Small farm internships due to expire

Legislation authorized in 2010 that gave Skagit and San Juan counties ability to take on farm interns is due to sunset Dec. 31.

The Small Farm Internship Pilot Program, the first of its kind in the nation, creates a legal structure in which farmers could take on interns, who could have an opportunity to learn from experienced growers.

The state legislature authorized the pilot project after hearing concerns that farms weren’t following applicable labor laws for interns and that there were few opportunities for inexperienced people to learn hands-on farming practices.

Interns work for room, board and a stipend, and the non-standard compensation arrangement is not subject to minimum wage — but workers are covered by state Labor and Industries.

Local farms that participated in the program this year are: Synergy Farm, Sweet Earth Farm and Maple Rock Farm.

The state lawmakers will decide whether to extend the program as part of its regular 60-day session, which begins Jan. 9.