Experiential training for intensive,
small scale organic fruit and vegetable production
Please Note: the Internship programme for the 2022/23 season is on hold.
Internships at Okiwi Passion provide individuals seriously considering small scale commercial market gardening as their future path, the opportunity to get to grips with the reality of running a diverse small farm through active involvement in every aspect of the work involved.
Being able to grow nutritious, healthy food in a mindful way which respects nature and feeds and protects the soil upon which we all depend, is a vital skill in today’s world where “agri-business” is becoming more and more mindless and de-personalised.
Growing organic food commercially is an all-encompassing skill, that you can’t just learn from books, (although there are some excellent, authentic texts being written out there now by growers who walk the walk). It involves mastering various technical skills, developing awareness and observational skills, paying attention to detail, being super organised and able to plan well ahead into the future, having lots of energy and willingness to focus and always keep learning, having a fair business sense and lots of hard work! These are skills we are constantly refining ourselves and are very keen to pass on to the next generations through our internship programmes.
Much of the learning will be experiential, but there will also be direct instruction, as required and as time permits.
An internship requires hard work, long hours and commitment.
Applicants must be at least 23 years old. Some previous gardening experience is expected.
Applications for internships will be welcome for August 2021 onwards
Interns do guided farm work 6 ½ hours per day, 5 days per week. Work days are Monday through Friday with small regular tasks that need to be done on days off (usually 1 hr per day). We will work around you so you can do some overnight hikes now and then!
Interns will have a wide range of involvement on the farm. A main focus for interns is taking responsibility for up to six crops from different plant families, learning to manage these under our guidance. This will involve propagation, soil preparation, weed, pest and disease management, training plants where necessary and harvesting.
Other activities will include seedling production, compost making, fruit tree pruning, chipping bamboo for mulch, setting up irrigation, hand watering, weeding, direct sowing by, use of various small-farm appropriate tools, packing produce boxes and assisting at our local market from time to time.
We are regularly adding to our range of small farm appropriate tools. We use a Jang seeder, tilther, Greens Harvester and our most recent investment is a Paper Pot Transplanter! We are also using Tend to plan all our farm activities – still learning!
We are developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) as part of the training and as back up to initial instruction.
Workshops and direct tuition usually take place in your free time (or on a rainy day!) At very busy times of the year work hours may increase by necessity.
Accommodation is in 2 clean, dry caravans, unheated and without power but with plenty of warm bedding. We have extra room in the house if needed and for over winter. You have free access to the house at all times to relax and make yourself at home. There is study space available in the house.
We feed you very well, with our own eggs, fruit and veg, most of our meat and all our fish is local and ethically sourced, most of our dry goods are organic too. We eat all our meals together, usually amidst lots of conversation and laughter. We have reduced the amount of sugary baking that we do, in the interests of health and waistlines! But there is PLENTY of everything else. We make our own bread and yoghurt, small tasks that wwoofers/interns are invited to help out with. One meal a week is cooked by interns.
Everyone takes turns helping out with meal prep/doing dishes.
Laundry, bathroom and toilet facilities are in the main house. Note: The entire island is off the grid, we run with a solar array and a back-up generator. We therefore have to be conscientious about use of power.
Participants will learn about some/all the following topics, as the season allows, mostly through experience on the farm through farm tasks, but also through self-study and/or direct instruction.
o soil assessment and management, including compost making, worm farming
o crop selection and planning
o crop management
o pest, disease and weed prevention and management
o plant propagation: seeds, cuttings, grafting
o harvesting + storage
o tool/machinery skills
o chicken care
Crop Studies and Practicum
Interns will take responsibility, under our guidance, for up to 6 specific crops from sowing, to soil prepping, planting, irrigation, health and pest monitoring and management, and harvesting.
The crops will be from 6 different families/product areas to spread your experience:
o Cucurbitaceae: eg cucumbers/zucchini /pumpkins/melons
o Solanaceae eg tomatoes/sweet peppers/chilli/eggplant/potatoes
o Brassicaceae eg cabbage/sprouting broccoli/kale/cauliflower/baby turnips
o Leguminaceae eg bush and climbing beans/ snow peas/ sugar snaps
o Chenopodaceae: eg chard aka silverbeet /beetroot/spinach
o Apiaceae : eg carrots/celery/ parsnips
o Herbs: eg basil/ coriander/ parsley/ chives/ garlic chives/thyme etc
o Salad greens: eg mesclun/ lettuce/escarole/ microgreens
Other long term crops such as sweet potato (kumara), strawberries, garlic, onions and shallots will also be worked with as needed.
Interns may request a signed documented record of work done to be given on completion of the internship that can be used for future endeavours running your own farm or entering employment in a like situation. Note that the climate on Great Barrier Island is subtropical to warm temperate, and experiences gained here may not all translate into what is appropriate for the area you may be planning on farming. Likewise with our soil conditions (which are glorious!)
This is a real working farm and a business, upon which we depend for our livelihood. It is also a service; being on a remote island, our customers depend on us. We have schedules to meet, customers to satisfy, seasons to be ready for. Interns must be committed, reliable and efficient. The crops don’t stop growing when the surf is up! The idea is to get each task done well but efficiently so we can get on to the next task. The “to do” lists at busy times of the year are pretty long!
Attitude is the number one quality which makes all the difference to the internship experience! It forms the difference between seeing a task as a chore that needs to be done (obligation), or a skill to be learned and mastered (choice).
Interns who get the most out of their experience have:
A positive, enthusiastic outlook. A good sense of humour. Motivation and focus.
A responsible work ethic.
Practical Ability: Most of the work on the farm is manual (driven by a bright mind!) Various techniques such as planting and seedling work need to be mastered quickly. Interns will be handling all kinds of garden tools and in some cases machinery like chippers. You must be able to learn practical skills quickly. Some previous experience in farming/gardening will be a huge advantage.
Good General Physical Fitness: Interns will be doing physical work for stretches of 2-3 hours at a time; you may be kneeling/squatting while planting/weeding; you will be harvesting and lifting crates of vegetables; standing, cleaning and processing root vegetables. As well, tasks need to be completed quickly and efficiently. That means walking (or biking) to your tasks at a smart pace! Note: If you have chronic pain/injuries this work is probably not going to be suitable for you.
Competent English Communication Skills You must be able to understand verbal instructions.
Great Listening Skills: Ability to listen and retain what has been said; instructions for the day’s work or particular tasks are usually given verbally, it is important that you listen to the detail as well as the gist. (And if you’re not clear, ask!!)
Awesome Social Skills: Interns are part of a team. There will be a lot of individual work, but we will be spending a lot of time in each other’s company! Being socially aware, considerate of others’ needs and having a good sense of humour will go a long way towards creating a harmonious atmosphere. Hypersensitivity can make for a very tense atmosphere.
Organisational Skills: in order to be more independent, you need to be able to plan and organise yourself for your work schedule. It also means things like bringing everything required to your task, not going back to and from the shed to get the things that have been left behind. It also means putting things away where they belong when you are done with them.
Ability to work with Systems Okiwi Passion is the result of a network of systems that determine almost everything we do. Think about it: the seasons, the passage of the moon, the plants themselves all work according to an orchestration of systems. Ours are far less perfect but necessary. We are developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPS) to guide many of the processes here: from collecting eggs, to harvesting zucchini’s, to using the chipper. We absolutely value innovation and ideas but interns must evaluate new ideas with us first.
Being Observant: in farming we need to pay attention to all our senses. Through sight we notice things: a fence down, rabbit droppings where they shouldn’t be, wilting seedlings, fruit ripening, knowing where the crops are! Through our ears we may hear thousands of bees buzzing loudly (a glorious sound!), the sound of a root snapping in the soil as we weed (means you have to dig deeper and get it!), a chicken making unusual cries-it may be injured. By touch we sense how damp or dry the soil is, the silkiness of ripe compost, the burning heat of the sun tells us we need to get in the shade! And smell! Well! Nothing like the perfume of a perfectly ripe rock melon, and the earthy smell of ripe compost. NOTE: We strongly discourage wearing of headphones while working and ask interns tune in instead to the farm.
Perseverance: Be realistic! Farming involves a lot of hard work, often repetitive and monotonous. (Think of planting 1200 lettuces, and hoeing them several days later, or harvesting beans for hours at a time!) Fortunately we are a very diverse farm so you will not be meeting entire fields of the same crop. We try to break the days up into 2-3 chunks of work so you aren’t doing the same task for hours on end, but sometimes that’s the way it has to be. It may often be very hot, wet, cold, uncomfortable. Be sure that this is for you! Will the reward of the experience, the learning, the harvest and a crop well grown be enough?
Inner Self-Sufficiency: Great Barrier is pretty isolated – you will be part of a small community, spend a great deal of time with just the team (and the dogs!), with some internet access. While it is important we all get on well, it is also important to create breaks away for yourself – and for each other – so get out there and enjoy the gorgeous surroundings in your free time.
Dog Friendly: We have two friendly dogs, who go everywhere with us and love a pat!
Healthy: Gerald had a kidney transplant in December 2014 after 5 1/2 years of dialysis. As his immune system is suppressed it is important that he avoids contact with contagious sickness! Please do not ask to come if you have a contagious illness!
Smoking, Alcohol and Drugs
No smoking nor use of marijuana or any other drugs allowed on the property.
We share a bottle of wine or some beer now and then with our interns, if you would like to have a drink more often than what we provide, it is up to you to buy your own alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption is strongly discouraged.
We have cell phone coverage for Vodaphone (best) and 2 Degrees only. We prefer interns to supply their own data on their phone. If you have a computer, we do provide access to wifi internet in the main house for low-data use. There is also a free WiFi hotspot at the Claris airport.
Great Barrier is a very beautiful place which suits people who enjoy nature. Sixty percent of the land on GBI is regenerating forest under DOC management, and the topography is dramatic. The Island has just been declared the 3rd Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world! There are lots of hiking and camping opportunities. Our property is situated on the east coast of the island, at the edge of the Whangapoua estuary, which runs out to the pristine Whangapoua Beach and then out to the Pacific Ocean, so opportunities for birdwatching (many rare or endangered species), kayaking, fishing and swimming abound.
We only have a small population of 900 people. There are no traffic lights!
The Hillary Outdoors Centre is located nearby and has opportunities for all kinds of outdoor pursuits. There are yoga classes offered at different locations on the island. We can also organise flax weaving workshops with a local Maori tutor.
We rely on solar energy as well as a generator. No television, nor much local entertainment like movies etc (but we can watch DVD’s on the computer) so our life is quiet and simple. We have a great library of books on horticulture and organic production, plus a wide range of novels and other reading material, and lots of board games.
Pastoral Care for Interns
It is vital that any issues or grievances are dealt with as soon as they arise, it saves a lot of unnecessary emotional turmoil and stress! We are all human, and is natural that occasionally there will be difficult times. Most things can be worked out, but if not dealt with early on, small things can evolve into the “storm in a teacup”.
We will schedule one to one check in meetings with each intern for pastoral care and to give/receive constructive feedback .
There will be an option for interns to withdraw from the internship within the first month if it proves that expectations are not met after all attempts at negotiation fail, and likewise for us to terminate an internship if any intern should prove to fall far short of the mark in terms of our expectations, after all reasonable attempts at feedback and open discussion fail.
Fantastic! Next steps:
- Complete the application
- Send two character/work references
- Shortlisted applicants will be contacted to complete a Skype interview