Beginning Farmer Training Program

Permaculture Internship

*Applications are now closed for the 2022 season.*

COVID Update: We were able to safely carry out our internship for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, hosting 60 interns throughout the pandemic, by implementing a COVID safety plan. Interns are required to quarantine for 14 days, OR quarantine for 10 days prior to arrival + show proof of a negative COVID test after day 7. This quarantine is essential because, once on-site, interns live as a “family unit” or “pod” and no masking/social distancing is required (vs. the new CDC 5-day quarantine, which requires 5 days of masking afterwards. Masking/social distancing on-site during the internship is not feasible due to our close living quarters).

Program Stats
Program Graduates

2022 will be our 9th season welcoming interns at Unadilla Community Farm for our permaculture internship. We host interns with all levels of experience, with a commitment to sustainability and a desire to learn together how we can forge a new life independent of mainstream consumer culture. We host a cohort of 30-40 interns each season from May to early October. The program consists of 24 hands-on hours/week plus 10-12 classroom hours/week, with a 1 month minimum stay. As a 501(c)3 non-profit education center, we rely on the generous support of individual donors, foundations, and grants to cover all intern expenses including room & board, trainings, classes, and certifications, ensuring that the program is available at no cost to participants.

Our permaculture internship is more than just a beginning farmer training program. It is an immersion into a rural, off-grid sustainable way of life. Interns gain hands-on experience in no-till organic farming, regenerative agroforestry, permaculture design, natural building, foraging, plant-based cooking, food preservation, and more. Interns assist in all aspects of the farm’s free and sliding-scale veggie box program to address food insecurity in Central New York State. Through classes with staff and guest instructors, participants learn concepts such as: food safety, crop rotation, farm planning, food forest design, herbalism, native plants, fundraising, and more. NEW in 2022: We are partnering with the National Young Farmers Coalition Food Safety Fellows to offer FSMA certification for all interns, a federally-recognized food safety training that is required by law for many farms, to equip interns with the skills they need to manage a farm or start up their own.

Beyond providing hands-on training in sustainable farming and natural building to prepare interns for careers in food and farming or self-sufficient homesteading, our program is also an opportunity to learn and improve upon skills such as communal living, communication, time management, organization, leadership, and teamwork. NEW in 2022: We are partnering with trainer Miles Sherts to offer conscious communication classes as part of our program. Conscious communication focuses on listening without judgement, voicing strong feelings without blame or attack, establishing healthy boundaries that enable mutual respect, and caring for yourself while also caring for others. These critical communication skills can be applied to any type of workplace or community living, helping interns thrive in whatever path they choose.

Our internship is about divesting from mainstream consumer culture, and learning to support ourselves by growing our own produce, utilizing natural building methods to construct our infrastructure, making our own household products like soap and lotion, reviving traditional agricultural and lifestyle practices, and living in community. We equip interns with the skills to become more sustainable and self-sufficient and replicate permaculture models in their communities.

Our accredited permaculture internship has attracted interns from North & South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and New Zealand. College and university students in both the U.S. & abroad have earned course credits for our internship program. Ask your advisor if you are eligible to earn credit too!

Countries Represented by Program Participants

Our Practices

Learn more about the practices that we teach, such as agroforestry, appropriate technology, foraging, permaculture design, plant-based cooking, and more.


Due to the volume of applications that we receive, in 2022 we are providing the following prerequisites for application to our program. Please review the following to see if our internship would be a mutual fit.

Accessibility is an underlying principle across all of our work. For the past 8 seasons, our beginning farmer training program has welcomed participants from a diversity of backgrounds and racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual identities from across 6 continents. Keeping our program free maximizes participation across a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. As first-generation farmers who met through the WWOOF network, accessibility to us also means that the practices we teach are intentionally designed to be easily replicable and financially accessible for fellow young and beginning farmers. Our interns, staff, and board members come from all walks of life and apply these practices in a variety of ways — from market gardening and garden therapy, to environmental advocacy and natural resource conservation, to plant-based cooking, intentional living, and so much more — but what unites us is a shared desire for sustainability in all its forms. Beyond our community on-site, making our work accessible extends outward by providing access to fresh produce for low-income, low-access rural and urban communities across Central New York through our free and sliding-scale veggie box delivery program — grown, cared for, harvested, and packed by the beginning farmer training program participants.


A Typical Day:
6:45am-8:00am: Breakfast
8:00am-12:00pm: Hands-On Hours: Includes vegan/vegetarian lunch prep; seeding; transplanting; irrigation; weeding; mulching; trellising; pruning; harvesting, natural building; timber framing; basic carpentry such as cutting, sanding, oiling, and assembly; lime stone masonry; firewood preparation; lawn mowing and weed whacking; no-till garden bed preparation.
12:00pm-2:00pm: Lunch Break
2:00pm-4:00pm: Classroom Time: Classes include food forest design, farm planning, fundraising, native plants, herbalism, conscious communication, and more. See the full class list below. All interns will receive a free federally-recognized FSMA food safety certification through completion of the internship.
4:00pm-10:00pm: Free Time: Swimming in the Unadilla River; dinner; board games; reading books from the farm library; walks in the woods or visiting nearby waterfalls.

On Wednesdays, we hold a “Community Class,” a weekly opportunity for interns to teach and share with their peers. Wednesday community classes have taken many forms, such as talent shows, poetry readings, story-telling, project presentations, and skill-sharing.

Starting in mid-June, we run our veggie box delivery program, providing fresh produce free and on a sliding scale to Edmeston families and local food banks. Interns participate in all aspects of the program, from production to harvesting to the wash and pack station, to gain experience in operating a “CSA-style” farm model.

Watering the tomatoes in the high tunnel
Shiitake mushroom cultivation on logs in the forest

Class Offerings

Classes are taught by Unadilla Community Farm staff and board members, as well as virtual guest instructors. Zoom classes are indicated with a *. 

Core Curriculum

Elective Classes (chosen by consensus of the group)

Off-Grid Accommodations

Our farm is entirely off-grid and is transitioning off of fossil fuels. We now rely 100% on off-grid solar for all of our lighting, charging electronics, landscaping tools, irrigation, and some power tools. Sleeping accommodations include 2 single bedrooms in the barn loft, 2 double bedrooms in the skoolie (converted school bus), or tent camping (bring your own tent & camping gear). All organic vegetarian/vegan meals and snacks are provided, and typically eaten communally. The farm is a substance-free space. We have both indoor and outdoor kitchens, indoor and outdoor compost toilets, and a gravity-fed unheated shower as well as access to the Unadilla River. We don’t have wifi, but do have good cell phone reception with Verizon.