Moreover, when sustained community spread of coronavirus became obvious in March, we rapidly reconfigured our entire operations to provide heightened levels of people safety as well as food safety. For example, we re-engineered all workflows in the farms to ensure social distancing protocols, resulting in much smaller teams on our facilities at any one time. We also immediately had all Next-Gen Farmers work from home.
From there, our team quickly spun up an e-learning platform to accelerate the delivery of key elements of the Training Program online, and in contactless ways. Thanks to these efforts, by the end of May, the current cohorts of Next-Gen Farmers will have received almost 100% of the supplemental training planned for a full 12-month program. From the start of their Program through to March, they would have also logged somewhere between 700 hours (Grand Rapids) and 1,000 hours (Brooklyn) in the farms. So yes, bringing forward the end-date of the Program means that our current crop of Next-Gen Farmers are now taking their next career steps a little earlier than planned. But we’re extremely confident that they have gained the skills to not only succeed but to excel in a variety of roles across the industry.
Clearly however the job market is not what it was 8 weeks ago. And even though we’re happy to be exceeding our own targets by offering permanent roles to 72% of this year’s (early) graduates, it does mean that six Next-Gen Farmers—all in New York—are now looking for new roles at a difficult time.
Square Roots is committed to providing additional support to this group of talented, newly trained farmers. Firstly, we will ensure they will not be financially disadvantaged between now and when their program was originally scheduled to end in October. Also, as they are searching for their next career steps, we will offer resume support, facilitate networking, and make all the introductions we can to help connect them with other companies in our sphere who are hiring.
If you are a farm manager, looking for trained team members with passion, experience, and love for local food, then please reach out to me directly at [email protected]
So what about the future of the Next-Gen Farmer Training Program? Obviously it’s core to who we are, and why we do what we do. Thousands of people apply! At the same time, we’re planning for a foreseeable-future that includes some form of social distancing to ensure continued people-safety. Our mission remains the same: to bring local, real food to people in cities across the world while empowering the next generation of leaders in urban farming. But how we do it, like a lot of things in the post-COVID world, is likely going to look a little different.
As a result, we’ve been busy rewiring our training model: refocusing the extensive curriculum we’ve developed to better support training new farmers one-on-one rather than in large cohorts; and to deliver much more sophisticated training online. We’ve been beta-testing this approach for the last several weeks, and are confident it will deliver an even better experience for all future new farmers we will train—even if the “group setting” paradigm of our current Program seems unlikely to return anytime soon.
So, if you are interested in being a future Next-Gen Farmer—if you want to play your role to help us forge a new food system that is distributed, transparent, sustainable, resilient, and one that makes delicious, nutritious, local food available to everyone, safely—then be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media. There, we’ll keep you up to date on all future opportunities at Square Roots, including the next Next-Gen Farmer openings.
In the meantime, stay safe!
Square Roots CEO