The New York Times reports that many more young adults are choosing unpaid summer internships on organic farms, citing a growing "movement" of local food activists and enthusiasts. These well-bodied, intelligent young people are passionate about food and food systems, understand the brokenness of massive industrial agriculture, and are educated about sustainability. They are optimistic that small, sustainable, local farms are the future of our nation's food system.
Good news for small farmers looking for enthusiastic, eager help on the farm this summer, right? Well, yes and no. Internship programs can be a great opportunity for both farmer and intern. But they're most successful when farmers are aware of their responsibilities to the intern as far as training and compensation and when they clearly communicate expectations. And successful intern programs depend on reliable, hardworking interns as well.