MAY 19, 2016: TILLAGE

Join Cornell Cooperative Extension Educator Justin O’Dea for a workshop on soil tillage in agriculture. The workshop will explore why tillage practices have long been a facet of agriculture, different types of tillage, the effects of tillage on soils, and tillage strategies that work to conserve soils and build soil health. The workshop will involve participatory problem-solving and a field walk.

TillageMay 19, 2016
12:30 – 3:30 pm
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture
Pocantico Hills, NY

Workshops are free and open to the public. To register, contact Laurie at

Justin O’Dea works as a vegetable and field crop educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County where he specializes in soil management, crop rotation, cover cropping, integrated weed and pest management, and value-added grain production. Justin grew up in the southern tier region of New York and has a varied working background with vegetables, fruits, and field crops. Justin’s formal training is in cropping systems agronomy, soil management, and ecology and holds a MS degree from Montana State University.

Click here for a full list of Beginning Farmer Workshops.



NOTE: We are no longer accepting applications for 2017 apprenticeships.

We will post 2018 apprenticeships later this year. 2017 position description is included below.

Apprentice Program Curriculum and Responsibilities

The apprenticeship program aims for each apprentice to become skilled in the practices of agroecology. The idea is that a field of crops is an ecosystem where ecological processes apply. Implicit in that idea is that agroecosystems can produce better food. The goal is to minimize environmental and social impact with fewer external inputs. Our agroecological principles serve as the tools for these management decisions. The crops apprentice will gain practical production experience in a diversified cropping system. This production experience will be supported with on-farm and indoor classroom time to provide a comprehensive understanding of agroecological systems. The farm crop manager and his team will provide daily operational training, mentorship, and guidance in the crop production spaces and its CSA, retail, and wholesale markets. The apprentice will participate on a team that includes farm managers, other apprentices, support staff, interns and volunteers.

Apprentices participate extensively in the Center’s educational outreach, providing them with opportunities to build communication skills around our practices in agroecology and food system change with diverse audiences, including farmers, chefs, weekend visitors, youth day-campers, and high school and college students.

In addition, apprentices will participate in classes, workshops and conferences led by Stone Barns Center’s experienced farmers, Blue Hill chefs, and other food and agricultural experts in the region. The aim is to create literacy around agroecology. This academic component will reinforce and supplement the apprenticeship’s hands-on production training with a working knowledge of the science, arts and real-world challenges of agroecology. Some workshops will be complemented by traveling to other farms in the region through the apprentice’s participation in the Hudson Valley Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) program and other Hudson Valley partnerships.

Crops Apprentice

The crops apprentice will learn skills for growing, harvesting and processing a diversity of high quality vegetables, flowers and herb crops in our 7-acre vegetable field, 2-acre grain/row crop rotations, 1/2-acre winter garden with unheated movable greenhouses and 1/2-acre soil-based four-season greenhouse. Exposure to each production area will be organized through rotations. Time will be spent assisting the farm crops manager and assistant managers with daily farm operations. Through the course of the season, the apprentice will develop production skills including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Seed starting
  • Greenhouse management and season extension
  • Bed preparation
  • Direct seeding and transplanting
  • Crop and soil health
  • Compost management
  • Seasonal varietal selection
  • Crop maintenance and weed management
  • Irrigation systems
  • Operating and maintaining relevant machinery
  • Harvesting
  • Processing vegetables for storage and sale
  • Tracking production/record keeping
  • Supervising volunteers and interns

These crop production skills will be supported through on-farm rotations to different areas of the farm. Additionally, roughly 25 percent of your time will be dedicated to interdisciplinary training in agroecology and food system literacy. Topics will include but are not limited to:

  • Soil, flavor and health
  • Genetic diversity
  • Food’s future in education
  • The botany and zoology of our landscapes

The purpose of this interdisciplinary training is to create literacy around key principles of agroecology to empower future leaders to contribute to the conversation around our food systems’ real world problems and the budding solutions that are a part of the current dialogue.

Requirements for Admission

Applicants should be committed to learning and passionate about developing their career as a farmer and food system leader. Preference will be given to applicants with at least one full season of farming experience and a background in a production setting. Strong commitment and effort is required and solid time management skills are essential. Apprentices will need to feel comfortable in an educational setting. Teaching or public speaking skills are a plus. Additional prerequisites include the ability to lift at least 50 pounds, be outside in adverse weather conditions and to function positively in a team and as part of a collaborative work environment. Parts of the apprenticeship require intensive physical effort.

Additional Information

The program runs five days per week and includes weekend rotations. This is a nine-month apprenticeship, running from March 6, 2017 to December 1, 2017. Each apprentice receives a bi-weekly stipend of $1,250 (gross before taxes) which includes funds for housing. In addition, Stone Barns voluntarily provides workers’ compensation and short-term disability insurance to apprentices.

To Apply:

Please follow the application steps here. The deadline for applications is October 31. Promising candidates will be interviewed and invited for a mandatory in-person trial day during November and early December.

Stone Barns Center

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is a nonprofit organization on a mission to create a healthy and sustainable food system that benefits us all. We are working to build a culture of eating based on what farms need to grow to sustain healthy soil and a resilient ecosystem. In our quest to transform the way America eats and farms, we convene change makers, train farmers, educate food citizens and develop agroecological farming practices.



The goal of this class, taught by Zach Wolf,  is to have participants work through the process of drafting soil management plans.  We will look at example soil tests and go through the process of calculating amendment application rates.  The latter part will cover how to integrate soil mineral amendments with the management of cover crops, compost, mulches and inoculates to create a holistic soil management plan.  We will talk about pasture management, but the bulk of the class is specific for vegetable growers.

Soils Testing and Fertility ManagementApril 7, 2016
12:30 – 3:30 pm
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture
Pocantico Hills, NY

Workshops are free and open to the public. To register, contact Laurie at

Growing up in Northwest Connecticut, Zach Wolf was surrounded by farms and protected land. After graduating from Columbia University with a B.S. in biology, Zach returned to Connecticut to work at Whippoorwill Farm, a 400-acre grass-fed beef operation. From 2009 – 2011, he served as field foreman at Stone Barns Center, and then went on to co-manage The Locusts on Hudson, an 80-acre estate in Staatsburg, N.Y., where he has raised livestock, vegetables and herbs and developed an on-farm apprentice-training program.  While co-managing in Straatsburg, Zach directed the Growing Farmers Initiative at Stone Barns for a year before returning to The Locusts full time.

Click here for a full list of Beginning Farmer Workshops.



This workshop will be an interactive lecture and discussion about some foundational topics in plant science relevant to growing fruits and vegetables.  The main topics will be (1) plant form and patterns of growth, (2) plant reproduction, and (3) plant nutrition.  Although the emphasis will be on basic plant science, we will make frequent cross-references with agricultural practice.

Botany for FarmersApril 14, 2016
12:30 – 3:30 pm
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture
Pocantico Hills, NY

Workshops are free and open to the public. To register, contact Laurie at

Matt Palmer is a senior lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Columbia University.  He is involved in a range of research and education projects involving urban and peri-urban ecology. He collaborates with NYC Parks, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, NASA, the USDA Forest Service, and several units within Columbia University on research, teaching, and teacher training initiatives. His current research projects include evaluating the ecosystem functions of green infrastructure, studying the ecosystem consequences of reforestation in NYC, and providing scientific support for the management of both invasive and rare species throughout the region.

Click here for a full list of Beginning Farmer Workshops.


Slow Tools

Face it: we small farmers have been “making things work” for a long time in the tool shop. Forced to adapt tools and equipment designed long ago, we retrofit. Because there are very few tools diversified enough for our needs or scaled to our production size, we retool.

“Nearly all of the tractors and their implements used by small farmers disappeared during the rise of the current global industrial farming system, beginning in the 1960s,” says Barry Griffin, a mechanical engineer with a long history of successfully designing marine winches, moorings and machinery. He notes that the market for small-scale farm equipment and tools simply doesn’t exist today, putting small farmers at a disadvantage.

That’s why Griffin is teaming up with Stone Barns Center to lead the Slow Tools Project, a collaboration among farmers, engineers, tool manufacturers, metalworkers, machinists, marketers and funders to design and build a host of new tools and make them readily available to the swelling ranks of young farmers. Among the partners steering the project are farmer-inventors Eliot Coleman, of Four Season Farm in Maine; Josh Volk, of Slow Hand Farm in Oregon; Ron Khosla, of Huguenot Street Farm in New York; and Jack Algiere, of Stone Barns Center. They are designing all tools to be lightweight, ergonomic, affordable and adaptable to small-farming needs.

“The Slow Tools concept emphasizes community interaction and development,” says Algiere, Vegetable Farm Manager at Stone Barns. “What is notably different about this project is the open-source, non-proprietary conversation that has been left unrestricted by those involved in the design process. Each professional view gives a different perspective on the efficiency, potential and reality of the tool. We are stretching our understanding of what is necessary and possible.”

The first tool off the block in the Slow Tools Project is the T-30 tractor, a small electric tractor that will serve as the “motherboard” frame to which other tools can be attached. (T-30 takes its name from its 30-inch belly and its ability to work a 30-inch bed.) The electric tractor is designed to carry and control a great number of mountable implements including bed shapers, cultivators, precision seeders, harvesters and material spreaders.

“The open-belly design gives farmers a closer connection with the land they’re working because they can see the actual ground they’re working,” says Algiere—unlike the over-the-shoulder view of the ground they get when driving standard tractors on the market today.

“This is not a design made from leftover parts or rebuilt old equipment retrofitted to suit a new purpose,” notes Algiere. “This is efficient, cost-effective, adaptive, safe and modern.”

By mid-September, the Slow Tools team anticipates having the second prototype built. They then will test and tweak it over the fall, putting it to work in Stone Barns’ greenhouse and fields, and plan to unveil it at the 2012 Young Farmers Conference in December.

The objective is not to patent and sell the tractor. Rather, the Slow Tools partnership wants to make the plans available through open-source technology and encourage small manufacturers to pick up the designs for local production and distribution.

“Our aim is to keep the size and price point of the tractor well within the financial reach of a small farmer, and it is designed to be built modularly with parts that can be easily found through outlets like Johnny’s Seeds,” says Algiere. “Right now we’re looking at $3.50 per pound for the tractor—an extremely good value.”

Beginning with the initial Slow Tools Summit last winter, the partners have identified the T-30 tractor plus 33 other tools in need of development. Other inventions to follow will be the solar-powered “Horse Tractor,” which could have a significant impact among cultures dependent on draft animals and where drought limits water availability, and a compressed-air grain harvester and processor.

Griffin, who grew up on a small family-run oyster farm, says he’s always been drawn toward communities seeking to sustainably steward their natural resources. “To engage at the end of my design engineering career so close to the values of my childhood and early mentors is exceptionally satisfying.”