Fields of Farmers | Especially for Interns Part 1

I should have known better than to try to write blog posts during our intern check out weeks – the first 2 weeks in Dec and then Christmas on top of that.

So, if you’re okay with it. Let’s continue our discussions on Fields of Farmers by Joel Salatin


This week were talking about COST. This is in the Especially for Interns portion of the book.

Cover--Fields of FarmersJoel starts with this:

Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of a form of farm internships is how costly they are to the farm. As I’ve already noted, education is expensive. In our case, we don’t charge for it; we just ask for some work – okay, a lot of work – in return.…

The major costs are broken machinery, loss tools, and work slippage. That includes work that must be redone because it was done incorrectly; work that didn’t get done when it should have; and things like Gates left open or the electric fence unchecked. Open gates and dead electric fences usually mean animals were you don’t want them. Sometimes lots of animals, and sometimes very far away from where you want them.

Joel goes on to talk about the emotional cost of lost mementos, the high cost of reinventing the wheel, accidents, and many trials and errors the Polyface apprentices have added to our internship program.

Some of these errors were major and others were simply small mistakes.

The bottom line is that education is expensive. At Polyface, we don’t charge interns to learn from us. I wouldn’t categorize our internship is just a job, I would say that it’s more of a partnership. It only works with both parties give their 100%.

For those of you who went to college, think about how much it cost you in education, not to mention cost in housing and food and clothing and books. Something that we would like for our interns to understand is that rather than them paying for this cost we pay for this cost. Someone must must pay the price of learning. In a true internship program, the mentor is usually the one to absorb the cost. In exchange, a good intern will apply himself to thoroughly learning the trade of the master.

Have you participated in any internship programs? What were the pros and cons of this? As an intern, what would you have liked to be done differently?

I know the internships today are not the norm. But what if they were?

Let’s talk.

If you’re just tuning in, 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!

2006 LANDSCAPE-001

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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.
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3 Responses to Fields of Farmers | Especially for Interns Part 1

  1. Kristin says:

    Internship is a very interesting concept. As a musician, I’ve been able to observe lessons, borrow teaching books, and generally benefit from my teachers’ willingness to help me out and ‘teach me how to teach.’ So now I’m a music teacher on a small scale, and that example of willingness to share is ever before me. Now I get to copy music, make recordings, pass on knowledge–to my students. I’m grateful for what I’ve learned. Where would we be without all those helpful folks out there!?

  2. Abby H. says:

    This was a wonderful message for me as a Mom as I have my kids “help” me around the house. I really dislike it when our raw milk gets spilled for example, but that’s how they learn! I was an intern at an animal sanctuary, and I did break a couple water bottles myself, but I hope the value added outweighed those. I never let any of the animals out though!

  3. Jason Rowberg says:

    I participated in two internships as a young adult. Polyface Farm at 18, and an organic produce operation at 20. Polyface was very challenging (I had no farming background), but also very positive. It’s a complex subject but I think the “lens” or perspective presented here is really good. When I consider my awful experience at the vegetable operation from this viewpoint it makes perfect sense. There was a major disconnect in expectations…I don’t think they anticipated the cost of education, and coming from Polyface, I didn’t anticipate the frustration that young experts can get when dealing with novices. Again, it’s way more complex than that, but being unready for the emotional challenges with internship is surely a recipe for disaster.