The Organic Apprentice

sowing the seeds of learning!


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Nothing but Green Thumbs

One of the most significant reasons I had for becoming a farm apprentice stemmed from my love of growing plants.I don’t believe that having the proverbial ‘green thumbs’ is entirely necessary to working in agriculture. However, I don’t doubt that it can only help!

For the past few years I have grown plants indoors during the winter as a means of brightening up my room and keeping me sane during the long Canadian winters. Having living plants around acts as a sort of oasis during the months when most people would really rather not venture outdoors. Without getting into the merits of horticultural therapy I simply believe that this hobby of mine has a lot of benefits that I did not initially anticipate.

The plants that I’ve grown include:

  • Sweet Dani Basil (lemony), Siam Queen Basil (thai), Dark Opal Basil, Sweet Basil.
  • Catnip
  • Peppermint (a great home-made tea!)
  • Catgrass (which the cats ate incessantly at times)
  • Lemonbalm (a rather pesky plant which can easily take over a garden, very fragrant lemony scent)
  • Thyme (I had best success with thyme when I cut the top 3/4 of a 2L coke bottle and cut holes all over it. The thyme grew wildly when I put this overtop of the plant)
  • Borage
  • Sage (I love the silvery leaves and look of sage, but am not actually overly fond of its scent)
  • Black Eyed Susan microdot vine (I had this grow up a triangle lattice during the summer, really nice white flowers that grew rapidly)
  • Thai Chili Peppers (an F1 hybrid species, considered Ultra Hot… those who tasted them could attest to this!)
  • Royal Burgundy Peas
  • Chamomile (flowers are highly fragrant, makes for amazing tea!)

Below are some images of the projects I have undertaken in the past. The basil plants were the highlight of the 2011 project. Since then I have moved the grow space out of my closet and made a more permanent structure for it. The shelves cost $17, the fans (not visible in the photo) cost $20 for the 2 PC fans and AC-DC adapter, the lights are about $45 total (42 watt x2, 23 watt x3, all warm white).

My BASIL MONSTER on the left, my closet box Winter 2011 grow project in the middle, and my current Winter 2013 grow shelves on the right!

My BASIL MONSTER on the left, my closet box Winter 2011 grow project in the middle, and my current Winter 2013 grow shelves on the right!

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“How did you land this opportunity?”

Lately I’ve had a lot of people asking HOW I managed to get this amazing opportunity. I can’t speak for what my mentors-to-be thought of me but I can tell you where I found the job posting and what I told them in my applications.

I found the posting, along with many other environment-related jobs, on the Good Work Canada Website (http://www.goodworkcanada.ca/). I was interested in another position in Kingston working with the Sisters of Providence as an intern for their heritage seed preservation (http://www.providence.ca/?cat=30). My interest in both of these opportunities arose as I my interest in using nature as a therapeutic setting grew. The sisters got back to me a while ago but I did not hear back from them. This likely turned out for the better as the experience at Bantry Bay Farm will be a more comprehensive learning experience than I would find working at the seed sanctuary in Kingston. Doubtlessly, both positions have their own unique merits and lessons. However, I have loved the Maritime provinces on every occasion I have visited and feel that I will find a much better fit on the farm in New Brunswick than with the sisters in Kingston.

My cover letter to the Bantry Bay Farm was as honest and forthcoming about my personal views and interests as possible. I have a sincere adoration and respect of the natural world that often makes any work I do outdoors very enjoyable. My easy-going demeanour and ability to work closely with just about anybody gave me confidence that I would be an agreeable team member in a farm setting. I have also spent the last few years cultivating my own green thumb so I know that I can keep plants alive. I have never had the opportunity to test my skills in a larger, outdoor, setting so working on a farm seemed like the ideal chance to do so.

Expressing my professional goals as a Therapeutic Recreation student also worked in my favour as the educational aspect of the apprenticeship made the position an ideal pairing with my personal goals and interests.

My suggestions for anybody looking to find themselves a similar work experience are as follows:

  1. Develop goals for yourself that are honest, achievable, and that you are passionate enough about to work hard for to accomplish.
  2. Look or opportunities that make good use of your skills (this sounds obvious but I believe that people sometimes try to reach beyond their abilities and are disappointed when they do not land the job)
  3. Keep an open mind and be flexible. If you really believe a posting is worth the experience then do not worry about other things. Sometimes the key to success is building yourself through your work and leisure (for example: my first ‘seeds’ of interest in such an apprenticeship began with hobby gardening)
  4. This ties into the last bit of point #3, but don’t discount your hobbies as being valuable. Chances are if you enjoy something and are passionate enough to pursue it as a hobby then doing something similar as work is going to engage you to work harder than otherwise.


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Preparing Myself

Up until I begin the apprenticeship at the end of April/start of May I’m busy reading up on organic farming methods and planning out my final year of university. As I’ll be farming into the beginning of the Fall 2013 semester I have decided to take that semester off and get a job sometime in November. Hopefully I will stick that through Summer 2014 after the Winter semester and then finish my final course, and degree, in the Fall of 2014. This has the dual benefit of allowing me to stay on the farm longer and experience the fall crop season while also reducing my costs for the year as I won’t be paying any tuition for the Fall 2013 semester.

Should anybody have any suggested readings or videos for me please feel free to share them!

I’m confident that everything will work out great and I hope you all enjoy following my experience!