Robinette Farms is a diversified small-scale family farm located in Martell, Nebraska, just 15 minutes from the capital city of Lincoln. We grow over 80 varieties of vegetables on about 5 acres, run a pastured poultry operation, custom graze cattle, raise hens for eggs and keep honeybees. At Robinette, we market our produce to a 135 member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program, the Old Cheney Road Farmers' Market, as well as to a few wholesale accounts. All of our goods are grown or raised using organic and sustainable methods, but we are not currently certified organic.
The purpose of our Apprenticeship at Robinette Farms is to provide real life training for future small-scale farmers. Our goal is that Apprentices could leave here with enough basic experience to start their own operation at some level. The Apprenticeship requires long hours and hard work on a daily basis, but also provides the experience of learning the ins and outs of farming. Apprentices will receive in the field training and first hand details of managing a small diversified farm. We are looking for highly motivated people who will work quickly and smartly and who have the drive to learn all they can about starting a small farm.
Farm Apprentice Job Description
Farm Apprentices work and live on the farm from April through October. We are looking for hardworking individuals who have strong self motivation and a strong desire to learn about small-scale farming. Previous experience on a farm is helpful but not required. Good communication and customer service skills are a must. We are looking for Apprentices that like to work hard and learn through doing.
Farm Apprentices are involved in every aspect of the farm’s operation, from weeding to selling at weekly Farmers’ Markets. Farming is a lifestyle that requires rigorous work but is also very rewarding. All Apprentices are essential to the successful operation of the farm each season, making it important that we find the right fit for both the Apprentice and the Farmers.
Farm Apprentices can expect to work anywhere between 40-65 hours per week, fluctuating with the seasons.
During April, May and June we hold informal weekly classes on various aspects of farming. Much of the learning during the rest of the season is hands on and in the field. Among other things, we discuss details of financial planning, crop planning, planting and greenhouse schedules, animal care, grazing management, equipment use and maintenance, and anything else Apprentices express specific interest in. Ultimately, how much an Apprentice gains from this experience is up to them and their level of motivation to ask questions and get information.
The typical schedule is five days a week, Monday through Friday, alternating Sundays at the Old Cheney Road Farmers’ Market, CSA pickups on Wednesdays and rotating weekly animal chores.
The typical weekly schedule looks something like this:
Monday – class, field work
Tuesday – harvest (CSA, wholesale)
Wednesday – harvest and/or field work, CSA distribution (4-7pm), wholesale delivery
Thursday – field work
Friday – harvest (FM, CSA and wholesale), wholesale delivery
Sunday – Old Cheney Road Farmers’ Market (10am-2pm)
Below is a list of some of the types of work Apprentices will be doing:
Field work: direct seeding, transplanting, weeding, thinning, harvesting, irrigation work
Greenhouse & Hoophouses: seeding, transplanting, watering, thinning, weeding, harvesting
Washstation: washing, sorting, cleaning, packing, labeling all crops, inventories, organizing
Tractor work: bed preparation, mowing, disking
Distribution: delivering wholesale orders, distributing CSA, and Farmers’ Market sales
April and May are focused on learning about the farm, learning how to harvest, an emphasis on classroom learning, and completing projects on the farm such as, construction, irrigation set up, and fencing work. Once the Summer CSA begins in June the pace quickens and workdays begin early with a one-hour lunch break and wrapping up the day by 5pm. As October approaches, things begin to quiet down a bit on the farm and much of our time is spent harvesting, distributing and cleaning up the farm in preparation for the winter.
Second Year Apprentice Opportunity
Each season there is an opportunity available for one current apprentice to stay on at the end of the season for another full year of work at Robinette Farms. The Second Year Apprentice starts immediately after the Apprenticeship ends on October 31st and works through the winter and following growing season (through Oct. 31st). This provides the Second Year Apprentice with the opportunity to realize the continuity of working at one farm for more than one season, it provides a better understanding of the seasonal nature of farm work and it also allows for that Apprentice to become more proficient at farming.
All employees have a one month Trial Period where their performance is evaluated based on defined standards provided when work begins. During the Trial Period, the monthly stipend for all new employees is $500. At the conclusion of the Trial Period, each employee meets with the Farmers to review their performance and ensure that the position is a good fit for everyone. If the employee is retained, the monthly stipend will increase depending on position, experience and performance.
*Please note: Farming is a lifestyle and will likely never make you rich. We work long, hard, physical hours in all conditions. The Trial Period is intended to give new employees some perspective on what they’ve gotten themselves into, as well as provide a formal opportunity for the Farmers to evaluate their progress.
Compensation and Benefits
After the Trial Period, Apprentices receive a monthly stipend of $600 (subject to taxes).
Payday is the last Friday of each month.
Workers’ Compensation is provided, which covers medical bills and lost income from work-related injuries, but no other benefits are offered.
Apprentices live in shared housing on the farm. The staff farmhouse includes private furnished bedrooms, and shared bathroom, kitchen and living space. Electric, internet, laundry facilities and wood for heating are provided.
Apprentices have access to farm produce, eggs and some meat when available throughout the season.
Qualifications for Farm Apprentices
We are looking for reliable, responsible and hardworking individuals who are able to follow directions and communicate well with others.
Applicants must be available to begin work the first week of April and commit to staying through the growing season, which ends October 31st.
Excellent people skills, initiative, and the ability to work well both independently and as a team are necessary.
The physical ability to work daily with hands, wrists, knees and back, to walk much of the day, to stoop, kneel, lift and twist and to lift 50 pounds regularly are required.
Apprentices should expect to work outside in all weather conditions including rain, snow and daily summer heat of 90-100 degrees under humid conditions.
While previous farming experience is preferred, it is not required, however it is essential that candidates are committed to the farming lifestyle and all that it demands. Finding a good match between what our farm can offer and the needs and expectations of an apprentice are incredibly important.
Requirements for Farm Apprentices
A strong desire to farm and live the farming lifestyle is required and absolutely essential to success as an Apprentice and in farming!
A valid driver’s license.
We cannot house pets or partners on the farm.
No smoking on the farm. Tobacco carries a virus that kills tomatoes, peppers and other crops!
A vehicle for personal transportation (we are 15 miles from downtown Lincoln).