About Our Beginning Farmer Fellowship

Now seeking applications and proposals for the 2018 Beginning Farmer Fellowship at Willow Brook Farm, a permaculture and art center.

Application deadline: Rolling until position filled for 2018 fellowship.
Notifications: ongoing.

To apply, go here.

Willow Brook Farm is a 76-acre homestead in central NH founded in 2014.

Our Beginning Farmer Fellowship is a unique opportunity for beginning farmers to propose and explore their own farming practices and business idea in a low risk environment with support, mentorship, and collaboration. The fellowship includes: access to land, housing, a modest stipend, equipment, tools, mentorship and training. The Fellowship, beginning in 2016, runs on a two-year cycle.

The Beginning Farmer Fellowship is different from a traditional apprenticeship in several important ways: rather than gain work experience and helping generate an existing farm’s profit, the Beginning Farmer Fellows have a mentored and self-directed experience to build their own farm business. Guidance is offered, but Fellows are ultimately in charge of planning and implementing their own farming operation as they will be when they emerge from the Fellowship. Fellows are responsible for developing their own market for crop sales (with WBFAC help). Moreover, income earned is retained by the fellows for investment in their future farm and equipment purchase.

We expect to dedicate one to two acres of land for intensive crop production for each fellow. Fellows may have access to the entire farm and the amount of space available may vary based upon individual proposals and needs (e.g. for livestock). We anticipate fellows may:

  • work with animals for dairy or eggs (meat is also a possibility provided the animals are treated humanely)
  • sell produce at farmers’ markets
  • run a weekly CSA operation direct to the consumer
  • or produce a value-added product, such as cheese, jams, salsa, soap, etc.

Our goal is to have new Fellows join the program each year so we will have overlapping Fellows in residence to ensure the transfer of knowledge, encourage collaboration, and to engage Fellows in the experience of building networks and community which will serve them well when they have their own farms.

The Farm And Residence
Willow Brook Farm comprises 76 acres of fields, trails, streams and ample wood resource. Third Stone Farm, a 24 acre adjoining property serves as a collaborative partner providing tools, equipment, expertise and additional land. Between these two farms, we have 100 acres that can sustain vegetable production, goat dairy, ducks, an organic cut-your-own Christmas tree farm, a permaculture nursery, a managed mixed hardwood forest, a fledgling organic hops operation, maple sugaring, and honey bees. While not at commercial scale, we also have apples, pears, and raspberries growing on the property. The Willow Brook Farm property includes a large barn that can provide shelter for animals, space for a workshop and events, and can support crop production and storage.

The residence is a 5+ bedroom antique colonial farmhouse that has been completely rehabilitated, updated with new heat, insulation, a modern kitchen, windows, plumbing, and wireless internet. Beginning Farmer Fellows share communal living spaces but have private bedrooms.

The Community

We are located in Barnstead, NH, not far from lakes and mountains with easy access to ample outdoor activities. Concord is nearby and Portsmouth is one hour away. The community of Barnstead has just started their own farmers’ market.

Expectations

  • Applicants must be self-motivated
  • Fellows will be actively engaged in farming activities full-time for the duration of their Fellowship as the seasons dictate.
  • Organic practices are required. (We are currently working with the NRCS for organic certification.)
  • Applicants must have a demonstrated interested in permaculture. Preference will be given to those who are enrolled in or have completed a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) course. During the residency, each Fellow will be encouraged to contribute to the ongoing design and planting of the permaculture features and elements of the farm.
  • Applicants must be non-smokers and drug free.
  • Applicants should have the available resources to start out their own production, and to buy food until fellows can grow what is needed. Our stipend will supplement Fellow needs but not cover everything.
  • Fellows must not construct or plant anything outside of the approved Fellowship plan without prior coordination with WBFAC
  • Fellows must have a reliable vehicle (preferably a truck).
  • Fellows will receive a small weekly stipend to help get started during the first year only. During the second year of the fellowship, Fellows will be expected to contribute a small portion of their gross on-farm income to WBFAC to pay forward their support to future Fellows.
  • Fellows are expected to participate in all farm and property management chores.
  • No illegal activity is allowed.
  • Fellows are required to maintain a clean living space and tidy farm.
  • Fellows must have their own computer and phone.

Resources Available

  • Two tractors with loaders and attachments
  • A barn for storage and processing
  • Introductions to other famers and resources
  • Access to permaculture books and videos
  • Some hand tools
  • Help with started seedlings if necessary depending upon timing of your arrival

Curriculum
Throughout each Fellowship cycle, we will guide individual Fellows through an individually tailored curriculum that meets their particular needs. This guidance includes, but is not limited to:

  • Introduction to permaculture principles and encouraged participation in a Permaculture Design Course
  • Instruction on organic recordkeeping and certification
  • Growing practices
  • Business management, planning and development of niche markets
  • Marketing, communications, and social media
  • Connections to other farms and farms for networking and skill development
  • Instruction on developing a sustainable lifestyle
  • Advanced equipment maintenance, repair and fabrication
  • Participation in training events held by other organizations such as NH Permaculture Day, Barnstead Open Farm Day, and NOFA conferences

Commitment
The Beginning Farmer Fellowships are not a free ride. A goal for the fellows is to be self-sustaining by the time they leave the fellowship. Fellows are expected to contribute to and further the mission of WBFAC by participating in chores and work projects in addition to driving against the expectations set forth in their own farm plan. Fellows are required to:

  • Work a minimum of 40 hours per week on farm projects. (Additional hours and work projects will be dictated by the season.)
  • Plant, maintain and care for WBFAC fundraising crops such as garlic, kiwi berries and pumpkins.
  • Attend and represent WBFAC at events.
  • Contribute 10% of 2nd year’s gross income to the WBFAC fund on a monthly basis. These funds will support future first year Fellows’ weekly stipends.