International Applicants

Please note: In order to focus on refreshing our programming, CASFS will pause the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture for the 2020 season. For more information, visit

The information below addresses finances, health insurance, English fluency, and other important details for international applicants. Please read it carefully.


The University requires that you have enough money to support yourself, complete the course, and purchase health insurance (either at home or here) for the duration of your stay, as well as transportation costs to and from the United States. The following provides an estimate of your course and living expenses. If you plan to arrive early, stay late, travel or live a more expensive lifestyle than the average apprentice, you should plan to have more money available.

Course costs:

Course fee $6,000
Books, tools (approximately) $380
Personal expenses:
Food (part subsidized from farm harvests) $650
Other (clothes, supplies, dental, spending money) $1,500

Health insurance:

The cost of insurance depends on type (most US health insurance does not include dental care or eyeglasses - take care of these needs before you leave), your age, and your insurance source. This is required and could cost approximately the following (no deductible):

For age 24 or under $300
For ages 25-29 $322
For ages 30 and up $658

Transportation costs will vary, depending on your departure site (you'll need to make your own arrangements).

Housing: Please see the information about housing on the Apprenticeship application, located on the How to Apply page. Apprentices who live on site in the tent cabins are required to pay tent cabin and key deposits totaling $160.

If you are accepted, half of the tuition payment is due by mid January. The balance is due on the first day of the course, in April.

Financial Aid:

Please fill out the Course Fee Waiver Application form if you are interested in applying for a fee waiver for the Apprenticeship. See the How to Apply page for details.

Visa Application

International apprentices are given J-1 visas to attend the program through the University’s International Students’ Office. Due to regulation changes, international apprentices are now required to have an undergraduate degree (any degree) plus 2 to 3 years of post-graduate experience in the field of sustainable farming or food systems work. 

Please download and fill out the visa application form. For clarification, please note the following -

"POSITION IN COUNTRY OF PERMANENT RESIDENCE" means if you have a job in your country, what is the name of your job? Do you work for private business or government? If government, is it local, regional, or central government employment? Or are you a student? If you are a student, are you an undergraduate or a graduate student?

"Date of entry to U.S., if known" means if you are accepted, we ask that you arrive in Santa Cruz on the Saturday before the course begins, if possible. If you cannot make specific predictions at this time, it is better to fill in an earlier date.

"SOURCE AND ESTIMATE AMOUNT IN U.S. DOLLARS" means where will you get the money to participate in this program and to pay for your other expenses, and how much do you expect to bring? You cannot expect to earn any money while you are here.

English Fluency

All instruction is conducted in English. Applicants must be able to comprehend spoken English as well as read, write, and converse in English fluently in order to be eligible for the apprenticeship. We conduct brief phone interviews with all international applicants to verify English fluency.

Relationship to the University

Although we are located on a university campus, we do not have academic status with the university and the Certificate of Completion awarded to Apprenticeship program graduates does not have the full weight of university academic work. The certificate represents completion of a practical training course in horticulture.

Facilities and Community

Because we are not technically part of the university, we do not have access to university dormitories, classrooms, or other facilities. Our program is modest and relatively small. Students live in tent cabins or off-campus for the entire six months. Community life centers around one central building used for cooking, eating, and bathing. There is also a small library for studying and reading. Students share cooking for the entire group of 48 by rotating the task amongst the participants. All participants, male and female, must share equally in the domestic tasks of cooking and cleaning.

Students are expected to participate in and abide by group decisions related to "life on the farm." Program staff do not set guidelines for the group on these domestic concerns. "Culture shock" can be a significant difficulty for international students. Communication skills in English must be sufficiently developed to function in classroom and social situations.

Course Content and Daily Activities

The main focus of the apprenticeship is practical learn-by-doing organic farming and gardening. Secondarily, we also introduce orchard production.

We are operating under good conditions of soil, climate, and resource availability. We do not address specifically the problems of production under other, or worse, conditions. That is, we are not an "overview" program of comparative techniques. We grow what grows well under our conditions and teach cultural techniques for these crops.

In addition, we are not a rural development or appropriate technology program.

Activity is about 20% classroom lectures and 80% working outside with the plants. This means digging, bed preparation, compost-making, manure hauling, seed sowing, greenhouse work, transplanting, watering, harvesting, sorting, marketing, selling at our roadside stand, and lots of weeding/hoeing by hand. We expect all students to participate fully in all aspects of the operation and aren't divided into "academic professionals" who don't get their hands dirty and "workers" who do. In summary, our program is most useful for students who want to learn-by-doing the basics of organic horticultural production.

We hope this information has been helpful in explaining the focus of our apprenticeship. Please contact the office at 831.459-2321 or if you need further information

See Also