Apprentice organic growers are being sought for an internship programme that will be run by the Organic Growers of Ireland next season.

The programme provides work experience on nine organic horticulture farms around the country. This is supplemented by workshops, farm walks and training days delivered by experts in the sector.

This work placement will involve a minimum of 30 hours a week of work over a six-month period on a well-established organic horticultural farm. The participants will be employed by the individual farms directly, and will be supported by a formal training programme funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The training programme will bring together, in a formal framework, the practical learning of apprentices on a day-to-day basis on the farm. The Organic Growers of Ireland organisation oversees the recruitment and delivery of the training and certification.

Programme co-ordinator, Noel Clinton, said the internship programme has proven to be highly successful.

25 interns have passed through the programme is the last four years and 20 of those have started their own farming enterprises or secured permanent work in the sector. I believe another one is returning from Australia this year to start his own farm.

“Jason Horner and other members of the  steering committee have done a wonderful job in those four years.

“At a recent get-together of former interns and current hosts, there were a lot of positive words to be said about what the internship brought to both parties, and some great ideas on how to improve the programme for interns, hosts and the organic farming community – in Ireland as a whole – were discussed.

“The next few years are shaping up to be very exciting. We hope to get 12 host farms on board next year,” Noel said.

The central aim of the organic farming horticulture programme is to provide a high standard of practical skills and knowledge transfer – with the aim of leading to employment within organic horticulture.

Other objectives include the development of an understanding of sustainable organic systems of farming, based on biological and environmental concepts and of the economics of running a successful horticultural enterprise.

The programme works to stimulate the personal development and confidence of trainees in their ability to think for themselves and embrace new technologies.

The initiative sets out to help bridge the gaps of students who have completed horticultural courses, or have some practical work experience, and give them the confidence to start up their own horticultural enterprise, or take on the management of an existing horticultural venture.

Applicants should have either a Level 5 FETAC qualification in horticulture, or a minimum of one year’s work experience on a farm.

A certificate of completion will be issued by the Organic Growers of Ireland on successfully concluding the work placement on the host farm, attending all workshops and farm walks, completing the 25-hour block course on organic principles, standards and certification as well as completing a written project on a chosen crop.

The closing date for applications is Friday, February 23. Further details are available from Noel on: [email protected]