Common Roots Urban Farm is seeking an Apprentice for the 2018 season.
We aim to be a vibrant, healthy part of our community by providing access to honest, healthy food at affordable prices. We believe our small farm is an important and integral part of urban revitalization in Buffalo by restoring neglected vacant land into a beautiful place our neighbors can take pride in. Respecting life in and out of the soil is essential.
Physical Farm Description
We are an urban farm on the east side Buffalo, NY set upon an acre of land in the middle of a low income, mainly African American residential neighborhood. Over the years as houses were vacated and left abandoned the city began tearing them down. We are left with a bizarrely quiet space, with lots of green fields around, but only 1.8 miles from downtown.
Terra and Josh run the farm and Terra lives just a few doors from the farm while Josh lives across town and commutes to the farm with hopes to build a house in the neighborhood soon. Our farm was started in 2012 and is a member of the Farmer Pirates Cooperative, a group of urban farmers collaborating and supporting each other in our farming endeavors. There are 3 other urban farms in a 3 mile radius and a few more across town. Since our farm is in the city we are very visible while working, although it is pretty quiet most of the time. We have 3 friendly farm dogs and many neighborhood children come to “help out” during the summer. We also tend to have people walk, bike or drive by and talk with us about the farm. We have a handful of CSA workshares and volunteers each season so there are always many different types of folks around.
While not an iconic farm in a quaint rural town, one of the greatest advantages of being an urban farm is that everything you want or need is right here. Buffalo is a friendly, big but small city. We have lots going on if you want it..music (much of it free), parks, beaches, libraries, café’s, history, museums, festivals, water sports, biking, and hiking nearby.
Our Farm Operation
Since 2012 our farm has been growing, evolving and improving with each passing year. We are not certified organic but use all organic methods. We believe in building healthy soil to grow healthy plants and do not use and synthetic fertilizers or other chemicals. We plan on committing to the NOFA Farmers Pledge this coming season.
2016 was Josh’s first year on the farm and we’ve been able to accomplish so much. We cultivate ½ acre of mixed vegetables, strawberries and raspberries. We have a young fruit orchard planted 4 years ago, 20 grapevines and 22’x72’ hoophouse that we had in production for the first time this season. We also keep 2 beehives with intention on increasing this season and have 6 hens (although we do not sell the eggs). All work is done with a variety of hand tools and with the help of some sweet battery operated tools. After years of hand watering we had a well dug last winter and now have a fully functioning irrigation system which we will be continuing to perfect each season. We plant all of our crops in 30” wide beds and use lots of landscape fabric and row cover for weed and pest control.
In 2017 we ran an 18 week, 83 member CSA along with our farmstand. This coming season we are planning a 50 member CSA and adding a farmers market.
Each year we offer a limited number of workshares to our CSA members, essentially working in trade for food. It is a mutually beneficial relationship that we value greatly.
What to Expect
While an apprentice doesn’t need prior farm experience they should have a basic knowledge of gardening a passion to learn more. While the ideal goal of an apprentice would be to run a farm of their own we understand this is not always the case. An apprentice must come knowing that farming is HARD WORK, physically, mentally and sometimes emotionally. That said, we feel farming is also some of the most rewarding work, allowing work in the outdoors, with the land, while producing a product to build healthy sustainable communities. We are passionate farmers and hope that our apprentice will be too. Self motivation, sense of humour, follow through, flexibility, organization, attention to detail, willingness to learn and take direction, and clear communication skills are all necessary at our farm. We expect and apprentice to be in good health with ability to lift 50lbs and maneuver a loaded wheelbarrow. A drivers license is a plus.
Drinking is allowed with moderation of course and not during work hours. Smoking is acceptable outdoors.
Work & Training
We will expect an apprentice to work 30-40 hours per week with every Sunday and one Saturday a month off. The amount of hours worked each day changes with the season and harvest days tend to be longer than the rest.
Time off can be taken as the season allows and with prior notice and approval. We all need to get away at some point to relax and rejuvenate!
Apprentices will be involved in all aspects of the farm operation.
The Spring involves seed starting, bed prep, lots of direct seeding, transplanting and some harvesting. Our farmstand and CSA both start the first week of June.
During the Summer we continue succession planting, lots of harvesting, washing, packing, and weeding. We also keep very busy with our stand, farmers market and CSA pickups.
Late Summer and Fall the planting slows down and the harvest time is awesome!
Education and Feedback
We feel the best way to learn and to teach is by doing. Since our farm is small we will all be working together daily. As the season progresses and the apprentice feels more comfortable we may be off doing different tasks, but always close by for feedback, questions or support. Weekly meetings will provide opportunities for understanding how we plan, to ask questions, as well as for “mini lessons” on relevant topics throughout the season. We have a great farm library which will be shared and we may suggest relevant reading or other educational resources pertaining to specific situations when necessary. Because our farm is part of a cooperative, we have a great network of farmer knowledge which the apprentice will be encouraged to utilize and there may occasionally be opportunities to spend some time on other farms and see their practices as well. One of my favorite activities is our Farmer Pirates tour where we bicycle as a group to each other’s farms for tours and questions. As with any good teaching and learning environment, clear open communication is a must! We strive for this and expect it from others as well.
We provide $100/wk, room and board, all the veggies you want (within reason), eggs, some meat and the rest of the staples (grains, pasta, bread, cheese, coffee/tea etc) We have a few grills, a fire pit, kayaks and can probably get you a bike if you’re so inclined.
Apprentice housing is in the top floor of Terra’s rustic garage behind the house. It will be fully furnished and have electricity, wifi and a mini fridge, while cooking, showers, laundry, and bathroom will be in the main house where Terra lives with her husband Greg, their dog Bear and cat Mack. We will eat dinner together a few nights a week, but the kitchen will always be shared.
Apprentice would come Mid-May and stay through the end of September. We would require that the apprentice commit to the entire time period.
Terra was a MOFGA apprentice in Maine back in 2008, went on to manage a small farm and then started farming on her own in 2010. Buffalo is where she was born and returned to after her time in Maine. She has a background in elementary education and is Montessori trained. As well as being a founder of the Farmer Pirates Cooperative she also helped formed the Farmer Pirates Compost Crew and is part owner of that business.
Josh lives with his girlfriend, two dogs and their cat. Locally born in the near suburb East Aurora, Josh has lived in the city for 10 years and in 2015 connected with Terra to become a partner at Common Roots Urban Farm. Growing healthy food to help sustain the community is Josh’s main reason for being a part of the farm.