Sunday, August 11, 2013

$4 an hour for farm work?

Natures harmony is offering 9 month apprenticeships on their farm.  You get to work 6 days a week, 4 hours a day, and it's paid! 

Well, sort of.  Minimum wage is Georgia is $7.35/hour, and this position pays...$4.10/hour for the scheduled hours.  And we all know that farm work doesn't work on a schedule, so the likely pay is lower than that.    Oh yea; it's a split shift -- which means that it would be very, very difficult to find a job that you could work to supplement your $4 an hour wage.  At least you only have to commit to 9 months of this. 

...Yes, they do offer a trailer for you to live in for your 6 days a week job.  But no phone, internet or TV -- you can add those! the listing helpfully says. 

They're being hailed as a "job creator" on their facebook page.   So you spend a million bucks on the farm and a custom house, use kickstarter for capital (they just got $27k a week ago!) and you propose to pay a little over half the minimum wage for someone to do most of the work 6 days a week. 

That seems pretty fair, right? 

Here's the listing, because Tim always deletes stuff that I comment on:   


2013-2014 Paid Apprenticeship Opportunity

Nature's Harmony Farm produces award-winning farmstead and artisanal cheese from raw milk. We are located in Elberton, Georgia, a rural community about an hour from the bustling college town of Athens. Elberton has numerous restaurants, a Walmart (oh boy) and a coffee shop (and library) with high-speed Internet.
This is an excellent apprentice opportunity for someone interested in dairy and cheesemaking, or just looking for a great farm experience. 
We are currently recruiting for a long-term apprentice or apprentice family to stay for a minimum of nine months, from September 2013 through June 2014. Longer is possible, but you need to commit to the entire season at a minimum. 
Housing provided in a self-contained 2 bedroom mobile home that can accommodate 2-3 apprentices or a small family. Accommodations include a kitchen, bath, one full-size bed and inflatable mattresses. Quarters do not include phone, broadcast television or Internet, although you can add those. There is a television provided with many movies from which to choose. You may put in your own garden if you'd like. We are open to children and pets for a long-term relationship, however, we do have livestock guardian dogs who are very protective of our farm, so you are responsible for safely securing your pets and children. 
Work Requirements:
We ask you to work an average of only 4 hours, six days per week. Tasks include:
  • gathering and milking 15 cows (automated milking), each morning and evening, with one day off per week 
  • cleaning the cheese room every other day 
  • tending cheeses (brush, wash) 
  • help with our farm store as needed 
  • packaging cheeses as needed

We milk cows seasonally from October - July, so this opportunity is for the entire season. In addition to free housing and basic utilities, we pay a stipend of $400 per month.  Contact us if you are interested. References and a background check are required.


Jeff said...

I think it's a little low, but it's not out of the range of normal in the apprenticeship model. Take a look at Joel Salatin's apprentice/intern fleet for a comparison.

If you want a farm education, it's not a bad opportunity. If you want to support yourself for the long term and/or a family, it's a poverty job.

I don't think the apprentice model is really sustainable long term as a support mechanism for small farms, but for the right person looking to learn (or perhaps learn how difficult it is), it can be a good experience.

Rich said...

I don't know whether to be amused or dismayed that there are people in the world that are either stupid and/or naive enough to give money to NHF for some bogus Kickstarter plan, much less sign up for a worthless apprenticeship with Tim and Liz.

I particularly like the part of the apprenticeship description that goes, "... however, we do have livestock guardian dogs who are very protective of our farm, so you are responsible for safely securing your pets and children..."

Maybe Tim ought to give a farm seminar about farm liability issues, and how you can just tell people that you aren't liable if they happen to get injured or killed on your farm.

I can almost guarantee that if Tim found someone with children that was stupid enough to volunteer for nine months of slavery, then if their child was attacked by one of Tim's dogs, that Tim would have a messy lawsuit on his hands (especially if he stated in public that his dogs might cause harm to children).

If Tim and Liz don't understand that simple part about farm liability, then what else do they not understand and what is an apprenticeship with them worth?

Bruce King said...

The joel Salatin apprenticeship is a little different; looks like you get a cooked meal daily and free access to the farm larder to prepare your own food. It's also a much shorter commitment; a 4 month term. The number of hours of work a day don't matter much between the two; there's very small chance that you could pick up work in the "spare" time you have had NH because of the split shift.

If you look at the polyface "apprenticeship" offering you see something a bit different; the term is similar to NH, 12 months vs 9 months, but the pay range is much better, and there's some hope that it leads to something better in the future.

There are folks who couldn't feed themselves at $400 a month (that's $13 a day) much less pay for clothes, a car, or any other expenses.

Bruce King said...

Rich: I agree with you about liability. If his dogs do attack a child or anyone else, he's got a big problem. Livestock guardian dogs don't have to be vicious.

Tim has made it clear that he can teach you to milk cows and make cheese in a weekend. I'm not sure what the other 8.7 months are teaching you; perhaps "don't take this sort of offer in the future"?

George said...

Sadly that is the going rate for an "intern".

I'm against hiring anyone if you cannot pay a fair wage. I think a training wage is acceptable for the first few weeks, but after that one should be paid fairly. $4/hr is not fair. MANY farms do this, browse PASA, CASA, SARE, Local harvest etc etc and they are chock full of small farms looking to exploit (even if they do not see it this way) cheap labor under the guise of "experience based education".

I'm sorry, but if I was learning on the job, at any other job outside of Agriculture, I'd be making at least min. wage.

Hostetter said...

I was waiting for you to post Tim's offering. I expected more when he was asking for money but I think you were too busy with the fence and neighbor to mess with that.

I love this farming thing. You go online and ask for money and people give it too you. Then you ask for some essentially free labor and someone will sign up.

The guys that work for me won't work for less than $10 and hour and wont do it till they are clocked in.. Any less and they don't even show up.

Seriously, I don't know how some of the farming operations that use interns get away with what they are doing.

Jeff said...

In theory, interning and/or apprenticing can/could be a good deal. Traditional education is expensive, getting worse, and often not that helpful in getting you a job. For someone right out of high school, a farm internship/apprenticeship could be a good deal if there are plentiful opportunities to use that education to start a farm/get a job on a farm.

Now, the theory doesn't really hold much water in reality as the education you get as an internship/apprenticeship isn't going to make it easy for you to start your own farm as there is nothing that is going to make that easy. If anything, it might help you to learn why it's NOT a good idea to go into farming.

For the person who is deadset on starting their own farm, an internship/apprenticeship can be extremely useful. In my own unpaid internship, I learned a boatload of information...mostly stuff that helped me decide what NOT to do. That information has turned out to worth a lot of money to me, and I couldn't have gotten it without doing an internship.

The one thing I'm against is using internships/apprenticeships for the sole purpose of getting cheap labor. The NHF example seems to potentially have crossed this line, but it's a blurry line in most cases. Sadly, this practice is all too common--but it also reflects the difficulty in having a viable small farm business.

Bruce King said...

Hostetter: There wasn't much more that I could say about the whole kickstarter thing; Tim has gone to great lengths to delete his history off of the internet -- he's even pulled google and bing cached copies of his blog off -- and he's worked hard to project the image of a nice farmer guy. Tim specializes in new-to-farming folks -- they're gullible, they take him at face value, and there's nothing that can be easily found that contradicts that basic message. I get grief when I write about Tim, so I said what I did and left it at that.

Bruce King said...

The intern thing that Salatin offers has a path to becoming a farmer in it; at least some of his interns do run farms now. With folks like NH, there's no such thing. Tims last batch of interns were shown the gate and don't let it hit you on the ass as you go through!

With high-tech interns, you can't replace a paid employee with them, and the whole experience is supposed to be a learning experience. And they're paid; usually $15 to $20/hour.

Farms do get a pass on paying starvation wages. WIth the Salatin offer though, you do get fed at least, and someone else does the cooking. No so much with NH

The real problem with this? He's putting his primary product into the hands of his lowest paid employee. What happens when they don't wash the cheeses for a few days or weeks? or make a half-assed job of cleaning the milking parlor?

I feel that your first employee is one of the most important choices you can make. Tim is betting that he can find a good quality person who's willing to starve and suffer for 9 months and do a good job while that happens. I'd take the other side of that bet any day. ANY day!

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