Grace’s power pole was struck by lightning earlier this week and she has been without power, so you get me (Sheri) today.
We have been blessed with an absolutely awesome team this year. Haling from all over the United States, these guys and gals are dependable, hard working and tough.
I have to admit though, it’s not always been so. Our biggest headaches and largest expenses come from apprentices and summer interns who don’t pull their weight and/or make life on the farm absolutely miserable for everyone.
I always have to chuckle when new farmers come up to me and say, “Well, we finally got our first apprentice so things will get easier around here soon.”
Why do “they” (I use this term loosely) think of apprentices as the ticket to getting days off or my personal favorite – “Free Labor”. Please! There is nothing free about it. Not only are you investing your money and time into teaching these young (or old) folks, but you are investing your life into theirs.
Privacy goes out the window. Every single part of your life is questioned and scrutinized from where you go to church, to what you wear, to what movies you watch, what books you read and where you sleep. Notice that nothing on this list has anything to do with farming?
If you want a laborer, hire an employee. Trust me it’s easier and cheaper in the long run. Our apprenticeship program is not set up to be just a labor force. Sure, it helps, but that isn’t our focus. If it was, we’d hire an employee.
These guys and gals become a part of the Salatin family while they are here. They become one of us, get the inside scoop and invite us to their weddings. In return, we develop relationships that last a lifetime. I’ll close this post with a picture of all of the apprentices and interns that we able to come back for field day. The first one came in 1995.
We learn from them. Yep, it’s true. Every apprentice to ever come through Polyface leaves his/her mark. Tai brought in the tomatoes in the greenhouse. Ben brought in the zero-turn mower. Pete will always be known as our worst accident (at least I hope). Grady married a summer intern. Andy ate the most food and Galen was a close second. Nathan hit the telephone pole with the truck. Katrina convinced us that she could live off farm if we took girls. Okay, so some of those last things on the list weren’t necessarily a mark, but you should get the picture.
Things that have become second nature to us are questioned. What difference does it make if the feeders are put into the field shelters straight or crooked? What’s the difference between a water bucket and feed bucket and why does it matter? These questions are good for us. It makes us separate the hard fast rules from the preferences. As farmers we can get stuck in our ways, change births new ideas and maybe a better way.
If you stop any of our apprentices and ask them what it is that they treasured the most from Polyface, the answer will rarely be their farm experience. It will be something deeper than that. A defining moment of time in which they learned how to communicate with another person. They learned a better work ethic or how to be a man (for our guys). For some, it was the first time in their life to be accepted into a family.
Can you put a dollar amount on that?