Aspiring Farmer Residency
Every year, Big Muddy Urban Farm hosts Five Aspiring Farmer Residents for a unique educational experience in urban farming, community building, and business training.
You start in January by moving in with fellow Aspiring Farmer Residents into beautifully renovated historic homes. Joining together as a team, you are responsible for the farm’s operations of that year: what gets planted where and when, what markets you deliver to, etc. The Residency Manager guides the group through a business planning process, where residents collectively set the seasons production goals. The business plan is put into practice for a full growing season on several urban lots in the Gifford Park Neighborhood. Through this hands-on, decision making experience you’ll uncover everything from sales and marketing, to livestock care and growing techniques, to public speaking and event planning. Thank goodness you’ll have friends with you sharing the experience every step of the way! If you make a dedicated commitment to the Aspiring Farmer Residency for a year, it will comprehensively improve your skills.
APPLICATIONS NOW OPEN
from July 5 – October 5
We ask you please read and consider all the information on this page very thoroughly. To apply you must be in agreement to ALL conditions fully.
The Aspiring Farmer Residency began in 2017 after seeing initial Big Muddy Urban Farmers go on to provide leadership at various community organization and begin farm operations of their own.
Qualities of Aspiring Farmer Residents
We work, live, learn and play together in close quarters during the season, and your attitude and aptitude are the most important qualities behind getting the most from this experience. You’ll get the most from your time with us if you practice a “get it done” attitude, are self-starting, communicative, teachable, positive solutions focused, dependable and take-responsibility for what you are managing.
A year farming can go by quickly. Seize the experience while you are here: dive into field research, prompt discussions, build a chicken tractor, develop a farm manifesto, host an event, produce healthy crops. You will get out of the experience what you put into the time and work here. We’ll provide you resources and a supportive environment, if you will take initiative in achieving your goals and realizing farm aspirations.
The residency is focused on individuals who want to farm professionally. Prior farm or garden experience is not necessary, as long as you have an eagerness to learn and a passion to succeed.
You are the Farmer
You are in charge, making decisions, and learning from the real world consequences of your decisions. Our classroom does not rely on hypotheticals, or sitting around discussing theories with no action. This is thoroughly a real, practical education where your skills will be put to the test and furthered.
Residents as decision makers is a main distinguishing factor between our residency and an apprenticeship. You will not be dictated to on what to do and how to do it. Because of this, you are expected to consistently take time researching and studying while in residence. Situations you are facing in the field will provide you with a constant stream of topics to investigate. You will have a tangible connection with the topics you are researching. At first, this can cause a “burn” from hitting a learning curve. With faith in the process and in completing the residency, you will gain a sense of empowerment knowing you created the farm through your own decisions. You will be pragmatically prepared to start your own operation if you so choose.
The Residency, however, is not just “go out there and learn.” There is a residency manager that lives with you in the residency house and knows the history of the plots, prior business relationships and has extensive knowledge in small market farming to help assist residents to make informed choices or to help residents see the potential in their abilities. The residency manager is more a guide than they are authority.
Residents determine production goals at the beginning. Goals are based on past farm records (for example, $10k). Then the group explores legal structures and what markets to jump into: Farmers Markets, Restaurants, Community Supported Agriculture, or a mix. The Residency Manager provides fuel for discussion, presenting various options and facilitating conversation. Residents, however, ultimately choose the fate of the farm through a collective decision making process, a powerful source of learning.
You are joining a team, a supportive network, and each resident brings certain strengths and weaknesses to the table. The business plan and production goals are set together as a group. Together you will enter into a shared experience of starting a farm. Having peers alongside you every step of the way, coming from a range of experience levels, interests, and backgrounds, your learning experience is greatly broadened from everyones involvement and awareness. We embrace diversity and encourage all backgrounds to apply.
We have weekly coordinating meetings where we all bring ideas and issues to discuss and act upon. By making decisions collectively, your learning is enhanced as you’ll reinforce concepts and ideas by explaining them to fellow residents. The group setting promotes a check and balance process, that can challenge and support various ideas. Outside learning in the formal coordinating meeting setting, you will be living together too. This creates a learning experience larger than simply going to a class or performing a job duty. You can express and decompress your shared experience in the informal times, a quality source of reflection and inspiration. Business communication is expedited and easier to manage by living together too, as every resident’s schedule differs with off-farm commitments.
A majority of farm plots you grow on once held houses. Either by fire or abandonment, the houses became in disrepair and torn down, leaving several holes in the fabric of the neighborhood.
The work of urban farming turns these vacant spaces of community risks into vibrant educational spaces, brimming with life. All community members can benefit from them, either as passerbys admiring the beauty or through a hands-on tour experience.
Residents are in service of their community while they develop practical skills and further their education through direct action, reflection, and peer discussion. Vanderbilt Professor Janet S. Eyler describes service learning as “a form of experiential education where learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection as students seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves. In the process, students link personal and social development with academic and cognitive development. . . experience enhances understanding; understanding leads to more effective action.”
Living On The Farm
You are supported with a place to live, grow, and learn in accordance with performing part-time hours of on-farm study and practice.
Community Gathering Space
- The farm maintains a variety of tools specific to farming that you will work with (tilther, broadfork, salad spinner, tablesaw, etc).
- Taking proper care and returning tools to respective places makes the farm more effective for years to come.
- The saying goes “You’re doing things right if the wire brush is the most used tool in the shed”
- By 2019, we will have a 15′ x 8′ walk-in cooler for proper storage of crops.
- There is a 1975 Chevy Pickup Truck used for farm activity.
- There is not a farm vehicle available for private use.
- There are bicycles at the farm available for communal us.
- The farm is located two blocks away from an awesome community bike shop if you need to fix a bike.
- There is parking for personal vehicles behind the houses.