Want to volunteer on your local organic farm this summer? It is a great way to make local connections, get to know your farmer, and learn growing skills. Volunteering can be really helpful for farmers, since finding reliable, consistent labor is difficult. Labor is often the largest expense for farms. However, while many volunteers are enthusiastic, they aren’t always helpful!
Consider these tips when volunteering on a farm:
1) Be reliable!
Reach out to your local farmer about volunteering and show up on time. Remember that it takes time out of the farmers day to teach you how to do certain tasks, so plan to work for a few hours to make it worth their time teaching you. If you can be a regular volunteer, even better! This helps farmers better plan their tasks and labor expectations.
2) Understand that farming is skilled labor!
Farming is not easy, nor can it be learned in a day. Make sure you ask questions and listen to the techniques that the farmers share about how a task should be performed. This way you will provide helpful labor, instead of doing a task the wrong way, making it more work for the farmers later.
3) Keep a Steady Pace
Don’t expect to keep up with the farmers and farmhands who work there. It is okay to be slower, and better to focus on the quality of your work so it doesn’t need to be fixed later.
4) Bringing a Group? Get it Cleared in Advance!
If bringing a group of volunteers (like part of an organization, for example), remember that it takes a lot of preparation for farmers to prepare for large group volunteer days. Give them plenty of notice, let them know the background/skills of the group, and assist in organization/directing folks on the day of. During these days, farmers can rarely get work done because they are busy answering questions and directing folks. If your goal is more education focused, try reaching out to a nonprofit farm, which may have additional staff focused on teaching guests, and thus may have more flexibility with their farm labor allocations.
5) Be Independent!
Depending on the farm, the farmer may have other tasks to complete during your shift, so they may not be able to chat with you the whole time you’re volunteering. Most farmers are happy to share knowledge and produce in exchange for your time but this is something to ask about beforehand rather than expect.
Have you ever volunteered on a farm before? It’s hard work, but will give you greater appreciation for where your food comes from as well as the farmers who cultivate it.
Payge Lindow is a Content Creator for Taste the Local Difference. She is also the Farm Manager of Grow Jackson.