Beginning Farmer and Ranch Management Apprenticeship Program


The Beginning Farm and Ranch Management Apprenticeship Program trains individuals for farm management jobs by providing practical experience, valuable skills, connections to farmer mentors, and an industry-recognized credential. The Program was developed to address California’s shortage of highly skilled workers to fill important farm manager positions. Farm managers have a significant level of responsibility, earn one of the highest salaries on a farm, and perform diverse, interesting, and fulfilling work in the field and the office. While becoming a farm manager takes many years of experience, this Program provides a foundation of knowledge and skills that will help apprentices gain a foothold in the industry and advance their farming careers.

The Apprenticeship Program connects aspiring farm managers with established farmers who provide a space and opportunity to develop and practice the skills needed to manage a successful farming operation. Apprentices can also be existing employees that farmers have identified as a future manager. For these apprentices, the program provides a structured pathway for knowledge, skill, and leadership development to take on a new role on the farm.

The Beginning Farm and Ranch Management Apprenticeship Program is a formal apprenticeship registered with the California Division of Apprenticeship Standards that combines paid on-the-job training with job-related instruction. The program lasts approximately two years, and upon completion of the Program, the California Division of Apprenticeship Standards graduates apprentices to a Journeyman level in the occupation of a Beginning Farm and Ranch Manager.

On-the-Job Training

Apprentices complete 3,000 hours of paid, on-the-job training by working on a production farm with a farm employer. On-the-job training takes place on commercial production farms within California. These farms range from 2 acres to 4,000 acres, with the majority growing on over 500 acres, and include both organic and conventional farms. Participating farms grow a diversity of crops, including processing tomatoes, rice, wine grapes, tree nuts and mixed vegetables, and sell to a diversity of markets, including direct markets, distributors, brokers, processors, and Community Supported Agriculture.

Apprentice duties will differ between farms, but all apprentices will receive a minimum number of hours of hands-on training in certain work processes. Work schedules are dictated by the needs of the farms, but apprentices will work at least 40 hours per week. Unless otherwise discussed, compensation starts at minimum wage and increases by $0.50 approximately each 6 months. Individuals already employed by a farm may enroll in the program, if the farmer agrees to participate.


Apprentices complete a minimum of 250 hours in coursework over the 2 years of the program. The curriculum includes a core set of classes that cover the fundamentals of agriculture in California, as well as individualized coursework targeted to the apprentice’s learning needs and career goals. Individualized coursework may include industry trainings, short courses, industry tours, conferences, field days, workshops, or community college and adult school classes.

For more information, see the FAQ page.

If you have questions, please contact Apprenticeship Program Staff at or 530-795-1520.