Got farm interns? Small Farm Internship Pilot Project Now Open!

Beginning July 1, 2014, Washington farms in Chelan, Grant, Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Kittitas, Lincoln, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, Whatcom, and Yakima counties, with annual sales of less than $250,000, may apply to  enroll in the Small Farm Internship Pilot Project (FIP). This program, directed by Washington Department of Labor and Industries, allows up to three interns (paid, stipend or unpaid) to work on a farm to learn about farming practices. The FIP applications are available on the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries website.

Farmers who wish to participate must meet the following criteria:

• The farm must be located in Chelan, Grant, Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Kittitas, Lincoln, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, Whatcom, or Yakima counties.
• The farm’s annual sales must be less than $250,000.
• The farm may hire up to three interns to learn about farming practices (paid or unpaid– minimum wage requirement is waived).

Stakeholder Advisory Group

Labor and Industries has convened a stakeholder advisory group to provide input on FIP. To participate, contact Kelly Kane at 509-324-2663 or kelly.kane@lni.wa.gov

Background on the Small Internship Pilot Project

FIP provides farms access to Labor and Industries (L&I) workers compensation insurance for on-farm interns. Participating farms must use a structured curriculum and provide educational, supervised opportunities for participation in farm work activities [1]. This program was successfully established in 2010 through legislation introduced by Senator Kevin Ranker. The program ran through 2011 in Skagit and San Juan County. All six of the participating farms responded with positive remarks overall regarding their experience with FIP.  A 2011 report on the program found that it enabled participant Anne Schwartz, owner of Blue Heron Farm and Tilth Producers Board Member, to “train interns in the use of essential farm equipment, something she was unwilling to do previously without workers’ compensation coverage” [2].

Pine Stump

Bills which would have supported the extension of the FIP program in did not pass in the state legislature in 2012 or 2013. Senators Ranker, Hatfield, Hobbs, Parlette, and Conway reintroduced it in 2014, this time passing a bill which which extended the program through the end of 2017. Tilth Producers, Washington Farm Bureau, Faith Action Network, Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network, Viva Farms, and others collaborated on advocating to pass the legislation that resulted in this program, including sending staff and members to testify in on several occasions.

In a press release, the Department of Labor and Industries says of the project, “Prior to the internships, small farms exchanged informal on-farm education for stipend or volunteer labor. This put both farms and workers at risk because of the lack of insurance to protect against injury. Under this project, interns have workers’ compensation protection along with the opportunity for a valuable education and hands-on experience in farming activities.” [3]

Klickitat Canyon

The program also provides other benefits for both farmers and interns. In her testimony on behalf of the reestablishment of the pilot program, Anne Schwartz commented, “There is more time to explain details, teach new skills, interrupt work to take advantage of learning opportunities that I as an employer cannot afford to do when I’m paying employees $10-12 / hour and the clock is ticking” [4].

 

Learn more and apply to participate in the pilot program online: http://www.lni.wa.gov/WorkplaceRights/Agriculture/SmallFarmIntership/default.asp.

 

[1] http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2013-14/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Passed%20Legislature/5123-S.PL.pdf

[2] http://www.lni.wa.gov/WorkplaceRights/agriculture/smallfarmintership/SmallFarmInternshipPilotLegReport2011.pdf

[3] http://lni.wa.gov/News/2014/pr140701a.asp

[4] Written testimony from February 26, 2014