Fields of Farmers | Especially for Mentors Part 2


Whew, this is a hot topic on Polyface. Many people who don’t truly understand what is offered in our intern program think that we are exploiting our young people.

But what about all of the learning they get out of it? The job opportunities?

One of the things that we have noticed that makes the Polyface Intern program different from many of the others we’ve seen through the country, is the direct oversight from the “bosses”. We purposely don’t take on too many students at a time because we want to have the individual time to work with each of our interns. Many reports we get from other intern programs and even from W.W.O.O.Fers is that the intern is told what to do and then left for hours at a time on their own to complete the task.

At Polyface, we work alongside our interns. Very rarely will there be jobs where no mentor is present. Joel, Daniel and Eric, each one an expert in their own field. Each one has a different teaching style and something different to impart. It makes our program special. (In my opinion! :))


Our team quickly becomes family. We have them in our homes, at our meal table, at social functions, in nearly every aspect of our lives. This is why our vetting process is so strict. Not only are they part of our family, but we become part of theirs. Can we live and work with each other for a long period of time? Both parties must agree.

What are your thoughts on wages?

What do you see as being fair to the farmer and the student?

What would you trade for knowledge?

Let’s move onto to


Are you ready for interns? This isn’t a question to be taken lightly. The day you start taking interns is the day your own daily life will be subject to the microscope scrutiny of others. From your beliefs to your actions and even the language you use, interns will probe your every thought and action. The interns don’t mean to badger or argue; in good faith, they want to know what makes you tick.

Interns analyze every single thing you do. If you have more than one intern, they’ll discuss your words, your church, your family and come to certain conclusions. Because they’re coming to your life without the benefit of history or perspective, they often make incorrect assumptions and draw mistaken conclusions. It can be maddening at time. You’ll have to choose which perceptions are erroneous and important enough to debate and the ones that aren’t worth a fuss.

Be assured that interns will scrutinize, analyze, and pass judgment on every aspect of your life…
~Fields of Farmers by Joel Salatin

Are you ready for this? Does the thought of this excite you or fill you with dread?

If it fills you with dread, you might want to consider an employee rather than an intern. Employees are much less transient. You train them once and if you’re a good boss and they’re happy, they’ll stay for years.

There have been many times we have thought about stopping the intern program entirely. We usually have this thought at the beginning of an extremely busy season and it seems that all we are doing is running around putting out fires. It’s exhausting. We train a new crop of young people every single year, only to watch them leave about a month after they finally get the hang of things and really start helping.

Our employees have been with us for as many as 8 years already. They’re stable, dependable and know how to do their jobs with efficiency. We wouldn’t trade a one of them for all the money in the world.

Why do we keep taking interns, you may ask?

Because for us, it’s a calling. Something more than just a job. It’s a deep rooted urge to teach and share.

Summer 13 002-001

The mission statement for Polyface is this:

“To develop emotionally, economically, environmentally enhancing agricultural enterprises and facilitate their duplication throughout the world.”

Everything that we do comes back to this. The intern program is part of this.

A good mentor/leader must first be a servant. A willingness to give and let go.

By adopting a servant’s mindset, then, mentors can keep their sanity through the process. Lost tools, broken gates, cows out, thirsty chickens – the list of frustrations brought on by interns is endless. But a servant leader goes on, refuses to let this dampen his purpose, and continues to make a path that others can follow.

Your turn. Do you have any stories to share of someone who mentored you? What things did they do right? What things did they do wrong?

Are you a mentor to someone? Do you like it?

What would make you a good mentor? Or what sets you apart as a good mentor compared to others around you?

Why would the intern choose to learn from you?

Cover--Fields of FarmersThank you for participating in this book discussion. We’ll pick back up again on Friday, Dec 7 with Chapter 7 – Section in Especially for Interns, Part 1.

Here’s what we’ve covered so far:

If you’re just visiting today, you can buy Fields of Farmers from Polyface here or Amazon here.

See you next time!

Happy Friday!

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About Sheri Salatin

Sheri is married to Daniel Salatin. She is the marketing director at Polyface Farm and stay-at-home mom of three children. Sheri is passionate about clean food and is enjoying working the land along side her husband. When not farming, Sheri can be found reading, writing, sewing, baking and serving in her church family.

2 Responses to Fields of Farmers | Especially for Mentors Part 2

  1. It makes me so sad that internships are becoming a “thing of the past”. How is this education “less” than one you paid for? In my opinion every teen should spend time as an intern. You can’t buy that kind of experience!

  2. Mark Biaggi says:


    To any detractors of your intern program I think they really miss the point of the education process that is taking place. I have never had interns, but have worked in a variety of facets of agriculture all my life from from the family dairy to corporate ag and back to the farm; this has required me to learn and teach. I think that many people do not understand the vast knowledge required to competently run a successful agricultural operation. We have had too many generations of farmers supported by government programs, and chemicals of all type masking poor ag practices, coupled with the rural “brain drain” the impression is only the dumb ones are farmers and since you have interns instead of employees you must be exploiting them.

    Your dad has the equivalent of a PhD in a variety of subjects, your brother must be at the Master level if not PhD also, unknowing about the other individuals on the farm you have a tremendous faculty. Maybe the question to ask detractors : What would an education cost at the University of Polyface, if you charged at the rate of the top universities in the USA? Polyface interns might just be getting the best deal out there.

    Keep up the great work. There is a reason your family was placed upon this earth.