(Click here for an application form)
We offer 1 to 3 internships annually from Apr./May – Oct./Nov. and encourage our interns to begin work as early as possible, preferably by the first week in April, so as to gain a relatively full perspective of our farm year. This is the time when we are doing ninety percent of our preliminary field work (tilling and planting) and also a good time to begin discussing such issues as soil fertility, cover cropping, planting schedules, etc., directly as we are dealing with them. In general we like to set aside time each morning to focus on specific aspects of organic farming, whether it be sustainable crop rotations, greenhouse management, or other areas such as bookkeeping or marketing. Of course, as the season progresses the work load naturally increases and many conversations occur in the field working along side the farmer. We involve our interns in every aspect of farming, from hand hoeing to tractor maintenance; from preparing a seed bed to marketing the crops. Solid team work and a good sense of humor are two necessary traits to get us through the busy summer months. Not too infrequently, formerly rhythmical days are tossed to the wind as we find ourselves filling orders late in the day or working until 1:30 p.m. to get everything harvested and on the delivery truck (before lunch!). The same applies in the earlier months when a storm threatening our area dictates the need to plant crops before the fields become too wet to work. Our work week is Monday through Friday and Saturday mornings at the Great Barrington Farmer’s Market; Saturdays after 2 and Sundays are generally off. Work on the farm is not easy; it involves long hours, aching muscles, insect bites, sweat and dirt, and the duress of cold, heat and rain. Rather than physical strength, it requires a greater measure of physical and mental endurance, and at the same time, the ability to pay close attention to detail. Farming is certainly far from the easiest way to spend your summer and one has to bear in mind that if you’re going to earn a livelihood from it you must adhere to effective methods of efficiency. To that end Markristo farm is also a business and must operate accordingly. Not that we don't have a good time and plenty of laughs (we wouldn’t trade our work with anyone), but our success depends on a certain obsessiveness about our work and a serious adherence to high standards even when the sun refuses to shine.
As demanding as the work is, the rewards are many. Most of our time is spent out-of-doors, in a clean environment, using our hands and our minds simultaneously to create a viable livelihood; confident in it’s sustainability and comfortable in the healthful qualities of the food we produce. Interns gain new skills and new insights, and hopefully, a growing sense of being an invaluable member of the team, responsible for being alert and sharing new possibilities for improved efficiency, as well as any other innovative ideas and observations. And after 15 years of working with interns we can honestly say “we love sharing our farm with enthusiastic and interesting people; it can be a ton of fun!”
There is a fare influx of public on our farm (largely due to the Berkshire Pottery, run by Martin’s sister and parents) always ready to share a picnic on the lawn or wander back to take a peek at the fields or in the greenhouse (while their children clamber to see our horses and chickens), hoping to share their gardening stories, and have you answer a million questions. In addition to our vegetable production we focus a lot of attention early in the year on ‘certified organic’ bedding plants (500 varieties of them - a great way to learn some Latin!) and beautiful hanging baskets that are sold to a number of large nurseries and other retailers, the Great Barrington and Hillsdale Farmers’ Market, and two fast paced all day plant sales. A large cut-flower crop is also grown and marketed to restaurants, local stores, CSA and the farmer’s market, with the occasional wedding or special event thrown in to spice up the year! As the children get older (7, 11 and 14) Christa is looking forward to taking on more design work.
Over the years we have set aside a small portion of land for our interns to manage, from preparing the soil, to choosing and ordering their seeds, to selling their own produce at the farmers’ market or anywhere they choose. It has been a wonderfully challenging and educational experience providing the freedom to experiment with varieties and techniques otherwise not used on our farm, but the extent of involvement is completely up to the interns and must be done when other work is not pressing. Of course we’re always there to answer questions and pitch in where we’re needed.
Intern housing on our farm consists of a small apartment or mobile home, both equipped with a shower and some basic cooking facilities, suitable for one person or a couple. A monthly stipend of $650 is provided (increasing to $750 after four months experience on the farm) along with all the free vegetables you can eat; Mon, Wed, and Fri dinners are shared in our home, and we each take turns being 'chef' though very often we all cook together. We are not vegetarian, but we certainly enjoy cooking that way (if you are), using the bounty of produce that comes from the farm.
Every Monday is begun over breakfast with a discussion of the weeks priorities and of how our farm activities relate to the whole season and beyond. We will also often share an overview of a relevant topic (such as seed germination and plant propagation techniques) depending on the time of year. We encourage lots of questions and ideas for a lively discussion. Once a month we meet individually with our interns to asses their own progress and comfort level with all aspects of the internship. We make an effort to discuss each individuals goals and expectations for the season and attempt to shape their learning experience accordingly.
The last bit of information, and perhaps one of the most important, concerns the intern program, beyond our farm. In our area, there are more than ten organic and biodynamic farms (many within a half hour) that over the past years have been each other’s best source of new and improved ideas and, generally, great sounding boards for that week’s failures and successes, not to mention the social factor. Each farm is different in what they market, how they market, and in their motivation towards agriculture. Realizing how unique our specific situations are, it became clear that making every farm available to all our interns is of a far greater educational experience for them than learning from one farm alone. Thus the CRAFT program (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) was born. We want to teach people to farm, and show them ways to do it responsibly. The "program" includes regularly scheduled farm tours with a detailed presentation, wherein the farmer addresses specific in-depth issues such as composting, irrigation, seed saving, marketing, etc... Toward the end of October, there will be a final gathering of all interns and farmers with one or more speakers to round things up.
We sincerely hope that our efforts in this program will attract those people with a serious inclination toward farming and with a deep respect for the environment.