New opportunities to learn farming in Skagit, San Juan Counties

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TUMWATER —Small farms need help, and would-be farmers need a place to learn. A new pilot project brings the two groups together in Skagit and San Juan counties.

The Small Farm Internship Pilot Project allows farms in Skagit and San Juan counties with annual sales of less than $250,000 to enroll in a one-year program that allows up to three interns to work on a farm to learn about farming practices.

A distinguishing feature of the pilot project is that participating farms are able to get workers' compensation for their interns in case of an injury, a feature that is not available to other types of interns. Workers' compensation coverage is required for the farm interns.

Farm interns would be exempt from minimum wage laws and could negotiate conditions such as room and board, stipends, or other compensation. The farms must follow all safety and health rules and child labor laws.

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.

In order to participate, farms must first get a Farm Intern Program Certificate from L&I. The certificate ensures a quality learning experience and adequate protections for the intern.

For more information, see www.WorkplaceRights.Lni.wa.gov and click on "Agriculture," or call Kate Dean, Small-Farm Pilot Project Coordinator, at 360-902-5091 or e-mail to Katherine.Dean@Lni.wa.gov.

The project ends Dec. 31, 2011. If there is enough interest in the project, it could be renewed or expanded to include other counties.

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For media information: Elaine Fischer, L&I, 360-902-5413 or Elaine.Fischer@Lni.wa.gov.

Broadcast version

Small farms need help and would-be farmers need a place to learn. Now, a new pilot project brings the two groups together in Skagit and San Juan counties. The Small Farm Internship Pilot Project allows farms with annual sales of less than two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to enroll in a one-year program that allows up to three interns. The state legislature authorized the pilot after hearing concerns that there weren’t opportunities for inexperienced people to learn hands-on farming. For more information on how to participate, go to www.WorkplaceRights.Lni.wa.gov and click on “Agriculture.”

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