Germansville farmers training PASA’s first vegetable grower apprentice
Aimee and John Good, owners of The Good Farm, Germansville, have been training Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s first apprentice as part of a new program for vegetable growers.
Eileen Cipriani, deputy secretary for Workforce Development with the Department of Labor and Industry, and Department of Agriculture Special Assistant for Workforce Development Scott Sheely toured The Good Farm recently to discuss the program.
“We are out here talking about the new vegetable grower apprenticeship program,” Cipriani said. “It is the third apprenticeship program in an agriculture related field that we have registered in Pennsylvania.
“So, we are really excited to be able to promote these occupations in the state.”
Cipriani said agriculture is one of the biggest industries in the commonwealth.
“We are always looking to encourage young people to get into the agriculture industry but it takes a lot of experience and a lot of know how to be able to effect farm,” she stated. “So, this is a way for young people to earn while they learn and get good skills, be able to have a certification and be able to get out on their own and possibly buy their own farm and start their own business.
“There is a need for individuals to get into the agriculture field in Pennsylvania.
“We need to get farmers in the fields, so this is a way to encourage our youth to look at the careers in agriculture.”
Cipriani said the couple are looking to bring some more apprentices on next year.
David Darling, The Good Farm’s, first diversified vegetable apprentice spoke with The Press during the tour.
He said the program is specifically tailored to vegetables.
“It is 3,000 total hours of on-site learning that is over two growing seasons and then coupled with that is 300 hours of related technical instruction in anything from engine maintenance, tractor repair, building greenhouses and bio-controls for your crops,” Darling said. “These are all kinds of things you have to know to bolster your knowledge of the farm.”
Darling entered the program after he realized there is an extreme disconnect with the entire food culture as a society, and how far removed he felt from real food while he was studying mathematics at Eastern University in Wayne.
“It was an eye-opening experience to witness how much waste there was while I was working in restaurants to support myself in college,” he said. “A lot of the problem could be solved if we just grow enough food the right way.
“The more I looked into it I realized that farmers were kind of a reconciling agent between humanity that has built up cities and a society that has been so far removed in the natural world that all these systems support us.
“So, how do we integrate that? I think a farmer does a perfect job of bringing those two back together.”
Darling noted everyone comes back to the farm for community supported agriculture at The Good Farm.
“So, it is a pretty good model to bring people back to food,” he stated.
“That is kind of what I am interested in, bridging gap instead of relying on California.”
Darling is looking for a quick transition after this program to start his own farm and farm business in the Bloomsburg area.
In addition to the farm work he has been doing, Darling was required to take 300 hours of business specific farm class to prepare him for lenders.
“I am feeling very prepared and very on the move because of this program,” Darling stated.
Aimee Good discussed her farm and the community supported agriculture program with The Press.
“We purchased the farm in November 2014, and we have 18 acres,” she said. “Ten acres of mixed certified organic produce is in production.”
She said 99 percent of their produce is sold through the CSA program, delivered to six different locations throughout the Lehigh Valley and Jim Thorpe area, and through pickup three days a week at the farm.
“We sell only to CSA members,” she stated.
According to the farm’s website, “The Good Farm is a certified organic farm raising vegetables, berries, flowers, and herbs for over 200 farm share members.
“CSA is a unique partnership between producers and consumers. Members purchase their share in advance of the season’s harvest in order to support the farmers’ costs of production.”
To learn more about the benefits of a CSA membership and cost at The Good Farm, go togoodfarmcsa.com.