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.

OVERVIEW

  • Start in January.
  • Live with four fellow Aspiring Farmer Residents.
  • Collaboratively build a farm business plan and set production goals.
  • Residency Manager facilitates and organizes meetings.
  • 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.

APPLICATIONS CLOSED

next open call starts: July 2019

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 a career in food systems, from farmer to chef to social justice advocate. Prior farm or garden experience is not necessary, as long as you have an eagerness to learn and a passion to succeed.

Eligibility

  • Post- High School, ages 19+ (high school graduate, in college or college graduate)
  • Interest in farming professionally
  • Commitment to year-long program
  • Ability to work in team environment
  • All backgrounds welcome
  • Able to meet 20 hr/week field work requirement
  • Can work in various weather conditions
  • Benefits

  • Bedroom and access to the produce you grow
  • Communal living
  • Hands-on, cost effective education
  • Mentorship experiences
  • Understanding of all aspects of the food cycle
  • Business partnerships and relationships
  • discussions on agriculture related topics
  • Fun events
  • Gain a network of friends and farmer friends
  • Financial and mental security
  • Education

    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.

    Business Driven

    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.

    Peer 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.

    Service Learning

    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.”
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    Aspiring Farmer Residency
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    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.

    The Houses

    Living, working, and learning together is what the residency is all about.
    • Centrally located in the Gifford Park Neighborhood of Omaha, Nebraska.
    • We completely restored and renovated older homes in 2016 – keeping historical charm while updating amenities to be functional and beautiful living spaces.
    • You are provided with a private bedroom in one of the two Residency Houses. Your bedroom comes furnished with a bed, unless you choose to bring your own.
    • Laundry machines are available to keep you smelling fresh
    • Communal provision like toiletries, dish soap, cleaning equipment, etc. are supplied by the Farm.
    • Kitchen comes fully equipped. You are welcome to bring your own items, but understand that roommates may use it. (House ground rules are created collectively at the beginning of the residency)
    • The houses regularly see visitors: from friends of residents, to neighborhood meetings, to group tours. We expect you will help create a welcoming, hospitable environment for guests that stop by.
    • You are expected to reside at the residency. This is not your vacation home in the Hamptons.

    Community Gathering Space

    Recently Renovated

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    Private Bedroom

    The Plots

    Within walking distance of the houses are five plots you will grow your crops on
    • For the best accountability structure, each resident takes on the role of being point person for one plot. You are responsible for crop planning and water, weed, and land management. Working with partners is encouraged through a buddy system.
    • We promote good soil health by rotating crop families from plot to plot each year. The Residency Manager helps you understand what was grown where in previous years.

    Tools

    • 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.

    Vehicles

    • 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 use.
    • 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.

    Hear From Residents

    “To have so much community support, it’s been incredibly positive the entire time”

    Taylor Jespersen

    “I would definitely recommend the residency to anyone who is looking to learn more about community engagement, agriculture, the food system, food justice… it’s a really cool interdisciplinary program “

    Emily Hefeli

    APPLICATIONS CLOSED

    next open call starts: July 2019

    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.

    1. Is there a cost to this program?

    There are no fees associated with the Aspiring Farmer Residency (AFR) currently. The initial 4 years will rely on grants to achieve our organizational goals of a strong curriculum and accreditation. At that point in time we will most likely move to a tuition based program with scholarships available. The cost will be very modest, the education will be very powerful.

    2. Do you accept non-residents?

    Organizational constraints make it challenging to provide quality service to those interested in a non-resident status. From prior experiences in other residencies, a non-resident is usually isolated from what is going on and the communication challenge proves a disservice to all involved. As our program evolves, we may be able to provide quality non-resident farm training. For now, we encourage those that may fall in this category to look at Metro Community College, UNO and know that there is an urban agriculture certificate program in development.

    3. Are there age requirements?

    The only age requirement is that you be at least 18 years of age or older.

    4. What are the expectations of Residents?

    Residents are expected to do field work 20 hr/week. In exchange room and board is covered.

    5. How is the Residency different from an apprenticeship or internship program?

    The main distinguishing factor of the residency compared to apprenticeships or internships is that residents make their own farm business decisions, learning from their choices through active reflection, instead of being dictated what to do or how to do it. That being said, this program is not just “go out there and learn.” There is a residency manager that lives next door to the residency house and knows the history of the plots, prior business relationships and has extensive knowledge in plant propagation 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.

    6. How flexible are the start and end dates?

    For residents to receive optimum educational benefits from the program and for the program to function properly we do need residents to stay committed to a year-long program. The beginning and ending months (January/December) do have some flexibility on when a resident enters and leaves the house. If a resident is in this situation, they are expected to be present (face-to-face or by virtual means) for the business planning/reflection meetings that happen during these months. No later than the end of February, residents are expected to have moved in.

    7. Do I need to drive a car or have a drivers license?

    No drivers license is needed. Big Muddy has a 96 Ford Econoline cargo van to be used by residents who are able. The great thing about the residency is that all the plots are within walking distance!

    8. Am I able to receive college credit for this program?

    We are working vigorously to get the residency to be an accredited program. Accreditation will likely happen in the next few years. However, we do understand that the quality of education is not solely dependent upon a formal certification and we do everything we can to meet and surpass current educational standards. We want to make sure residents are successful, well oriented people at the end of their residency and see that this comes from the quality of education.

    9. Can I invite friends over?

    Of course! Friendship is an important ingredient to happiness and you are welcome to share the residency experience with your friends. Please keep in mind common courtesy, respect, and appreciation of your fellow residents space when you invite friends over. We want to maintain a harmonious, productive and safe environment for every resident during their stay. Residents are allowed to have one (1) short term visitor stay for up to five (5) nights. Over-night guests will need to be approved by fellow residents and residency manager. Residents assume all responsibility for all guests brought on site.