Business Blog

State to restart farmer internship program

Here's a news release from L&I about a farming internship project that will include Whatcom County:

TUMWATER — A first-in-the-nation effort to support farming’s future will restart July 1 in an expanded and extended format.

The Farm Internship Project brings small farms together with people who want to learn farming practices. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries first introduced the effort in 2010.

Prior to the internships, small farms exchanged informal on-farm education for stipend or volunteer labor. This put both farms and workers at risk because of the lack of insurance to protect against injury.

Under this project, interns have workers’ compensation protection along with the opportunity for a valuable education and hands-on experience in farming activities.

“We want to ensure a quality learning experience for participants while making it easy for farms to take part,” said Elizabeth Smith, L&I assistant director of Fraud Prevention & Labor Standards. “This is an innovative program and we’re trying to help farm groups and others get the word out about it.”

The project is based on the success of a 2010-11 pilot project in Skagit and San Juan counties. The effort has been extended through December 2017 and now includes 16 counties: Chelan, Grant, Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Kittitas, Lincoln, Pierce, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, Whatcom and Yakima.

Application information for these internships is available at: Washington Farm Bureau, 360-581-8153; Washington Sustainable Food & Farming Network, 360-336-9694; or Tilth Producers of Washington, 206-632-7506. Information is also available online at

The single-page application asks for a description of the farm’s curriculum and expectations for interns, and information on gross sales. Farms must open a workers’ compensation account and complete a separate agreement with the intern.

Small farms with annual sales of less than $250,000 per year are eligible to enroll. Although exempt from minimum wage laws, the farms must have workers’ compensation coverage and follow all applicable safety and health laws. Farms must provide formal, curriculum-based instruction in growing practices. Each farm may enroll up to three interns per year.