergent (another good item to get together on with the other intern), and other personal items, but are welcome to use our washing machine for washing clothes. In warmer months, we hang most of our clothes outside to dry, but we do have a dryer for colder and wetter times. We encourage interns to bring a couple of water bottles for keeping hydrated. We also recommend, though we don’t require, that you bring a simple (easy to open and close quickly) 2”-3” blade pocket knife, which has many uses around the farm. On a hopefully unrelated note, we do keep a basic first-aid kit available for interns and WWOOFers to use in the case of cuts, scrapes and other minor injuries.

  • Pets. Based on past experience, pets are not permitted. We know your creatures are probably wonderful, but there are just too many potential problems, complications, and liabilities with multiple people and pets on the farm. We worry about our own animals and gardens, and those of our immediately adjacent neighbor farm. That being said, since we and our neighbor do have some cute critters of our own, you can still get your warm & fuzzy fix as needed. We don’t allow any animals inside our farm house or the intern sleeping quarters.
  • Smoking. Most of our interns and WWOOFers each year are non-smokers, and we do not allow smoking in or immediately adjacent to any farm building, in our gardens, in our vehicles, or at market. We also don’t allow smoke breaks in the midst of working. If you must smoke, we ask that you do so in your free time (during lunch, or after work, or on your day off), in open space on the farm, and without littering.
  • Clothing & Shoes. There is no dress code for working on the farm or going to market (wear whatever you are comfortable with), but we do have some practical suggestions based on past observations. Fashion in the context of farm work is dumb. Comfort, durability, and utility are all better attributes to choose from. Loose fitting is fine, but dangling fringe or other long hanging cords or jewelry are likely to get caught in something, cause problems, get lost, or be dangerous. Save those items for your days off.  A lightweight long sleeve button up shirt is useful for picking okra in the summer. Hats are great. At minimum a baseball cap, but a full brimmed hat is better.  Keep in mind too that the beginning and end of the season will be cool or even cold, while mid-summer will be extremely sunny, hot and humid for weeks on end. Preferences for summer work attire range from nothing at all to covering up completely with lightweight fabrics for sun protection. There will certainly be some days when it rains, and if there is not lightning present, we’ll probably be out in it. Wet and hot can actually be nice, but wet and cold can become miserable in a hurry. You may want a rain jacket. You are welcome to enjoy sandals, bare feet, or other open shoes in the summer, but we require that you bring at least one pair of sturdy close-toed shoes because there are any number of farm jobs that require them for safety or to effectively do the job. You should anticipate your need for them based on the schedule for the day and not have to run and get them in the middle of working. You should assume that ALL the clothes and shoes you use for work may become permanently stained or dirty. Consider a trip to the Goodwill rather than buying anything new for farm work purposes. Clean clothes should be saved/worn for going to market, but your favorite “F---You” t-shirt is probably not the best option for engaging with customers and selling vegetables. We’ll let you use your own judgment unless your judgment is terrible.
  • Internet & Electronics. We don’t have good internet on the farm, not because we are opposed to it, but because we live in a rural area and our options are extremely limited. We have satellite internet which is very expensive and generally bad. Our speed is slow, but more importantly, our data is extremely limited. We’re already on the biggest/best plan there is. All of this is to say that while most urban and suburban dwellers take internet for granted these days, you will NOT have access to unlimited high speed internet while you are here. You will have limited access for email, filling out forms, catching up on news, or doing work, but not for streaming video or audio, downloading of large files, or spending lots of time on personal social media. Until some golden future when Google Fiber arrives in rural Tennessee, we will all share the same slow, data limited connection that Athena uses for work, a use which can and will trump all other uses and users when necessary. We do have a TV for watching DVDs or movies from a thumb drive, a good collection of books and music, and a world of nature to keep you entertained in your off hours. Bringing along a few entertainment items, journaling materials, or a musical instrument of your own is a good idea. Bringing your own phone to the farm is a good idea if you have one, and you can certainly use your own data to get decent 4g internet on your phone, but note that the only cell signal we receive here is from AT&T. Your phone will connect to it even if you are not on AT&T, but it may require roaming, so check your details before you make any assumptions. Unless there is a pending emergency, we don’t allow interns or WWOOFers to carry their phones or personal radios with them while they work. We find that worker phones and devices in the field distract us and them from the work at hand despite everyone’s assurances and best intentions to the contrary. You can use them all you want during breaks and when you are off duty. We prefer that people be present in the moment and in the work they are doing and with the people around them as much as possible during the day. These devices often get in the way of that goal. Singing and talking and laughing together is a good alternative as long as the work dictates our speed rather than the talking, and when we need a bit of extra pep we can always pull the stereo out from the barn and blast it out into the field for everyone to listen to instead of just one person tuning out everyone/ everything else. For those times when you really do need to be in your own head space, silence is golden, and certain farm tasks can be very meditative.

 

Thanks for Reading! Please click here to fill out an application, or click the "2017 Internship Application" link under the "About" tab on our website. Contact us via phone or email if you need an application in email or paper form.

Jesse Fleisher & Athena Childs Fleisher (January, 2017)

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