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Mahonia Gardens is one of many host farms in the Rogue Farm Corps Internship Program.
The RFC Internship Program is a full season entry-level residential program combining hands-on training and skills-based education in sustainable agriculture. As an intern, you will live and train full-time on a host farm, receiving up to 1,500 hours of on-farm training and learning in-depth skills from your mentor. Your residential farm training experience is combined with farm tours, classes, and discussion circles throughout the region, as well as opportunities for independent study. Interns are exposed to a vast array of knowledge and expertise by engaging in the daily life of vibrant, agricultural communities. You can find out more about Rogue Farm Corps’ internship program at https://www.roguefarmcorps.org/internship.
Mahonia Gardens is a one-acre market garden in Sisters, Oregon. We only use organic practices and emphasize biodiversity. Our practices align with the idea that quality soil creates quality food. Benji Nagel and Carys Wilkins founded Mahonia Gardens in 2013, making 2020 our 8th season. Prior to that, we had worked on a variety of farms in southern Oregon and overseas, participated in full-season internships in California, and studied and practiced Permaculture principles.
We primarily cultivate in 4’-wide intensive, permanent beds resembling French-Intensive or Bio-Intensive styles, and are influenced by contemporary market gardeners like J.M. Fortier and Curtis Stone. Labor on the farm is done by hand, using broadforks and digging forks to create and maintain beds. We are not purists of any particular method or style- we’re always learning, always trying new things, always questioning ourselves and being open to the unknown.
We sell produce through a CSA program (~40 members), farmers markets, our new farm stand opening in 2020, and some restaurants and retailers.
The youngest member of our farm is Junius, who will turn 2 just before the new year of 2020. He is an absolute joy and will spend some days on the farm with us
The most important aspect of our project is our commitment to lifestyle. We choose to farm because of the way we are able to interact with our environment and community through growing and selling food. Economic growth is not our goal; rather, we strive to maintain a balanced lifestyle and spend quality time while working enough on the farm to support ourselves. We work hard, but we are not dawn-to-dusk farmers. Our work days are almost always kept to 8 hours, except on farmers market days. In the heat of summer, we try to work from 7-3 or even 6-2, which leaves time for lake adventures, hikes, siesta, music and dancing.
Sisters is a small town, serving a community of about 5,000 people. It is situated at the eastern base of the Cascade Mountains, 20 miles from Bend (pop. ~90,000), 30 miles from Smith Rock, and a quick drive from endless trails, lakes and rivers. The Sisters community is rich with music and art, and a budding food culture. Central Oregon is a paradise for the outdoors person. Mountain biking and hiking, climbing, lakes and rivers abound, all within a short distance from Sisters.
The climate in Central Oregon is unique and challenging. This is not the lush Oregon that so many people expect—but a high-desert climate. It is dry. The frost-free period is extremely short, and nighttime temperatures can dip into the 30’s at any time during the summer, while the daytime temps can get into the 100’s. An intern here needs to be prepared to work in any weather conditions.
An RFC intern’s responsibilities will include:
General farm maintenance
Marketing: either our CSA program, our farmer’s market, or our restaurants sales
Care of chickens
Processing value added product: herbal tea blends, sauerkraut and other pickling, canned or dried tomatoes, etc.
Selling at farmers market
Because our farm is very small, we will generally be training together, side-by-side. This creates a learning environment in which you get to learn from experience and direct conversation and discussion with the farmers. We can provide many books and references based on your interest. Having a desire to learn and ask questions is an important aspect of the internship process, as it benefits both sides—we believe we are all students of farming and learning is a continual process as we gain experience through constant practice.
We are looking for someone who has the following qualities:
Mindfulness: of self, the people around you, the environment, your actions and reactions.
Practiced communication skills: we need to be able to talk openly about what and how work is being done. We will work and live in close quarters and need to know how you are feeling.
Self-motivation and work ethic: we will expect you to be observant and notice what needs to be done
Flexibility: plans change constantly based on weather, opportunities, or mishaps, and you need to be able to roll with it. Prioritizing is difficult on the farm with endless variables involved, and you will often see the decision making process play our right in front of you.
Physical work experience. We like to know that you have spent time working up a sweat doing some form of labor.
Clean drivers license: you may be asked to drive our truck to farmers market or on deliveries
Ability to lift 50 lbs. Repeatedly. ( although we are trying to keep loads lighter for long-term spine sustainability).
Desire to learn: asking questions and attempting to do your best quality work will be highly regarded.