Employer advice from Vilicus Farms

Vilicus Farms

Today’s employer advice (plus an invitation to collaborate) is from Anna Jones-Crabtree of Vilicus Farms.

Q: Tell us about your organization.

Vilicus Farms is a nationally recognized first generation, organic, dryland crop farm in Northern Hill County, Montana. Owned and operated by Doug Crabtree and Anna Jones-Crabtree, Vilicus Farms grows a diverse array of organic heirloom and specialty crops. Vilicus Farm’s cropping practices focus on soil-building and carbon sequestration, pollinator friendly conservation tactics, and minimum disturbance tillage practices. With a 5-7 year crop rotation, 26% of managed land in permanent pollinator friendly conservation, and over 20 unique crops grown annually, Vilicus Farms strives to promote diversity and resilience across its landscape. Anna and Doug are committed to championing organic agricultural land stewardship on a scale that matters, as well as developing a community of like-minded farmers who share their vision. Vilicus Farms launched a beginning organic farmer apprenticeship program in 2013 to support the establishment of new farmers on the Northern Great Plains. Since 2009, Vilicus Farms has grown from a 1,280-acre organic farm to a 12,500-acre organic farming operation focused on cultivating a conservation-based ethic for sustainable food production while also training beginning farmers on Montana’s Northern Great Plains.

Q: What advice would you give to people in midlife who want to transition to a green job?

Be creative, don’t give up and learn, learn, learn all you can about the direction you want to go. The opportunities for mid-life career pivots into agriculture are tremendous. Seek out others who are doing the work you are interested in and find opportunities to learn from them. While many younger people dream of an agrarian life, they don’t have the experience of sticking to things when times are challenging, nor are they well resourced. We started our farm at the age of 40 and it’s been a journey worth taking. Our other work experiences in managing projects, pulling together teams, and handling business functions have all been very applicable. We have often said it’s easier to teach someone who has an organic mindset how to farm than it is to teach someone already in farming to hold an organic mindset.

Q: What are the skills that you believe will be required most in the short-medium term in your industry?

The ability to work as team, think wholistically and synergistically, and be resilient to changing conditions is critical. The world is starting to wake up about how we grow our food and the connection with how we take care of the land. That means the ability to be able to form nontraditional partnerships with others not in agriculture but who care is going to be critical. Less than 1% of our agriculture land is managed organically. There is also less than 1% of us making a living in production agriculture. You have to be ok with being different but if you have an entrepreneurial bent, there are unlimited opportunities.

Opportunities with Vilicus

If you are interested in having an ownership stake in growing community and biodiversity on the rural Northern Great Plains please contact Anna@vilicusfarms.com. Opportunities to synergistical work with us are endless. Our current skill needs include: Farm Field Maintenance & Equipment Repair Specialist, Assistance Manager for Crop Operations, Value-Added Enterprises Manager, Land Stewardship & Conservation Manager, and Artist & Scientist in Residence Program Manager.

A further possible avenue of inclusion is the Vilicus Farms CSSA, which adds a twist to the successful history of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA’s). Rather than pre-purchasing and receiving a share of farm produce, with a CSSA you purchase a share that supports the land stewardship work across the 12,508 acres of Vilicus Farms.

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