Willow City Farm Internships
Willow City Farm is committed not only to growing healthy (chemical-free, organically raised) food and feeding our local community, but to educating new farmers, agricultural entrepreneurs, nutritionists and agricultural policy makers of tomorrow. Our in-depth internship program immerses individuals with a serious interest in sustainable food production that practices full permaculture of the land with more than theoretical knowledge… our approach is a practical, hands-on education that takes them from the soil and roots of a farming operation to the business fundamentals they need to know to make their own farming business a financially viable success. The food raised on our farm is sold in our store directly to consumers, sold to local chefs and restaurants, at farmer’s markets, and donated to various charities.
For those that are interested, this experience will help shape their ideas on government’s role in agriculture or can help them speak with credibility on subjects like sustainability, food systems, and nutrition and policy.
We are committed to education and do so through multiple farm visits and tours for the general public, preschools, and various organizations.
As the owners of this operation, we make a considerable time investment in carefully selecting and teaching only a few of candidates that will truly benefit the most from this apprentice and internship experience. We screen for individuals who are committed to making the most of their experience on our farm, to help positively shape their future, and to foster an environment that encourages creativity and innovation in developing new, financially viable farm business ideas.
‘Sustainability’ is the buzzword in farming today, but a sustainable farm is not truly sustainable unless it is financially viable as well. Small- to mid-size farms must be creative and diversified to survive in today’s economy. It is absolutely critical to a farm’s economic success and long-term sustainability to constantly look for opportunities to diversify their core operations. While at the farm, our apprentices and interns are encouraged to think through, field-test, and lay the foundations needed to create their own agricultural business ideas and actually write their business plan. In some cases, we are able to provide the land, equipment and resources they need to start their own farming operation. This means internships will include various agri-tourism events like Goats + Yoga, Puppies + Yoga, Farmer’s Markets and birthday parties at the farm.
Our job is not to present a pretty picture of farming, but to give them the gritty, realistic, practical perspective of what a farmer’s body and brain must accomplish any given day in order to succeed in a challenging choice of vocation. Not only do we focus on the nostalgic and sentimental aspects of agriculture, but also the marriage of new ideas, and new business models to create tomorrow’s small business owners in farming… people who will directly create their own healthy businesses in their communities, be sources of local food, inspiration and jobs in their communities, and in turn educate others, both their customers and other future farmers about farming and food production today.
Willow City Farm’s internship program is meant to be an opportunity for individuals to test themselves in a career that they have dreamed of pursing and giving them the hands-on training, tools, experience and education, along with the possibility to use land as test plots for their fledgling businesses. Our interns are taught how to preserve resources, grow healthy food, and work with nature, not against it.
We bring our interns on private tours of other select farms where other farm business owners share their insights, successes and failures in their agricultural activities. They learn about large-scale traditional farming models, as well as more innovative small-scale niche farming activities that often rely more on agritourism (the fastest growing sector in agriculture); the creation of unique, niche farm products; or incorporating wellness and holistic healing education and activities with farming to create a complete farm-to-table-to-body business model.
Throughout the intern experience at Willow City Farm, family life is emphasized… how to incorporate supporting a family from the income and lifestyle of a small farm. Through our struggles and triumphs in farming, and those of other farmers, our interns are made aware of the family side of what a farming lifestyle is all about.
From first-hand experience we know the challenges new farmers face, things like finding land, locating working capital, procuring leases, managing the negative background noise from the critics and developing realistic goals. Like any business and maybe more so in farming, the upfront costs of purchasing land, infrastructure and equipment make for some pretty steep barriers to entry. The time-tested model of sharecropping (when a farmer who does not own land works a plot belonging to a landowner who receives a share of the harvest as payment) may be the best solution to getting started. And for the right candidates, we may offer this.
One of our goals is to prove that one can make a living solely from farming (no off-farm jobs) while carrying a mortgage, not having inherited the land, and not having a trust fund or wealthy family’s endowment.
Our Internship Opportunity: Willow City Farm offers an honest, accurate on-farm learning experience. We provide a beautiful, clean, safe, healthy setting to work hard, play hard, and learn valuable real-life skills. You can get in great physical shape while learning all the basic components that you need to strategically plan, operate, promote and manage your own profitable, sustainable and rewarding farm business. The work teaches about sustainable farming practices, economics of making a farm profitable, marketing, raising livestock, growing crops organically for profit, customer relations, and what it's like to work hard for a healthy lifestyle and successful future.
About Willow City Farm: Willow City Farm is owned and Operated by Tara Davlin and he daughter, Chloe. The farm is located in Pleasant Plains, Illinois, just 6 miles from Springfield, 60 minutes from Bloomington, 100 miles from St. Louis, and 200 miles from Chicago.
Willow City Farm is a small-scale diversified farm in Central Illinois. The farm does not just produce one or two products like a typical farm, instead it operates more like a homestead and produces a multitude of crops and livestock which support each other using permaculture and other organic methods.
We understand that education is key, and we are constantly learning and sharing what we learn with others. Our form of agriculture is the science and art of sustainability.
Our philosophy is that farming practices should leave the soil, air, water, plant life, animals and people healthier – and happier. We are a proud micro farm (a.k.a. small family farm), farming under 100 acres.
The daily farm routine: The daily routine is Monday - Friday, 7 am – 6 pm. Saturdays are a half day. On a daily basis, there's routine chores like caring for livestock, moving cattle through rotational grazing pastures. A few days a week our interns will be in charge of orders for chefs and restaurants, or running the retail store, The Farmstand.
We work 11-12 hour days, but if it's hot and we’re caught up on our workload, we’re the first to suggest grabbing a refreshment, heading to the pond for a swim or kayak session, then finish up with any evening chores and a great meal.
We expect our interns to work a minimum of 25 hours per week, and we can usually be flexible.
Special learning components for interns: Interns get a special learning opportunity about all the “behind-the-scenes” aspects of farm business management – all aspects of running a profitable and sustainable farm business including but not limited to understanding the farm’s bookkeeping, financial planning and management, grant writing, and the holistic approach animal and crop production planning. Also livestock herd management, our breeding philosophy, marketing and processing, grazing rotation planning, as well as overall herd health management. Also all aspects of the business management of farm operations will be shared including equipment and supply decisions, product marketing and promotion, customer relationship management, as well as day-to-day operations management.
Housing: During the summer session of 2018, we do not have housing available, however, we do have room on our property for primitive camping or room for a trailer. (Water and electric are available.) This will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Beginning in 2019 we will have room and board available!
Stipend: We do not pay interns for their work as this is a volunteer learning experience or for gaining college credit hours, but we do have opportunities to earn money by working overtime at our retail store, farmer's markets, or for helping procure new restaurant business opportunities. We will work with any accredited college to ensure our interns earn 4-6 credit hours for a season.
The right candidate: We are only looking for dedicated, honest, hard working, down-to-earth, positive, teachable, fun-loving, clean-cut appearance, non-smoking applicants. Like any experience, you will get out of it what you put into it.
Mid-Season SUMMER INTERN positions are typically during the college break, from End of May through late August.
FALL Intern position runs from August through November.
How To Apply: Interested applicants may e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief description of yourself, a resume, what interests you about our farm business, what you would like to get out of your stay, how long you would like to work with us, your related experience/background/education. You can always stop by our retail store during open hours and apply in person, too!
Contact us: Website: Phone: 217-899-4562 (call or text) or