FAQs about the Apprenticeship

Q: When will you be offering apprentice orientation tours in 2020?

A: At this time we are not offering apprentice orientation tours due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We do not know when we will be able to offer tours in 2020 as this is dependent on evolving state, county, and university COVID-19 safety measures.

Q: Will you be offering the Apprenticeship Program in 2021? When is the application deadline?

A: Beginning in 2019, CASFS began a program review and plan to improve the Apprenticeship. We have not yet finalized our new and improved programming, and are unsure what the 2021 season will look like given the current COVID-19 pandemic, so the 2021 application is not yet available. Please check back for updated information or sign up for our email list.

Q: Do you have a brochure describing the program?

A: We no longer have a printed brochure. An overview of the program, including application dates, is available at Apprentice/Training; detailed information, including links to the application, housing, course fee waiver, and (for international applicants) visa forms, is available at: Apprenticeship Information

Q: Does the Apprenticeship offer financial aid?

A: The Apprenticeship Program is operated through the UCSC Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems, which is not eligible to offer any financial aid, work-study, or loan program to Apprenticeship applicants. However, through grant and gift funding, we are able to offer a range of scholarships to help cover part or all of the course fees for some Apprenticeship participants. The scholarships can range from $1000 to the full course fee amount of $6000, for U.S. residents who meet one or more of the course fee waiver criteria. Please see Apprenticeship Scholarship Opportunities for details.

Q: Can I use my AmeriCorps education award to cover the cost of the Apprenticeship?

A: You can use your AmeriCorps education award for course fees, food dues, and for the books and tools that we require for the apprenticeship program (books and tools cost approximately $350 and will be yours to keep). You are limited to using your award only for these items.

Q: Does the program accept GI Bill benefits?

A: No, the Apprenticeship does not currently accept GI Bill benefits, although we are working to develop a way to accept them to cover tuition costs. However, we do offer scholarship/fee waiver support for veterans through the Matthew Raiford Veterans Scholarship. Please see Apprenticeship Scholarship Opportunities for details.

Q: How much will we focus on social justice issues? 

A: While our program provides an intensive focus on hands-on horticultural training, we also hold social justice at a high value, since we believe that a strong understanding of our food system’s social context is a necessary foundation for the effective implementation of sustainable alternatives. We recognize that apprentices may come with a wide range of social justice-related knowledge and experience, which can lead to rich and sometimes uncomfortable dialogue. Our program aims not to provide definitive answers, but to create the space for apprentices to explore critical questions about social dynamics and how they relate to the food system. About one third of our classes and readings focus on issues of equity, access, labor, policy and other topics that deepen our awareness of connections between food and other social systems. We welcome applicants who are interested in and willing to engage these topics, even if they are new to exploring these types of issues.   

Q: Can I get UCSC credit toward an undergraduate degree by completing the Apprenticeship Program?

A: At this point, the Apprenticeship is not recognized as a UC Santa Cruz undergraduate course. However, some apprentices who are also enrolled as UCSC students have arranged for UCSC course credit by setting up independent studies with a UCSC faculty sponsor. Note, however, that this may involve having to pay both UCSC fees and the Apprenticeship program’s course fees in order to qualify for UCSC undergraduate course credits.

Q: Is there a connection between the Apprenticeship Program and UCSC’s graduate program in Environmental Studies/Agroecology or Biology?

A: The Apprenticeship Program is separate from UCSC’s Biology or Enviromental Studies graduate programs. The Farm provides research fields, laboratory facilities and guidance to UCSC graduate students who do research; however, as a graduate student you would need to get approval from your advisor to take the Apprenticeship. We have, in past years, had graduate students take the program and get credit from universities other than UCSC. Whether you are able to receive graduate study credit for taking part in the Apprenticeship Program is up to your academic advisor.

Q: Do programs similar to the Apprenticeship exist?

A: There are many internships/apprenticeships across the U.S. on privately owned farms—usually during the growing season. The best place to find information on educational opportunities is from the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Education and Training Directory web siteThis site also includes an extensive list of colleges and universities offering sustainable agriculture programs, as well as internships and apprenticeships.

Also, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service's ATTRA website lists sustainable farming internships and apprenticeships across the U.S.

Q: How difficult is it for someone with little farming or gardening experience to be accepted into the program?

A: Showing an interest in sustainable agriculture by working or volunteering on a farm or in a garden is a good first step. Many people who want to take our program don't have the experience necessary to understand how much hard work is involved. Find an area of agriculture in which you’re interested (i.e. teaching, farming, urban gardening, outdoor education, working with children or adults, working in a nursery, marketing, etc.) and take steps to pursue it. We don't require people to be experts, just that you're willing to try to make a career involving sustainable agriculture.

Q: If accepted into the Apprenticeship, can I defer my acceptance until next year?

A: We don't defer applications because each year we consider the pool of applicants in totality – to ensure that we have diversity of backgrounds, age, experience, ethnicity, interests, geographic locations, etc. Thus each year we start fresh in considering applicants. If you are interested in applying to be an apprentice next year, you will need to submit your application again.

Q: Can I begin the program after the official start date?

A: We do not allow people to join the program late; all students must be here on the first day. As soon as the program begins there's a myriad of information that needs to be absorbed and techniques to be learned.

Q: Can you tell me my position on the waiting list?

A: Unfortunately we can’t tell you what “number” you are on the waiting list because we don’t use a strict numbering system. Rather, we group the waiting list people and then if someone who is accepted decides not to attend, we try to replace him or her with a person on the waiting list who is somewhat similar in order to maintain a balance of age, gender, interests, educational background, skill level, etc. We don’t know who might decline their acceptance to the program, so the best we can do is tell you what we estimate your chances to be—either very good, good, or slight. I wish we had a crystal ball, but all we can do is give you our best assessment based on our current knowledge and past experience.

Q: I wasn’t accepted this year; how can I improve my chances in the future?

A: We encourage applicants who were not accepted to continue to pursue their interests in sustainable agriculture in order to increase their background. Also, we encourage all applicants to visit the UCSC/CASFS Farm, go on the apprentice Orientation Tour, and volunteer for a harvest morning or two. However, we receive many more qualified applicants than we have openings available.

Q: In the past the Apprenticeship was offered through the UCSC Extension program. Is that still the case?

A: The Apprenticeship is no longer be offered through UCSC Extension due to increased Extension overhead charges. Because we did not want to raise the Apprenticeship program’s course fees to cover these increased costs, the Apprenticeship will operate directly through the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems. Although UCSC Extension credit will no longer be offered, this will not change the application process, fees, or deadlines, nor will it change the type of course curriculum or format that is offered. If you have specific questions about the status of the Apprenticeship as it relates to UCSC Extension, please contact us at 831.459-3240, casfs@ucsc.edu.

Q: How can I obtain a copy of my transcripts?

A: We often receive calls from alumni apprentices needing "proof" that they completed the Apprenticeship Program.  If you were an apprentice prior to 2016, please hold on to the certificate issued by UCSC Extension at the end of the program; this is your best proof. If you need to get official transcripts for a college or university, you may do so online at www.ucsc-extension.edu. Go to Student services, student account, transcript request information. There is a charge and they say to allow 3 weeks.

Starting in 2016, the Apprenticeship is not a for-credit program, thus does not give transcripts.  Apprenticeship graduates in the 2016 program and beyond who need a copy of their Certificate of Completion should contact the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems: 831.459-3240, casfs@ucsc.edu. Include your legal name and the year of your apprenticeship. There is a charge of $25 per request. Please allow 3-4 weeks to receive a copy of your certificate.

Q: Do you have used copies of the required books for the program available?

A: We have copies of some of the Apprenticeship Program’s required books in our library, along with some of the recommended books. Unfortunately, we don’t know of any past apprentices that want to sell their used books. You might want to try Powells.com—Powell’s is a great independent Portland bookstore with an excellent selection of used agriculture and gardening books.

See Also