Small farm internships for Skagit, SJ Counties due to expire

The legislation authorized in 2010 that gave Skagit and San Juan Counties the ability to take on farm interns is due to sunset on Dec. 31 of this year.

The Small Farm Internship Pilot Program was the first of its kind in the nation, designed to create a legal structure by which farmers could take on interns, who could have an opportunity to learn from experienced growers.

For more about the project’s inception, read the March 2011 Sounder story online at http://www.islandssounder.com/news/118365349.html.

The 2010 Washington State Legislature authorized the pilot project after hearing concerns that farms weren’t following applicable labor laws for interns and that there were few opportunities for inexperienced people to learn hands-on farming practices. The interns work for room, board and a stipend, and the non-standard compensation arrangement is not subject to minimum wage – but the workers are safely covered by L&I.

This year, San Juan County farms: Synergy Farm, Sweet Earth Farm and Maple Rock Farm participated in the program.

As the state legislature heads into its regular 60-day session on Jan. 9, it will decide whether to extend the Small Farm Internship Pilot Program into the coming year.