California Farm Academy Apprenticeship Program

Apprenticeship Program FAQs

Is this a paid position? How much can I expect to make?

Yes, the apprentice will be a paid employee of the farm. Unless otherwise discussed, base pay starts at minimum wage and increases by $0.50 approximately every 6 months, pending a positive employer review and completion of hour requirements for that period. Apprentices should expect to work between 30 and 60 hours a week. Overtime and double-time wage compensation for agricultural workers applies to apprentices. Note that apprentices are not required to be paid for the time that they spend in class.

Additionally, veterans may be eligible to receive VA education benefits for housing, books, and supplies for classes.

Do I have to pay for tuition for coursework?

No. Registered apprenticeship programs in California cover all tuition costs for related supplemental instruction (RSI).

What is the weekly time commitment?

Each farm sets its own daily and weekly work schedules and farming is highly seasonal. You can expect to work less hours during the winter and more hours in the spring, summer, fall. During the busy season, you can expect to work at minimum 30 hours a week, and some farms may ask you to work 60 or more hours a week. In addition to your work hours, apprentices participate in related supplemental coursework and monthly cohort calls throughout the two years in the program. Courses typically require 6 hours every week including class sessions, homework, and on-farm lab assignments. Cohort calls are held virtually every month for 1.5 hours, and are an essential opportunity for apprentices to connect with each other and participate in peer-to-peer learning.

When does the program start?

While applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year, once an apprentice enters the candidate pool, the hiring timeline will depend on each farmer’s hiring needs.

Where are the farms?

Farm locations vary. While many of the participating farms are in the Southern Sacramento Valley, farm employers can be located anywhere in the state of California. If you are unable to relocate, please indicate this in your pre-application. While this will likely limit your options, we will do our best to recruit farm employers in your region.

Can I select the farm I want to work on?

All farm employers will receive all qualified applications to review. Farmers will conduct their own interviews and choose which applicants they are interested in hiring. If more than one farm offers you a position, you may select which farm to apprentice on. You have the right to turn down an offer of employment on a farm as well.

Will housing or meals be provided?

Most participating farms do not offer housing or meals. Eligible veterans will be able to access their VA education benefits for housing if accepted into the program.

How much farming experience do I need?

We require apprentices to have 12 months of production experience on a commercial farm or a college degree in agriculture. However, military veterans who do not meet this experience requirement are still encouraged to apply. Many farms are looking for the ability to speak Spanish, mechanical skills, and comfort working with equipment. Familiarity with irrigation systems and technology skills are also valuable.

How does the selection process work?

The application is a multi-stage process. All applicants must first submit a pre-application available on our How to Apply page to establish that they meet minimum eligibility requirements. Next, after a brief phone call with program staff, those eligible will go on to complete a full application. After submitting, applicants will be invited to a phone interview, after which the application will be reviewed by staff and scored. Finally, high-scoring applications are sent to farmers to review. Farmers will review applications and conduct their own phone or in-person interviews with candidates they choose. If there is a good fit, applicants will receive notice of a job offer directly from the farm employer. Please see additional details on the How to Apply page.

How long will it take for me to find out if a farm wants to hire me?

Each farm has its own hiring timeline and will interview and hire apprentices based on their needs. Program Staff aims to review and score your application within one week of submission, and a farm could offer you a position shortly after. However, if you apply during a period when farmers are not hiring, you may wait for several months to hear from a farmer. Note that this is a very competitive program and not every applicant will receive a job offer. Qualified applications stay in our system for up to two years. If you are offered a job on a farm outside of our program and are interested in enrolling at that farm, program staff will work with you and the employer to determine whether the operation is eligible to train an apprentice.

If I am not eligible to apply at this time, can I reapply in the future?

Yes. If you currently are ineligible to apply but become eligible in the future we encourage you to submit a pre-application at that time.

What will I learn in the program?

Apprentices are trained in eight different work processes as part of their on-the-job training. In addition to these hours, apprentices also complete 250 hours of related instruction by participating in five different core courses: Intro to Plant Sciences, Intro to Soil Science, Integrated Pest Management, Ag Irrigation Management, and Leadership and Management. Apprentices have the option to test out of these courses if they’ve taken them before, and take other approved courses.

What kind of certificate will I receive upon completion of the program?

Participants receive an apprenticeship completion certificate and a card certifying that they are a Journeyworker in the occupation of a Beginning Farm and RAnch Manager from the state of California which recognizes the high degree of training an apprentice receives over the course of their program. Participants do not receive a college certificate.

I’m interested in starting my own farm. Is this the right program for me?

The California Farm Academy Apprenticeship program trains individuals for a job in farm management. While farm managers may eventually take over the farm or start their own farm in the long-term, this may not be the best program to help you achieve your goal if you want to start a farm in the short-term. Instead, we would encourage you to apply to the California Farm Academy Beginning Farmer Training Program.

Can I apply if I currently work on a farm and would like to complete my apprenticeship on that farm?

Yes. First, take a look at the work processes and discuss with your employer whether you will be able to get the minimum number of hours in each of the work process areas. If you and your employer are able to meet the requirements, your next step would be submit a pre-application. Program staff will work with you and your employer to further determine eligibility.

I am an international applicant. How can I apply?

International applicants must secure their own work sponsor (employer) in addition to meeting all other eligibility requirements for the program. Your visa must be valid for at least 24 months to participate in the program. We cannot assist with visa applications, but there are other programs such as MESA that offer multi-national exchange programs in agriculture.

I am a farmer who is looking to hire an apprentice or to have an existing employee become an apprentice. How does this work?

There are several ways that farmers can be involved and train an apprentice on their farm. You can hire an apprentice via our application process or if you have an employee who would be a good fit for this program, then they can be enrolled in the program. You will need to be able to provide adequate experience in our work processes areas to meet the minimum hour requirements for each, meet wage requirements, and provide workers compensation. You can get more information on the Farmer Mentor page.