Internship Curriculum and Handbook

Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education
(SARE) Farm Internship Curriculum and Handbook


Tom and Maud Powell and Michael Moss, Sustainable Farmers, Jackson County, OR.
Technical advisor: Tim Franklin, Jacksonville, OR.
Curriculum advisor: Peter O’Connell, Jacksonville, OR.
Web advisor: National Center for Appropriate Technology, Butte, MT.
Published 2007
Updated 2018 © NCAT


The Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Farm Internship Curriculum was designed for individual farmers to use during the course of the workweek.

Its companion Farm Internship Handbook was authored by Maud Powell and developed and tested by Oregon farmers and interns. It details successful methods of recruitment, hiring, negotiating with, training, and managing interns.

Rogue Farm Corps, with the support and participation of original authors, reviewed and updated the curriculum in the winter of 2009-2010. Rogue Farm Corps coordinates a cooperative intern training program in Southern Oregon with 15 participating farms and has utilized this curriculum since 2007. RFC also drafted a Farm Mentors’ Guide to Employment Law in Oregon.

This project was funded by a grant from Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), Western Region.

Farm Internship Handbook
Farm internships provide quality on-farm opportunities for hopeful future organic farmers. Well-trained interns are in a better position to become successful producers, which helps increase the pool of farmers, especially younger ones. Read More »

Farm Internship Curriculum
Thirty-five modules represent outlines and notes for farmers to discuss various sustainable agriculture topics with their interns.


Field study modules include:

Using the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Farm Intern Curriculum
The Western SARE curriculum is comprised of twenty-seven topics. Many of these “classroom” topics include “in-field” components that can be utilized while teaching and demonstrating new tasks during the workweek.

The topics can be used either by individual farmers or a group of farmers. If an individual farmer is using the curriculum, he or she can decide whether to set up a schedule at the beginning of the season, or remain more flexible and use the “classroom” lessons as needed. Many of the topics can be grouped together into one “class” of topics that are related to each other.

We recommend developing a written schedule at the beginning of the season and providing a copy to interns, so that they can see what subjects will be covered over the course of the season. As the season gets busier, intern classes may become a low priority, but having a written schedule at the outset of the season will improve the chances of them taking place. There may be times during the season when the farmer and/or interns need a break at the time of a scheduled class. The farmer and interns should decide together whether they want to reschedule or cancel the class. Although it is best not to set an early precedent of changing or canceling classes, if the interns and/or farmers lack energy and enthusiasm, classes may not be worthwhile.

Most farmers have found that they have more time and energy to teach the lessons during April, May, June, September, and October, so plan accordingly. It may be best to schedule weekly classes for the first few months while interns are learning the ropes, and then scale back to one or two classes a month during the height of the growing season. The order of the lessons is up to the farmer, but will make the most sense if taught during the most appropriate season, e.g., Greenhouse 101 in April, Cover Crops in October.

Farm Mentors’ Guide to Employment Law in Oregon
Rogue Farm Corps has developed tools for Oregon farmers to comply with state and federal employment laws as they pertain to interns. While there is some movement towards creating a legal framework for farm internships, Oregon law does not currently recognize farm internships, and as such, farmers must treat interns as employees.

State laws vary widely, and farmers should check with their state’s labor department to determine the legal requirements of farm internships.

Read More about complying with Employment Law in Oregon
A Checklist for Hiring Employees in Oregon
A Sample Work Agreement [PDF/52K]


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