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Holistic Orchard Management Apprenticeship

Eight-month Holistic Orchard Management Apprenticeship in Truchas, New Mexico

Margaret and Gordon have trained many young people over the years, and then in 2013 hired a New Agrarian Program graduate for an eight-month orchard management apprenticeship. In 2014, Tooley's Trees officially joined up with Quivira Coalition as a mentor for the New Agrarian Program. NAP apprentices with Tooley's Trees will gain skills and experience in all aspects of running a successful tree nursery, including basic soil science geared toward healthy, productive soils; recognizing the difference between beneficial plants and weeds and between beneficial insects and pests;bench and bud grafting; fruit tree and nursery crop production, processing and marketing; drip irrigation installation and maintenance; making, processing and utilizing compost; healthy physical labor employing efficient and safe body mechanics; basic tractor driving skills, including backing a trailer; and a plethora of other skills tied to farming and orchard management. In addition to working in the nursery, apprentices will have opportunities to learn about top-bar beekeeping, vegetable gardening and other homesteading skills.

Start Date: Approximately March 14, 2016 (Apprentices will attend an orientation at the end of the week of March 14 in the Santa Fe area, then will officially start at the farm March 21.)

Application Deadline: December 1, 2015
Apply at: http://quiviracoalition.org/New_Agrarian_Program/Tooley_s_Trees/index.html

The Apprenticeship

IMAG2136This holistic orchard management apprenticeship is an 8-month, professional training opportunity targeted at beginning agrarians committed to a life and career at the intersection of conservation and regenerative agriculture. The apprenticeship includes hands-on experience in all aspects of running a successful tree nursery, including the following:
1. Basic soil science geared toward healthy, productive soils and high-yielding plants;
2. Recognizing the difference between beneficial plants and weeds, and between insects and pests;
3. Planting bareroot trees in fabric root bags
4. Weed control strategies; be forewarned, we do a ton of hand weeding!
5. Bench and bud grafting;
6. Tree pruning;
7. Tree fruit production, processing and marketing;
8. Nursery crop production, and marketing;
9. Drip irrigation installation and maintenance;
10. Making, processing and utilizing compost;
11. Healthy physical labor employing efficient and safe body mechanics;
12. Basic tractor driving skills, including backing a trailer;
13. Basic building skills which might include building high tunnels, reapplying poly to high tunnels, building top-bar beehives, building sheds,fencing;
14. Correct use of products to manage disease, weed and insect control in both "conventional" and "organic" farming, with an understanding of why certain practices are used and why certain practices are either harmful or helpful;
15. A plethora of other skills tied to farming and orchard management;
16. Planting, maintaining (and eating from!) a home vegetable garden;
17. Keyline Plow design and implementation.
18. Top bar beekeeping
19. Working directly with customers who may need a lot of help deciding which trees to buy

Enthusiasm and a sincere commitment to regenerative agriculture and land stewardship are more important than experience, though experience with trees and/or farm work is a plus.

This is a full-time, intensive education and professional training program, forty-five to fifty hours a week, sometimes more and sometimes less. One of the joys as well as the challenges of farming is living and working with the rhythm of the seasons, and the work schedule follows the demands of season, weather, and nursery needs.

Tooley's Trees is open to the public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from late March through early November The apprentice will be assisting customers on those days, and getting time off on Monday, with the rest of the week focused on a variety of tasks on the tree farm.

A typical season on Tooley's Trees includes the following activities:

March-April: Bench grafting; greenhouse work; digging stock in in-ground fabric root bags; holistic orchard spraying as outlined in Michael Phillips' book "The Holistic Orchard"; planting bareroot stock in fabric root bags; pruning trees, starting the vegetable garden;

April-Nov: Drip irrigation set-up, maintenance and monitoring (understanding the irrigation system is imperative: this one skill alone will make a huge difference to you if you choose to continue in agriculture anywhere in the southwest); moving stock in above-ground fabric root bags; planting home garden; selling stock to wholesale and retail customers; assisting with deliveries in one hundred-mile radius of Truchas; hand-weeding and mulching; composting; insect, disease and plant health monitoring; maintaining (and eating from!!) home garden; assisting with keyline plow projects; fruit harvesting and processing; summer pruning; budding and propagation methods

A number of other activities may be incorporated into the apprentice schedule, depending on interests: tending to the beehives, additional work in the vegetable garden, infrastructure maintenance, research, keyline plow work.

Our busiest time of year is April and May when we are grafting, planting in fabric root bags, pruning, selling trees to the public, starting the vegetable garden. Apprentices will generally work Tuesday through Sunday. Tuesday's, during slower times in the season will be a day for self-directed study and work on the capstone project. Typically, Gordon and Margaret work alongside the apprentice. As he or she gains skill and experience, he or she will do certain tasks independently.

Spring and fall tend to be the busiest times at Tooley's Trees. August tends to be a bit mellower and is the best time for apprentices to plan visits with family and friends, plan trips, and schedule educational opportunities. The farm gets busy again in the fall with at-times intensive tree sales in September and October. Apprentices will wrap up the season with final projects in October and November, ending just in time for the Quivira Coalition conference in mid-November.

Gordon and Margaret expect the apprentice to learn much over the course of his or her time at the nursery. An apprentice will ideally show up with the following on day one:
Willingness and ability to follow directions
Ability to work well as part of a team
Enthusiasm about plants
Curiosity and enthusiasm to learn
Courtesy and honesty
Ability to be prompt
Efficient and energetic work ethic with a willingness to learn safe body mechanics
Attention to detail
Willingness and preparedness to work in all weather conditions
Care and appreciation for tools and equipment protocols

Housing: The NAP apprentice will live in a thirty-foot Airstream trailer, located on the farm. It has a bedroom and a futon couch that unfolds into a second bed, a fully functional kitchen, electricity, heat, a humanure composting toilet and a shower. Internet service can be accessed in Margaret and Gordon's home.

Stipend: The monthly stipend is determined each year, based on available funding; it is typically around $700 take-home pay. This is paid at the end of each month.

Education Fund: The New Agrarian Program seeks to serve the professional interests of the apprentice whenever possible. Up to $1,500 will be available for the apprentice to buy small hand tools and attend workshops, classes, and/or conferences that are directly applicable to the apprenticeship program. These funds may be utilized to reimburse travel and registration expenses. Gordon and Margaret do their best to accommodate such opportunities, though there will be times when it won't possible for an apprentice to leave the farm for an extended time period, due to workload.

Quivira Coalition Activities: The apprentice is required to attend the annual Quivira Coalition conference, held each November in Albuquerque, New Mexico; conference and hotel fees are covered by the Quivira Coalition. In addition to the conference, the apprentice may have opportunities to participate in Quivira Land & Water restoration workshops, and to visit other NAP apprenticeship locations. Apprentices are also required to write quarterly reports during their apprenticeship; these reports will go through the NAP Coordinator at Quivira, and be posted on the Quivira website.

Capstone Project: One of the important elements of the program is the Capstone Project, and independent research or documentation project that reflects some aspect of what an apprentice as learned. The apprentices will typically start work on a Capstone Project at the four-month mark, but will start conversations with their mentors when he or she starts the apprenticeship. This project is intended to serve as an opportunity to serve his or her own professional development goals, and simultaneously serve the nursery. Keep in mind that projects should have a substantial leadership-development aspect (i.e. demonstration of ability and willingness to take initiative, self-directed learning, and creation of a useful end product).

Time off: Apprentices will typically get Monday off. Our work pattern follows that of nature; when everything is busy and producing and growing, we do the same. When nature begins to slow down, we also slow down. Apprentices often have opportunities to take additional time off in August to visit family or attend a class or workshop, when the farm schedule can more easily accommodate this time away.

Visitors: Northern New Mexico has a large tourist draw. As a temporary resident, the apprentice may experience that draw through requests for visits from friends and family. The apprentice may also want to express his or her enthusiasm for the program by inviting friends and family to visit. The apprentice should use wisdom and judgment to balance the apprenticeship demands with time available for guests. Apprentices will be asked to discuss visitors in advance with Margaret and Gordon.

Food: The apprentice is responsible for taking care of his or her own food budget, but Tooley's Trees will provide a small additional monthly stipend for food. Additionally, the apprentice will be expected to put time into the home garden and will in turn have full access to garden produce.

Pets: It will not be possible for the apprentice to have pets during the apprenticeship. The apprentice housing is right on the farm, which needs to be maintained as a place where the public feels welcome and safe.

All the fun stuff: No smoking or drugs on the farm. Tooley's Trees is a completely non-smoking environment. No partying in the apprentice housing. Apprentices are expected to keep the apprentice housing and area surrounding the Airstream relatively neat.

Health Insurance: The ranching lifestyle has inherent dangers. While personal health insurance is not required to participate in the apprenticeship program, it is strongly encouraged. The nursery carries Worker's Compensation to cover injuries incurred on the job. But if the apprentice is injured on his or her day off, gets sick, or has or develops chronic conditions like allergies, these types of issues should be covered by personal health insurance.

Farm Vehicles: All of the farm vehicles are standard transmission. The apprentice will be expected to competently operate these vehicles. Apprentice must have a valid driver's license.

Personal Vehicle: There are no instances (or very few) when the apprentice would be required to use his or her own vehicle for farm purposes. In order to run personal errands and travel on days off, however, the apprentice will need the flexibility of her/his own vehicle.

Living in Truchas, New Mexico: We like to tell applicants a little about the community and area. Truchas is a small town of less than 1,000 people at the heart of the Nuestra Señora del Rosario, San Fernando y Santiago Land Grant, established in 1752. Our farm is a few miles to the west of the town, at an elevation of 7960 feet, with views of the Truchas Peaks and the mountainous Pecos Wilderness to the east. To the west are the Española Valley, the Jemez Mountains and a view of Pedernal Mountain, made famous by Georgia O'Keefe. Truchas has a post office as well as many art galleries. The nursery is close to several trailheads with lots of hiking trails that lead into the Pecos Wilderness.

For services like groceries, bank, laundromat, restaurants, nightlife, library, movies, Santa Fe (about forty miles), Española (fifteen miles) or Taos (about forty miles) offer the most amenities. Los Alamos is also about forty miles away. All of these towns have interesting histories including Native American and Spanish settlement. A really good book to get an overview of the history of the area is Enchantment and Exploitation by William deBuys.

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