Apprenticeship Program

On-farm agroforestry training


The Savanna Institute Apprenticeship Program provides experience and technical education for aspiring agroforestry farmers through on-farm training with a mentor farmer as well as community-building opportunities for farmers, apprentices, and those interested in agroforestry. In addition to on-farm mentoring, participants will have the opportunity to enroll in an online agroforestry course, monthly cohort calls, and workshops. 

In order to change the agricultural system in the Midwest, we need to train a new generation of agroforestry farmers.

Are you ready to be part of this transformation?

“This is the kind of program you can’t find anywhere else! I came all the way from Oregon for this.”

– Avery Pheil, apprentice, 2019 cohort

Call for 2021 Mentor Farmers!

Applications are due Monday, January 4, 2021

If you have questions about the program, reach out to Kristy Gruley, Savanna Institute Education Program Manager, [email protected]


apprentice working on a tree

Mentor Information

Mentoring benefits

  • Inspire the next generation of agroforestry farmers!
  • Small stipend: Up to 10 weeks to help compensate for time mentoring
  • Show off your farm: field day planning and promotion assistance 
  • Boost your farm’s profile: Do a social media (e.g., Instagram) takeover to boost your farm’s profile using SI’s wide network
  • Free attendance at the Savanna Institute’s 2021 Perennial Farm Gathering (hopefully in person!!)

Mentor farmer expectations 

Activities: Teach perennial crop establishment, management, and harvest; farm planning and decision-making; equipment maintenance; product marketing; farm/tree finance, and more.

Duration:10 weeks+, part-time or full-time; flexible start and end date, depending on your needs and the apprentice you hire.

Location: Midwest

Pay: We strongly encourage our mentor farmers to pay at least $10/hour. We aim to provide a small stipend to compensate for the time we expect mentors to train apprentices in-person (~40 hours total).

Room and Board for apprentices: Providing room and board is not necessary but may be offered to apprentices by the host/mentor farmer. 

Mentor training includes:

  •  On-farm hiring
  •  Diversity and inclusion training
  •  Mentorship and communication essentials
  •  Participation in Quivira Mentorship training

Apprentice Information

Apprenticeship benefits

  • Learn what it takes to become the next generation of agroforestry farmers!
  • Network with agroforestry practitioners, researchers, and enthusiasts: Highlight and share your experience through an Instagram takeover if the SI account
  • Free attendance at the Savanna Institute’s 2021 Perennial Farm Gathering (hopefully in person!!)
  • Free enrollment into SI’s new online course and community of practice

Program details

What you will learn: perennial crop establishment and/or harvest, farm planning and decision-making, equipment and crop maintenance, product marketing, farm finance, value-added processing, and more through on-farm work experience, ~40 hours of mentoring, and online education

Duration: 10 weeks part-time or full-time and flexible start and end date, depending on the farm. Some mentors are interested in hiring apprentices longer than 10 weeks– starting in late spring/ early summer through harvest in October/November. Schedules depend on the needs of the mentor farm and the availability of the apprentice. Flexible schedules can be arranged to a certain extent. If you have questions or needs regarding your schedule, please make sure to include them in your application.

Location: Midwest (Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, Indiana); Descriptions of participating mentor farms will be posted in January, and you choose the farms you are interested in apprenticing with on the SI apprentice application.

Pay: We strongly encourage our mentor farmers to pay at least $10/hour. In some cases, room and board is provided by the host/mentor farmer. 

Room and Board: Providing room and board is not necessary but may be offered to apprentices by the host/mentor farmer.

Additional activities: Monthly cohort calls; on-farm reflection in the form of a blog post for SI; access to SI’s new online course content and activities. 

Instructions, Timeline, and FAQs

Mentor Application: Please fill out the application to be considered. Mentors will be finalized in early January and farm and position descriptions will be added to the apprenticeship website. Apprentices will apply for each farm they are interested in working for through the SI apprentice application. Apprentice applications will be minimally scrubbed and sent to all farms listed as preferences. 

Apprentice Application: Descriptions of participating mentor farms will be posted in January, and you will be able to indicate your farm preferences on your application.  Applications will open in mid-January, and will be posted here, so check back soon or contact Kristy ([email protected]) to be added to the interest list for information. Apprentice applications will be minimally scrubbed and sent to all farms listed as preferences. 

Interviews: Mentor farmers will interview their top choices and offer a position to their final selection; apprentices can decline this offer for any reason. Our goal is for a good mentor-apprentice fit! Interviews may happen as early as February, or may continue into the spring, depending on the farm and timing required.



If you have questions about the program, reach out to Kristy Gruley, Savanna Institute Education Program Manager, [email protected]

a mentor farmer stands with an apprentice in a grassy field

2020 Mentor Farms

Brambleberry Farm – Paoli, IN – Brambleberry Farm is a small, permaculture-based nursery and homestead-scale farm. Most of the farm’s income is derived from a fruit, nut, and berry nursery that provides regionally-appropriate cultivars, species, and rootstocks to help customers succeed in growing their plants without synthetic inputs. Darren also does consulting work helping other farmers and homesteaders figure out ways to succeed in their endeavors. Espri spends the fall and winter months crafting unique wooden kitchen utensils and cutting boards which she sells in Bloomington, IN. The family lives in a strawbale house they built themselves with two attached greenhouses full of subtropical fruiting plants. A handful of beef cattle graze pastured and cover-cropped alleys between rows of fruit and nut trees in a 3-acre silvopasture system that is approaching 10 years from planting. Recently a 19-acre lot was purchased and will be slowly converted to silvopasture as time and resources allow.

Finca Mirasol – Northfield, MN – Finca Mirasol is a small regenerative poultry farm in the Northfield, MN area and part of the Regeneration Farms network in SE-MN. Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquín is the founder of the Regenerative Poultry System that is currently being used across the Midwest and internationally. They believe in a perennial future and farming system that regenerates the land and water, raising chickens under the Tree-Range™️ brand. Chickens are raised in their natural habitat, the forest, and value the fact that nature requires diverse systems to remain healthy and the interconnection of all species.  In addition to the details of the regenerative poultry system and energy management methodology, apprentices will learn about alley cropping, managing hazelnuts and elderberries as an understory and as perennial crops, soil health, and more!

Lily Springs Farm – Osceola, WI – Lily Springs Farm is a 100-acre regenerative farm and event space. Permaculture principles drive the design of our food forest plots, our forest management, and our event hosting. Through regenerative farming and holistic land management practices, we provide experiences and training for people interested in building a resilient future. Permaculture and whole systems design are being applied to restore our habitats to health and to build a sustainable perennial-based farm system that integrates land, people and the built environment. Programming flows naturally from that work and from our intention to foster health in ourselves and the land. Apprentices will have the opportunity to contribute to all projects across the farm, including educational programming and agritourism events. Farm work opportunities include managing a team of goats rotationally grazing the forest, harvesting a variety of perennial crops from two food forests on-site, and caring for contract-raised chickens in Salatin-style tractors. We are also part of the WI-DATCP Industrial Hemp trial program, so apprentices will learn about the exciting potential of industrial hemp planted in polyculture and grown with beyond-organic practices.

Mary Dirty Face Farm – Menomonie, WI – We have a certified organic orchard, with apples, pears, plums, currants, gooseberries, raspberries, blueberries, and some other fruit on about 5 1/2 acres, as well as a new orchard with about 6 acres of mostly apples. We raise pastured hogs, lambs, and poultry, which all spend time in and around the orchard. We custom graze cattle in the summer. This year, we are preparing to do some grazing in our woods as well. We market through a CSA-style fruit share and direct market meat shares, as well as going to a farmers market and selling to our local co-op and restaurants. We have been farming here since 2009, and have been learning a lot as we go. We are very involved in sustainable farming organizations and Wisconsin Farmers Union, and are excited to be able to share what we’ve learned.

Nettle Valley Farm – Spring Green, MN – Nettle Valley Farm is a farmstead in the beautiful Driftless area of southeastern MN. Our main enterprise here is raising heritage breed pigs on pasture and organic feed which we sell by the whole and half to families in the area. (Feel free to check us out on Fb and Instagram under Nettle Valley Farm). The farmstead is 70 acres of woods, pasture, pine plantation, ponds and fields near Spring Grove, MN. Farmstead projects include caring for the pigs and goats, maintaining a kitchen garden, simple building projects, fermentation projects, helping our neighbors with various tasks, firewood chores, milling wood with the sawmill, and thinning the pine plantation. Two beginning farmers will be managing their own duck, geese, vegetable and sheep enterprises here.

Prairie Birthday Farm LLC – Kearney, MO – Linda Hezel Ph.D., R.N. began as Farm Steward at Prairie Birthday Farm 20+ years ago, with regenerating its soil, bringing the soil organic matter from 2% to more than 6%.  While producing flavorful ingredients, it also serves as a teaching laboratory where Linda works with chefs, farmers, researchers, gardeners, nutritionists, naturalists, artists and others to learn about and practice regenerative agriculture and understand healthy food for our nutritional wellness.  The farm is host to poultry and honeybees as well as over 36 flowers, 25 fruits, 40 herbs, 15 vegetables and more than 140 native varieties that yield 10 months out of the year without synthetic chemicals or season extension structures.  Bounty from the Farm is sold to dozens of area residents and over 25 chefs. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Feast Magazine – Midwest, Feast TV, Kansas City Star and others. Instagram: prairiebirthdayfarm

Red Fern Farm – Wapello, IA – We have a diverse fruit and nut farm and nursery, with chestnuts, heartnuts, pawpaws, persimmons, and nursery stock our most important crops. Crops are harvested mainly by customers in a Pick-your-own system. We added Katahdin sheep in 2019.

Illinois Demonstration Farms – Central IL – The Savanna Institute is working to advance agroforestry by supporting the establishment and management of three Demonstration Farms across Illinois featuring novel tree crop varieties in integrated systems. Sun Dappled Farm (located on 17 acres outside of Peoria, IL on private land) will feature restoration agriculture using native and perennial crops, Allerton Farm (located on 45 acres in Monticello, IL at Allerton Park and Retreat Center) will showcase alley cropping of convention row crops between nut & timber tree rows, and Field Restored (located on 26 acres outside of Oregon, IL on private land) will highlight silvopasture, riparian buffers, and windbreaks.