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 be in a beautiful, rural location, working outdoors with your hands in the dirt, raising food that will feed your community. That’s pretty hard to beat!
Note: On the listings map, we only display work hosts who are actively seeking workers so if the map looks a bit sparse over the summer, please check back late summer/fall to see more Montana listings!
About the Work positions
Although each position is different, depending on the farm, the typical arrangement involves an exchange of labor for room, board, a stipend, and intensive training and experience in farming. Positions may begin any time during the year and last for any duration, but most tend to fit around our short growing season here in Montana, from May to October. Because positions have different start dates, we encourage you to apply as early as possible to have the best chance of success. Each farm’s work listing should have information on what they offer and what they expect, 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 other question ideas).
The Application Process
To apply to the program:
- Review the farm listings on the map. Select “Intern Hosts” and use the filters to find the type of farm position that sounds most interesting to you.
- Create a Farm Link account and fill out the worker application. Please complete the application as thoroughly and thoughtfully as you can. The application will allow you to save your work and come back to finish it at a later time, so feel free to take your time before submitting your application.
- In the application, you will be able to choose up to 8 farms to which you would like your application to be sent. 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.
- It takes approximately 3-5 business days to get your application to the farms. It is then up to you and the farmers to contact each other. We encourage you to wait a week or so after applying and then follow up directly with the farm to ensure that they have received your application and to see if they need any additional information. Because each farm and ranch in our program operates a little differently, each farm you apply to may have some additional questions for you.
- Once you’ve found a farm to work on, please contact Dave 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:
- Courses and Workshops: CFAC offers on-farm, production-oriented field days in Western Montana each summer and classroom-based, business planning workshops each winter. Through partnerships with MSU Extension and small business development experts, business planning workshops are available in various communities across the state each year. In particular, the field days are geared towards farm workers and others who are in the early stages of farming. Many of our work hosts were integral to launching our field day program and may support your attendance at these fun events.
- Conflict Resolution: Farming can be tedious, frustrating, and 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 a problematic situation. 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, rather than leaving mid-season, we encourage you to reach out to us and we can help to connect you with an unbiased, fair mediator at CDRC. Contact Dave 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:
- What is the work schedule? How many hours will I be expected to work? Is there flexibility in the schedule? Does the schedule change throughout the season?
- What kinds of recreational opportunities are available in the area? Will transportation be provided to me? Does the farmer encourage and support workers in attending field days or other educational opportunities?
- Consider: What do I (as the worker) want to learn from this experience? What is the farmer willing and able to teach? What other resources are available to help meet my educational goals?
- What kind of compensation is available? How often will I be paid? Will I be reimbursed for work-related travel you do in your own vehicle? Is workers’ compensation provided and are taxes withheld?
- What kind of work will I be doing on the farm? What are the farmer’s values and do I agree with them? What are the living arrangements? What kinds of clothing and equipment do I need? Are there other chores or non-farm work that will be expected of me? Will there be other non-family employees on the farm or will I be the only worker?
- Consider: Do I have any health, dietary, or other issues that I should ask about? Pets? Visitors? Pre-planned vacations?
You should also spend some time considering the type of farming you’re most interested in learning, the living arrangements that match your needs, and the kind of locations (rural/urban, mountains/plains, etc.) that are most likely to work for you. What kind of learner are you? Does the host farm’s teaching style mesh with that? Consider writing a learning plan identify a few skill areas you most want to target.
And remember that you can check references! If the host farm didn’t provide references in their application, you can ask them for references from past workers.
The terms of your work 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.