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Teaching Direct Marketing and Small Farm Viability: Resources for Instructors, 2nd Edition. Part 8 - Farm Employees and Innovative Models for Interns and Apprentices


While many beginning farmers may start their new business using only their own labor, they will generally need help for the farm to grow and become profitable. It is important to understand the legal requirements for hiring employees and working with apprentices and interns.

Lecture 1 will familiarize students with employee protections— the federal and California state employment laws as they pertain to small farms. Most other states have employment laws administered through the state government in a manner similar to California. Generally, workers are entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay, and employers are subject to penalties for violating the law. There are limited exceptions for family members and some agricultural workers and trainees. This unit will look carefully at how the law treats on-farm internships and apprenticeships. These relationships are often viewed by both parties as something other than employment, but most of the time federal and state law requires an “intern” or “apprentice” to be treated as an employee under the law.

Lecture 2 looks at the obligations of an employer. In addition to complying with federal and state minimum wage laws, employers must also pay federal and state payroll taxes on time and comply with applicable state and federal safety standards to protect workers, such as carrying workers compensation insurance. Other federal and state rules cover requirements to keep certain types of records and to provide employees with certain notices.

Lecture 3 covers emerging alternative models for affordable and legally compliant farm apprenticeships: (1) working with an accredited educational institution to develop a registered apprenticeship program, (2) sub-leasing part of your land to an aspiring farmer, and (3) starting a separate business—a farm-school—and seeking funds to offset the costs of training provided to employees.

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