California's Division of Apprenticeship Standards (DAS) has partnered with College of Marin and Fresh Run Farm to offer students the nation's first-of-its-kind apprenticeship program for organic farming. Participating students will learn progressive, responsible farming practices including landscape ecology, composting and fertility management. In addition, students will learn the business side of farming with coursework in marketing and certifications.

The Organic Farming and Gardening Apprenticeship Program is the latest of 611 active apprenticeship programs recognized in California by DAS, a division of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). DIR's Director, John C. Duncan, gave official approval of the program today during a signing ceremony at College of Marin's Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden.

"The Organic Farming and Gardening Apprenticeship Program will be a model program in sustainable food production," said DIR Director Duncan. "We realize there are particular challenges organic farmers face, and the organic apprenticeship program will benefit this niche industry and support the continued growth of organic farming by providing valuable training to future farmers about sustainable, local food systems."

The apprenticeship program includes 1,800 hours of hands-on paid training at Fresh Run Farm in Bolinas and 11 courses of related instruction provided by College of Marin. Students will be able to complete the program in two years or less.

"The College of Marin's Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden represents the values of Marin County—the 3 E's of sustainability—the environment, the economy and social equity," said College of Marin Superintendent and President Dr. David Wain Coon. "The farm promotes a healthy environment, strong local economy, and helps achieve social equity through education. This partnership is truly something to celebrate!"

The organic farming industry is the fastest growing sector in agriculture. Marin County alone boasts of 23 registered organic producers that farm 810 acres of land. Nearly all row crops grown in Marin today are certified organic.

"Many of us make the claim that our most important crops are new organic farmers and this program is a really great way to stand behind that claim," said Fresh Run Farm Owner and Operator Peter Martinelli. "There are so many younger people today looking for these opportunities and it is important that we provide them with a clear, legitimate path to entering the industry."

The Division of Apprenticeship Standards (www.dir.ca.gov/das/das.html) creates opportunities for Californians to gain employable lifetime skills and provides employers with a skilled workforce by administering California apprenticeship law and enforcing apprenticeship standards for wages, hours and working conditions. DAS promotes apprenticeship training through creation of partnerships and monitors programs to ensure high standards for on-the-job training and supplemental classroom instruction.

The College of Marin's (www.marin.edu) Indian Valley Organic Farm & Garden is a 5.8-acre demonstration farm and garden that serves as a valuable hands-on learning laboratory and workforce development center. The Farm is a partnership of the Conservation Corps North Bay, the University of California Cooperative Extension and the College of Marin.

Fresh Run Farm is 22.5 acres of certified organic crop land located on Paradise Valley Ranch on the Bolinas Peninsula. Fresh Run is one of four organic farms which comprise the historic Pine Gulch farming district, one of the Bay Area's first production zones once known for dairy products and apples among many farm products.