What is a typical day like for a farm apprentice at Jones Family Farms? Looking back over my seven months here, my answer is, no two days are alike on a farm! There is always something new happening and schedules are always changing. That is what comes with farming, and I love it. I like the variety of tasks that keep me busy in a vast number of areas.
The apprentice schedule can be somewhat catagorized by seasons and crops. A typical day during strawberry season starts at 8:00 and goes until 5:00. Some aspect of retail will usually be done, either in the cashier hut or out in the field with the customers. Another possiblity is running the veggie stand at the retail area. If retail is not on the apprentice schedule for the day, then it is usually working on the “OFW” crew (Other Farm Work). This means either weeding or box making (boxes for berry picking). Strawberry season is also the time of year when much is being done in the vegetable garden, and so a morning might be spent planting seeds, laying out straw paths, or weeding.
Blueberry season is a little quieter than strawberry season, so not as many days are spent on retail. Retail is once again either at the cash register or out in the field. During this season, there is much more OFW work to be done, mostly in the form of weeding pumpkin fields and pruning Christmas trees. It is not unusual to spend an 8 hour day just weeding pumpkins. This year we held a weekly farmer’s market on Fridays, and so Fridays were spent exclusively getting ready for the afternoon’s market.
September slows down a little to offer the opportunity for a vacation, and then much work is done to prepare for pumpkin season. Work is much more varied and consists of kitchen work, garden work, painting projects, cooking classes, and special events. The schedule is much more flexible, and times to work each day are different from the more strict retail schedule. Once October arrives, it is time to head to the kitchen to bake thousands and thousands of pumpkin cranberry cookies. During October, baking is done all week, and the weekends are spent running the cookie and cider stand at the retail location. October is a busy month, with many hours of work put in.
November once again offers a chance for a vacation before preparing for the Christmas tree season. By the end of November, it is time to be back in the kitchen again; this time making thousands of oatmeal chocolate chip cranberry cookies. Like the pumpkin season, the weeks are spent baking the cookies in the kitchen and the weekends are spent selling the cookies and hot cider from the kitchen window. Towards the end of the Christmas tree season, there is also the chance to bake specialty cookies and other holiday treats to sell in the farm gift shop.
Throughout the year, there are cooking classes, special events, and other tasks and projects. It is a wonderful variety of work. There were some days when I only worked 6 or 7 hours, and others when I put in close to 12. The earliest I started was 7:30 during strawberry season, and the latest I got out was around 10:00 on the nights when we had cooking classes.
This is a pretty good overview of what happens over the course of the year. Perhaps this does not answer the question of what a day is like for a Jones Family Farms apprentice. Or perhaps it does… it is quite obvious that no two days are alike!