NOVATO - California's Division of Apprenticeship Standards 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. John Duncan, the department's director gave official approval of the program 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 Mr. 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's 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!"

Marin County has 23 registered organic producers that farm 810 acres of land.

"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.