Applications sought at launch of apprentice scheme
Applications are now being sought for a new apprenticeship scheme – the Organic Farming Internship Programme in Horticulture – which will place six apprentices for six months on six host farms. Funded by the Department of Agriculture, the work placement involves a minimum of 30 hours a week and participants will receive a minimum wage during the placement.
The scheme has been developed by the Organic Growers of Ireland (OGI) – a voluntary committee comprised of representatives from IOFGA, the Organic College and skilled growers.
"We hope that this pilot programme will allow people acquire the necessary practical skills to become established growers," said Dr Sinead Neiland from the Organic College.
"The horticulture sector is unique in that many organic growers do not come from the conventional horticultural sector and instead begin their horticultural career in organics. With approximately 300 certified organic growers in Ireland producing on approximately 322ha the sector is still small, but we need more trained growers to meet the demand from the public for local organic vegetables."
The programme co-ordinator is Co Clare-based Jason Horner who has been an organic grower for 20 years after learning the ropes on a placement at Penny and Udo Lange's organic farm in Wicklow.
"I have seen many people enter the sector full of enthusiasm only to exit it a few years later having made a series of mistakes rendering their business inoperable," he says.
"I feel that if you could work with an experienced grower and learn things such as nutrient management, succession sowing and good propagation, it would prevent costly mistakes in the field which, in addition to expensive set-up costs can bankrupt a new grower."
The six host farmers selected have a wealth of experience and all of them are involved in direct-selling and wholesaling which will give participants invaluable insight into the financial aspect of the business and how to survive as commercial growers.