We’re glad you’re considering a position on a Montana farm or ranch! Farming and ranching are tough occupations, requiring long days of hard work. However, they also give you the chance to work outside with your hands in the dirt in a beautiful, rural location—all in the name of growing healthful food for your community. That’s pretty hard to beat!
About the Work positions
Although positions and arrangements vary depending on the farm, they typically involve paid positions for labor along with free room and board, and hands-on experience, intensive training and skill development. While the start and end dates of the positions also vary, most fit around Montana’s short growing season, from May through October.
Regardless of start date, most farmers and ranchers begin hiring early in the year (many even start before the holidays), so we encourage you to apply as early as possible.
Each farm’s listing should have information regarding what it is offering and what will be expected of you in return, but we strongly encourage you to ask more questions to make sure that the position will be a good fit for you (see below for question ideas).
The Application Process
- Review the listings on our map. Select “Host Farms” and use the filters to find the type of position that sounds most interesting to you.
- Create a Farm Link Montana account and complete the worker application. Please complete the application as thoroughly and thoughtfully as you can. You will be able to save your work and finish it at a later time so feel free to take your time before submitting your application.
- Select your top 8 choices and submit your application. We will briefly review your application to ensure you have answered all of the questions and then we will forward your application to the farms to which you have applied.
- Allow 3-5 days for your application to be processed. If you haven’t heard from the farms you selected within two week or so, we encourage you to follow up with them directly to ensure that they have received your application and to see if they need any additional information from you.
- Let us know when you’ve found a position! Contact Mary at the Community Food & Agriculture Coalition (CFAC) to let us know so we can offer support during your season!
In addition to your on-farm training, here are a few other local resources you should know about:
- Educational Opportunities: CFAC offers a variety of courses and workshops, including our Certified Farm Startup Program and other networking events throughout the year, from on-farm, production-oriented field days during the summer to classroom-based business planning workshops throughout the winter. The field days in particular are geared towards farm workers and since many of our work hosts helped us launch our field day program, may support your attendance of these fun events. To attend Field Days, please register for the Certified Farm Startup Program.
- Conflict Resolution: Farming can be tiring work and shared living arrangements can be challenging. We strongly encourage you to interview host farmers and, if possible, visit the farm before accepting a position. However, what may be a wonderful and fulfilling experience for one person may be disaster for another and sometimes a combined living and working arrangement can wind up being problematic. We have partnered with the Community Dispute Resolution Center in Missoula to offer free conflict resolution services to workers and host farms. If you find yourself in a tough situation, we encourage you to reach out to us and we can help to connect you with an unbiased, fair mediator at CDRC. Also, see our Land Access Consulting and Lease Mediation Services to learn more about our in-house mediation offerings. Contact Mary for more details.
Things to Consider and Questions to Ask
Especially if you haven’t worked on a farm before, it may be hard to think up the kinds of questions you may want to ask. Here are a few that we encourage you to consider:
- Schedule: How many hours will I be expected to work per day and per week? Is there flexibility in the schedule? Does the schedule change throughout the season? Am I allotted any vacation time?
- Education and Skill Development: What do I (as the worker) want to learn from this experience? What is the farmer able and willing to teach? What other resources are available to help meet my educational goals? Does the farmer support workers in attending field days or other educational opportunities? Consider writing a learning plan to identify a few skill areas you most want to target to discuss with prospective employers and track your progress throughout the season. Click here for an example.
- Compensation: How will I be compensated? When will I be paid? Will I be reimbursed for work-related travel I do in my own vehicle? Is workers’ compensation provided and are taxes withheld?
- Daily Life: What are the living arrangements? Will there be other non-family employees on the farm or will I be the only worker? What kind of work will I be doing on a daily basis? Are there other chores or non-farm work that will be expected of me? What are the farmer’s values and do I agree with them? What kinds of clothing and equipment do I need? Do I have any health, dietary, or other issues that I should ask about? Pets? Visitors?
- Recreation: What kinds of recreational opportunities are available in the area? Will transportation be provided to me?
- References: Remember that you can check references! If the host farm didn’t provide references in their listing, ask them!
A great resource and organization to refer to is Not Our Farms, which offers zines, toolkits, and trainings for farm workers.
The terms of your agreement will be negotiated solely between you and the host farm. Make sure that you clearly understand what will be expected of you and that the host farm clearly understands any needs you may have.
CFAC does not vet or endorse host or worker candidates. It is the responsibility of the participants to safeguard themselves by clearly defining and clarifying expectations, checking references, and asking questions. CFAC is not a party to any work agreement and the terms of any agreements should be considered private agreements between the host and the worker only.
CFAC is not responsible or liable for any harm or injury that may occur during a position. Proper safety training and precautions should be taken to reduce the chances of injury or accidents.