Internships at Acorn
Internships are for people who want to stay and work at Acorn for several months and to learn skills in a given area. Our interns are frequently college students during summer break, future farmers who’d like to get experience through an entire growing season on one farm, traveling kids who want to stick around somewhere for a few months, and people who have thought about membership at Acorn but want to get a long-term experience at the community before applying for membership.
Like Acorn members, interns are expected to work 42 hours every week. We expect at least half of your labor hours to be in in your internship area, while the other half could be any community labor, including domestic work, childcare, or special projects. After your first clearness, you will receive the same $75/month stipend as Acorn members.
After three weeks on the farm, interns go through a process called “clearness.” You have to “get clear” and resolve any conflicts or concerns with all the members on the farm. For internships several months long, interns will do clearnesses again at two months and four months. If a member has a concern about an intern that cannot be resolved through conversation or mediation over the course of two weeks, the intern will be asked to leave early.
Interns usually live in our treehouse and tent platform village or our visitor bunkhouse, although there are sometimes limited bedroom spaces, especially for those with special needs. We have camping equipment available for those who don’t have their own. Interns participate in all aspects of community life, including community meals, meetings, and recreation.
Summer farm internships. We are interested in welcoming long-term farm interns, usually starting around May and staying until August, September or October.
We try to grow food year-round. In the winter, we have spinach, kale, cilantro, and carrots clinging to life through the snow. By March, we can start planting in our greenhouses, and in April we begin planting things outdoors, and by May, most of our crops for the year are in the ground. We grow a variety of food crops, including anything that anyone looks at in our seed catalog and says, “Hey, let’s try this!” We try to maintain succession in food crops so that there is food to harvest throughout the year. We also grow crops for their seeds, which must fully mature and are usually harvested late in the year, near frost.
The activities to maintain the farm include: weeding, transplanting, direct seeding, spreading cover crops, wrangling drip tape, squishing bugs on crops (optional), trellising, harvesting, and a variety of moving items from one place to another place where they are more useful.
Labor is organized by weekly (or more frequent) garden meetings during which you can volunteer to do specific tasks. You could also claim responsibility over certain crops for the duration of your internship, and collaborate with some of our knowledgeable gardeners to help you care for them most successfully.
If you want to follow crops through from early in their life through their harvest, demise, and subsequent trellising clean-up, in an informal labor environment, this is the experience for you.
Other activities that you could participate in as a farming intern include:
Plant A Row for the Hungry is a project at our local food pantry. Along with the Louisa County Master Gardeners and other civic organizations, we maintain a garden at the food pantry and donate all the produce. We try to organize community events to teach people how to garden and get people excited about growing their own food.
CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance of Farmer Training) meetings occur in the Virginia Piedmont area once a month during the growing season. Each meeting is a tour of a different farm and a chance to ask questions about different methods they use on that farm.
Acorn is home to a variety of livestock, including chickens, pigs, and goats for meat, as well as dairy goats, laying hens, and a singular calf. We are not in need of interns whose specific focus is in livestock, but we are open to teaching people about livestock during their internships.
Autumn farm and seed-saving interns. We are interested in welcoming autumn interns who want to learn about seed-saving, starting in August or September (coinciding with the Twin Oaks Communities Conference, which you are encouraged to attend) and running until Thanksgiving.
In addition to growing food crops, which we harvest throughout the year, we also grow seed for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. The first part of seed-growing is much like vegetable-growing, with the same seedling care, transplanting, weeding, trellising, watering, and so forth. But if you are here in the autumn, you can learn the specifics of seed-saving. This involves harvesting at the right time for best germination, drying, winnowing, and various seed processing (like cutting open luffas with a knife or jumping up and down on piles of beans).
During this time of year, we are excited by interns who do not smoke tobacco who are interested in processing tomato and pepper seeds. Due to the danger of tobacco mosaic virus, those who smoke tobacco or use e-cigarettes are not permitted to process seeds in the nightshade family.
Winter office internships. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is a company specializing in the sale of organic, heirloom vegetable seeds. Our busy season, when the most customers are buying seeds, is January – April. You’ll learn how we run an office with a completely volunteer labor force, and you’ll get to be part of that anarchist labor force.
Office internships are limited because it is cold during this time of year, and we do not have enough indoor space to house more than 6 visitors at a time. However, we are excited to welcome extra workers during our busiest time of year. This is an especially good time for hesitant membership candidates to come for an extended visit, because you’ll get a chance to work cooperatively with a variety of communards.
Building project interns. These vary depending on what kind of building projects we may have at the time but often involve innovative, natural, or reclamation-based building techniques. Building interns are given a lot of latitude for self-directed learning within a collective and cooperative learning framework. Check in with us if there’s no information about current building projects on our website.
To apply for an internship, please submit the following letter of introduction and questionnaire to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letter of introduction. Please address the following points in your letter, but also feel free to add anything else you wish.
* Past: What jobs, education, volunteering, or other interesting activities have you done? What are any special skills or knowledge you’ve gathered?
* Present: What are you doing now? What do you feel strongly about? Tell us your personal philosophy.
* Future: Tell us what you want. What are your plans for the future? What would you like to learn and do?
* Community: If you heard about Acorn from a person or website, let us know who & where. What about Acorn caught your attention or appeals to you? Have you had experience living in community before?
* What is the most important thing for Acornistas to know about you?
Questionnaire. Please copy into your e-mail and answer each question.
4. Phone number (best way to reach you):
5. Current address:
6. Do you have any physical ailments or limitations (e.g. back problems) which would prevent you from doing certain kinds of work?
7. How do you feel about camping in a tent? Sharing a bunkhouse with other visitors?
8. Do you have any children? If you plan to bring children with you, please tell us about them.
9. Do you have any pets?
10. Do you have any dietary preferences or allergies?
11. Are you on any medications?
12. Do you smoke tobacco?
13. Acorn requires that all visitors explain what they are going to do when they leave Acorn; or if they are asked to leave Acorn. Please describe a plan that includes each of the following:
(i) where you are going to go when you leave Acorn;
(ii) that you are OK with going there; and
(iii) that you have enough money to get there.
14. What projects do you think you’d like to explore at Acorn?
15. When do you wish to visit? How long would you like to stay?
16. Please list emergency contact information in the form of the address and phone number of a relative or friend whom we could contact in case of an emergency during your visit. If you are visiting from outside the country, please include an emergency contact in the United States if possible.