So, the idea is there; well formulated and detailed, but the question remains. How?
Do I just start driving around rural America picking farms at random, dropping in to see if they will host me for a year? Is there a section on Craigslist for “farm apprenticeships offered”? Wikipedia? Darts on a map?
Thankfully I have some great resources at my disposal: the great friends and connections I have made after 12 years in the business and a wonderful website called WWOOF (world wide opportunities on organic farms). If anybody is considering this same path, I would say WWOOF is your best bet. They offer one week to one year internships at farms all over the world. (Mango farm in Costa Rica anyone? Wait, why am I not doing that?)
I also got some great advice from a friend, she said that I should match the relative ecosystem of wherever I go to where I want to end up. By that she meant that if I decide to move to DC to open a restaurant, then it would be ill advised to go and learn how to farm in the Pacific Northwest, Costa Rica or in Arizona, and vice versa.
This narrowed my search to Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Then I narrowed that search down to farms that fit my criteria of the ideal farm. Do they raise pigs? Do the having sugaring facilities? Keep Bees? Grow a wide range of heirloom crops? Offer room and board? Are organic and bio-diverse, etc etc etc.
I sent my letter off to a large number of farms all over the north-east explaining my plan, and heard back from nearly all of them, which was cool. I am not going to bore you with the details of all the back and forth emails, but after a time I have narrowed the choices down to two: "Buckland Farm" outside Clearville PA and "Spence Farm" in Illinois (a friend set me up with them).
I am headed to Buckland this Saturday (Jan 21) and I am very excited about this trip. The owners seem very engaged, smart, passionate and open and they are also very excited to meet me, so I got that going for me, which is nice. I will be visiting Spence within the next week or two and then I can come to a disicion, I will obviously keep you posted...