Are you thinking about working at a local farm this summer as an apprentice to get your hands dirty and to learn where your food comes from?
Make sure you check all State Department of Labor regulations!
There is nothing new about this legislation, but it is often not entirely known that unpaid apprenticeships at farms – organic or not, may violate existing labor laws in your state.
For example, in California, labor law mandates that if a person provides services of “economic value” to the employer, the employer has to comply with the state’s labor law requirements, which includes allowing breaks and guaranteeing a safe workplace, paying at least minimum wage, workers compensation, and state taxes.
Every state in the United States has their own labor regulations and requirements and may handle farm apprenticeships differently. However, currently in California, if you want to spend the summer working at an organic farm – even if your intention is to learn and not to “work” – if you provide labor or services that would otherwise require the hiring of a worker, you very likely will need to be treated as a farm worker, and calling it an unpaid apprenticeship would be illegal.
The current labor law was intended to protect farm worker’s right, so the idea behind the current legislation is good. Needless to say though, the local organic food movement is attracting many people, young and old, to find the origin of their food and re-connect to their soil, and a review of the current legislation in California and many other states is much needed to allow some form of apprenticeship programs on small farms throughout the state and nation.
For now, to avoid any unnecessary predicaments and violations and possible fines, please check with your state’s Department of Labor before you reach out to a farm – or before you offer apprenticeship opportunities on your farm or ranch this summer.
Visit the California Department of Industrial Relations website for further information.
(posted under “bummer”)