Work, Stay and Learn at Innisfree Farm

At Innisfree Farm and Botanic Garden, we offer work/trade internships and apprenticeships.

For more information or to apply for an apprenticeship or internship please contact us

Work/Trade Interns

Interns live on site and typically stay 2 weeks – 2 months. They work 25 – 30 hours per week in exchange for full board and lodging.

Interns receive no formal classes as such but there is a lot of opportunity and support for self-directed learning, access to an extensive library of books and movies, time for questions and discussions and casual learning by doing and immersion.  

Minimum stay 2 weeks

Working week is 5 mornings (9 am – 1 pm) and 2 afternoons (2 – 5 pm)  per week (Mon – Fri) 19 – 30 March, 16 September – 1 November

Apprentices $450 / month

Apprentices live on site and work 25 – 30 hours per week in exchange for full board and lodging.

Apprentices receive regular weekly scheduled classes totaling 16 hours over each month. In addition, there is a lot of opportunity and support for self-directed learning, access to an extensive library of books and movies, time for questions and discussions and casual learning by doing and immersion.  

Overview of the program

This 4 or 8-week program allows you to be totally immersed in learning to grow, harvest, process and use herbs and food plants from seed to finished product, to nourish and heal yourself, your community and the land.  This program will explain and explore how to grow, harvest, process and use your own herbs and food; providing practical tools, experiential learning and taught, classroom components to reach a wide range of students with diverse learning styles.

This apprenticeship provides an opportunity to learn by doing in field practicum as well as in more formal lessons. Some of the field work will be cold, wet or boring but we try to mix it up every day and give you new challenges often. There are over 200 medicines cultivated on the farm and interns may work with several dozen.  The Innisfree Farm apprenticeship is largely an experiential training, learning by doing. It requires a strong work ethic, a strong back, and a strong will to learn. This program is focused on direct plant experience and some classes will take place in nature where students will work hands-on with medicinal plants, on the farm, and in the woods.

Apprentices will live and work on the farm, becoming part of a deep community of soil stewards and plant people. Interns will participate in all aspects of growing and harvesting food and herbs, in the fields, the orchard, as well as maintaining the teaching gardens and amenity gardens. Innisfree Farm runs a registered Botanic Garden and is open to the public on Saturday every week during the summer season, serving afternoon tea and giving guided garden tours and apprentices may participate in all aspects of this from the kitchen to customer service.

The apprentice is expected to be a self-starter and a self-directed learner. There is an extensive library of books, videos and audio lectures on many aspects of herbal medicine, culinary arts and sustainable food production. Apprentices will be given a memory stick loaded with useful learning tools as well as a study guide if they wish, outlining areas for further reading and posing questions to direct their reading.

Who applies to the apprenticeship at Innisfree Farm?

In the 10 years we have been running apprenticeships we have hosted well over 100 people, all sorts of people from all walks of life –  from the 19 year old school leaver with a passion for plants and food and sustainability to the 44 year old lawyer looking for a new sense of purpose; from the newly graduated doctor looking to “dig her way out of medical school” to the 55 year old doctor, raw food chef and Green party candidate. Everyone comes as they are and takes what they need from the time spent close to Nature.

The Food and Medicine Apprenticeship  is designed for people who:

  • want to better understand the link between what we eat and our health and well being
  • appreciate that food production, the environment and social and personal well being are all interlinked
  • are passionate about natural medicine and plants have an interest in ‘field to fork’ eating – growing, harvesting and processing farm fresh food in season
  • have an interest in local, sustainable and low-cost plant medicines and building community and personal resilience through plant medicine
  • want to empower themselves with knowledge about self-care
  • want to be able to help their friends and family with simple health challenges
  • want to rely less on the medical system
  • want to know how to identify, grow, harvest and process their own herbal medicines
  • want to learn how to make and dispense herbal remedies – storing herbs, stock control, making liniments, tinctures, oils and more

Course objectives

At completion of this course the successful student will be able to describe, discuss and demonstrate at least 5 of the following skills sets, according to season and duration of attendance

  • the ways and means of building healthy soil through amendments and mulching
  • the methods and processes required to make potting mix, choose plants for the season and the purpose, plant out flats of seeds, prick out seedlings, pot up seedlings, transplant seedlings, trellis or train the plants
  • the method and processes required to prune, weed and maintain the plants
  • an appreciation for the structures and parts of plants and how they function (botany)
  • skills and techniques of wild plant identification  
  • harvesting techniques for roots, barks, leaves, flowers, seeds
  • drying and processing methods and equipment
  • the methods and processes required make herbal remedies
  • knowledge of how to use herbs and natural medicines for personal, family and community wellness
  • saving seeds and seed banking

Schedule for apprenticeships

In all sessions, there will be a weekly 90 minute class with Chanchal on Tuesdays 4.30 – 6 pm. This series does not a formal curriculum but will be a wide-ranging conversation about whatever herbs we have been working with that day in the garden, questions you have from your reading, what and where to read next, how to treat different conditions and so on.  A loose format but an opportunity for personal tutoring and guidance in your herbal education.

In addition, each session shall have different classes or learning opportunities that may cover a wide range of topics and delivery methods so that students can readily stay for 2 or 3 sessions and not repeat materials.

session one (Mon – Fri) 1  – 26 April

session two (Tues – Sat)  30 April – 26 May

session three (Tues – Sat)  28 May – 22 June

session four (Tues – Sat)  25 June – 20 July

session five (Tues – Sat)    23 July – 17 August

session six (Tues – Sat)    20 August – 14 Sept

Requirements for Apprentices  

Good work ethic – some gardening and farming is dirty and muddy and cold and it still has to get done. We especially like people with experience working outdoors  – farming, landscaping, tree planting, construction, because you know how it is to work in all weather.

  • A strong back – literally because we do some landscaping, lifting and hauling and shoveling.
  • No significant health restrictions.
  • Good time management – we work as a team and showing up late or not being ready on time puts extra work onto your colleagues.
  • Sociable and friendly – interns live in trailers, 4 private rooms, 1 shared room,  with shared kitchen, bathroom, and common room space. Ability to get on with people is very important.
  • Willingness to be challenged, to try or to do new things, curiosity and desire to learn through doing.

The garden and farm work

Growing, harvesting and processing food for the Green Dream café, the apprentices’ kitchen and the farm shop work occupies approximately half of the working week. The remainder is spent in the herb gardens, the amenity gardens and the botanic gardens and the grounds in general.

Activities may include, but are not limited to, making potting mix and making soil, seeding, transplanting, pruning, staking/tying, weeding, watering, harvesting and processing food and herbs.

The kitchen

The Green Dream café is an integral part of the Botanic Garden experience and as such is

an integral part of the work week at Innisfree. The café is open Friday and Saturday 10 am – 4 pm from summer solstice to fall equinox. There are full moon dinners and various catered events throughout the year as well. Depending on the season, apprentices may be involved in food preparation and service.

Learning overview for herbal medicine

Each apprentice may learn more or less according to the season they come in and their own learning preferences

Concepts overview Detailed outline
Botany and plant identification

Learn to recognize your medicines – and to recognize the poisonous herbs – so that you can safely pick in the wild.

plant evolution and taxonomy

botanical features of root, stem, leaf, flower and fruit

using a plant key

family characteristics

Harvesting and processing herbs

Careful harvesting ensures long term sustainability of the plant. Careful processing ensures a high quality medicine.

wild crafting in the forest

harvesting techniques for barks, roots, leaves, flowers and fruits

processing techniques for barks, roots, leaves, flowers and fruits

drying and storing botanicals

processing herbs

herbal medicine making – infusions, decoctions, macerated oils, vinegars, salves, liniments etc

Pharmacognosy (plant chemistry)

Knowing how the plants exert their therapeutic actions allows us to better understand how to use them in clinical practice.

overview of plant metabolism

introduction to holistic phytochemistry –  mucilage and polysaccharides, phenolics (tannins, salicylates, flavonoids, anthraquinones), bitters, volatile oils, saponins, alkaloids

Materia medica and clinical applications

Taught through discussions and question-answer sessions, we will consider in detail how the herbs do their work and how to use them effectively and safely.

clinical applications of herbs within body systems

formulating strategies and treatment planning

dosing, contra-indications and safety concerns

WILD CRAFTING AND GARDEN HARVEST – APPROXIMATE HARVESTING SCHEDULE FOR 2019 (Weather dependent)

APRIL Plantain, Cleavers, Horsetail, Elderflower, Dandelion leaf, Violet leaf, Nettle, Chickweed, Marshmallow root, Poke root
MAY Plantain, Cleavers, Horsetail, Raspberry lf, Marshmallow lf, Motherwort lf,  Yarrow lf, Ladies mantle, Lavender, Violet lf and flwr, Lunaria flwr, Vervain, Chickweed,
JUNE St John’s wort, Yarrow flwr, Oregano, Mint, Thyme, Tarragon, Lovage, Sage, Lemon balm, fennel leaf, Hyssop, Savory, Calendula flwr, Lavender, Violet flwr, Dianthus, Nasturtium lf & flwr, Chrysanthemum lf & flwr, Vervain, Marshmallow lf, Mullein flwr
JULY Mullein flwr, Fennel, Sage, Epazote, Echinacea tops, Calendula flwr, Violet flwr, Dianthus, Nasturtium lf & flwr, Chrysanthemum lf & flwr
AUGUST Golden rod, Fennel seed, Rosemary, Basil, Stevia, Lemon verbena, Echinacea tops, Calendula flwr, Black cumin, Caraway, Dill seed, Cape gooseberry
SEPTEMBER Dandelion root, Burdock, Yellow dock, Oregon grape, Chicory, Petasites, Willow bark, Cape gooseberry
OCTOBER Dandelion root, Burdock, Yellow dock, Oregon grape, Chicory, Petasites, Willow bark, Poke root

For more information or to apply for an apprenticeship or internship please contact us