This is a basic overview of our farm operations and job requirements.
Job Description and Qualifications
At Red Wagon we try to find enthusiastic, motivated, hard-working, dedicated help. Attitude is everything. We need people who can bring a positive attitude to our farm.
Previous farm experience is preferred but not required. However, if you do have previous experience, you need to realize that we probably have a different way of doing things on our farm than your previous experience and you need to be open to trying things a different way.
What follows is a general overview of our farm season; after this you can read specific qualifications for the different jobs we are looking to fill.
We are looking for people who can work quickly and efficiently, but who are also careful and able to follow directions. It is essential that you can work well with others and also independently. The work is physically demanding (you must be able to lift at least 50 lbs multiple times every day) and attention to detail is critical. We have a strong emphasis on quality at Red Wagon and you must be able to help us maintain this high level of quality.
Work varies with the season but can often be repetitive. (Can you pick peas, clean garlic, or dig weeds for an entire day?) You must also be punctual and be able to work in all weather conditions. Be prepared for rain, hail, snow, intense sun, wind, cold and heat—every day of the summer!
You must also be mature enough to come to work well-rested and not hung-over. If you are not a morning person, a farm job is probably not for you. We try to pay our workers fairly and in return we expect people to work hard and be committed to the farm. This is very different from a traditional job and you must realize that the farm has demands that are sometimes out of our control (for example, we may have to work into the evening in order to get transplants into the ground or work on the weekend to get pumpkins harvested before a hard freeze.)
Types of Farm Work
All of the following are important tasks on the farm. To the extent that you are suited to each of these tasks, you may be asked to participate in:
- Harvesting (All harvesting is done by hand)
- Wash area work (washing, bunching, quality control, packing)
- Thinning (beets, carrots, etc.)
- CSA pickup
- Restaurant orders (harvest, clean, and pack orders, then deliver to area restaurants)
- Planting (transplanting with water-wheel transplanter, hand transplanting, planting with Planet Jr and Earthway seeders as well as hand seeding)
- Irrigation set-up (drip tape and overhead sprinklers)
- Trellising (mainly tomatoes)
- Cultivating (tractor cultivation, wheel hoes, stirrup hoes, linear hoes, hand weeding, thinning)
This is our weekly harvest schedule. Harvest days start at 6 am beginning in the middle of May. At the beginning and end of the season it is too cold and dark to start this early, so we move the start time later. After each day’s harvest is complete, we move on to other field tasks. We are usually done by 3 pm, but our days sometimes run longer depending on the needs of the farm.
- Monday: Harvest for CSA pickup in the morning; wash area and field work in the afternoon.
- Tuesday: Harvest for CSA pickup and restaurants in the morning; wash area and field work in the afternoon.
- Wednesday: Harvest for CSA pickup in the morning; wash area and field work in the afternoon.
- Thursday: Harvest for CSA pickup in the morning; wash area and field work in the afternoon.
- Friday: Friday is a big harvest day with large restaurant orders. This is a long day and can sometimes go longer than 3:30.
- Saturday/Sunday: Most people do not work on the farm on the weekend. However, some people do choose to work on the weekends to do field work or to harvest if they are trying to work extra hours.
Most employees will work from mid-April through early November. Some of the managers or other key staff will begin in March. Hours will change as the season progresses, but work generally begins at sunrise.
March: In mid-March we plant our first planting of lettuce, spinach, braising mix, peas, etc. at the farm. Hoophouse production at our 63rd Street location will be in full swing and some crew members will be involved in crops at that farm. Others will also have the opportunity to begin seeding our trays for all the summer crops. We do not have many employees in March, and usually give these hours to returning staff.
April: We start working regular hours depending on weather. We begin the season with about 10 workers in early April. The challenge of April is to plant many crops while taking care of all the emerging seedlings. April is a light harvest month which allows us to focus on planting and weeding.
May: In May we begin harvesting many of the crops planted in March and April. Our CSA starts at the end of May and our restaurant deliveries start to ramp up throughout the month.
The middle of May is the start of the extremely busy and important planting season. All of the summer crops need to be planted between May 15th and June 10th. This means harvesting daily while planting constantly. More than ten acres need to be transformed from bare soil to irrigated, growing plants in 25 days.
June: In June the harvest increases. We start picking sugar snap peas (which can be very tiring) as well as all the spring greens and we are harvesting 5 days a week. We commonly harvest 20 plus items in a day. It is a struggle to ensure that everything gets done and nothing is forgotten. Most crops have been planted by early June and the focus is on harvesting, weeding, and irrigating.
July: By July most crops are planted and need to be maintained. We will continue to harvest for CSA and restaurants. We will also have a lot of weeding to do, which can be unpleasant in the July heat. By mid-July it feels like you have run a marathon, but you have just arrived at the starting line.
August: In August more new crops are ripening every day. Summer squash and cucumbers are prolific. Melons and tomatoes begin to ripen. By the end of August the amount we harvest is overwhelming. We are no longer harvesting as many greens with the heat of the summer and this means that we do not spend as much time washing vegetables after harvesting. Instead we spend much more time out in the field picking green beans, cherry tomatoes, etc. In mid-August more greens are planted for the fall. They need to be weeded as we keep up with harvesting.
All the months earlier in the season are used to train people for August, when the race really begins. The farm is at peak production for the next few months. We need to harvest and sell all the crops that we planted and took care of earlier in the season.
September: September days can still be hot, but with the shortening day length and cooler nights our crop diversity peaks. All the summer crops are trying to ripen before the frost, while cooler weather crops make a reappearance and traditional fall crops like winter squash start to come out of the field. We will harvest thousands of pounds of winter squash for the fall during the month of September, as well as move thousands of pounds of pumpkins in preparation for our pumpkin patch opening. We continue to plant and weed successions of greens for the fall. The first light frost usually comes on the 15th of September. The basil dies and so do the cucumbers and summer squash. By now most workers are bone tired, but we still have one more really busy month left.
October: Our pumpkin patch opens by October 1st and is open for the entire month. The last CSA day is in the middle of October. The last day for the pumpkin patch is October 31st.
October comes, and the days get shorter and we have less daylight to work. We work hard to harvest everything with the reduced amount of daylight. We continue to harvest 5 days a week. We harvest thousands of pounds of root crops to put into storage and sell to restaurants over the winter.
The end of our CSA pickups in late October means that we have a little more time for cleanup and other fieldwork like planting our overwintered garlic and shallots.
November: Most employees will work until the first or second week in November. A few employees will work until the week of Thanksgiving. We still harvest for restaurants throughout the month. We also have to pull plastic mulch and drip tape out of the field, and put away the rest of the irrigation, tools, and implements. The end of the season clean up and breakdown are significant.
During our entire season there is always something to do, and usually too much to do. We have never gotten everything done. Every day is an important day. If that day’s work is not done it becomes hard to catch up. Crops get lost to the weeds if we are not careful. Our success and ability to farm from year to year rests on having hard workers. I (Wyatt) work about 60-80 hours a week. Most the farm workers work 40-50 hours throughout much of the season.
CSA pickups are managed by our CSA coordinator. We get to our CSA pickups at 3 pm to unload the truck and set up. CSA members pick up from 4 to 7 pm. At the end of CSA, the truck needs to be reloaded and everything packed away. CSA is usually finished by 7 or 7:15pm.
We often hire people who would like to make a career of farming, either as a farm manager or on their own farm. A few previous Red Wagon employees have gone on to start or run farms of their own. We are happy to show you as much as we can about how our farm works so you can apply it to your future farming business or so you can have a successful career as a farm manager.
Learning how to start a farm is very difficult and one of our goals is to produce a few farmers with new farms of their own. We have minimal infrastructure but have worked around this and focused on our strengths. We also have two modern tractors and modern tractor implements. As farm owners, we did not live on our farm site for the first six years. In 2010 we moved to one of our farms. Our employees do not live on the farm as we do not have any housing available and camping or tiny homes are not an option.
Much of farming is best learned by observation. A lot of farming is in knowing what things to do when during a season and learning to fit all the pieces together. Working on a farm with existing systems gives you a starting point for production techniques. Our way is not the only way, but it works for us. We grow a diversity of crops which will give each employee a basic familiarity with many crops. You will learn about each crop and how it grows, what it should look like and often, how to prepare it. The learning is slow but by the end of a season you will have absorbed a lot. You will have experienced how hard farming is and will have a feel for what needs to be done when during the season.
In the past we have shared any information with employees who have expressed an interest. This includes planting dates, varieties grown, financial information, etc. We have also encouraged our employees to participate in the planning and management aspects of the farm. We love farming, being outdoors, and growing vegetables. Some of the challenging parts are the planning, record keeping, bookkeeping, and marketing. However, these are essential skills that are critical to the success of a farm.
We have many demands on our time during the farm season and need to be aware of where we put our energy. We enjoy getting to know our employees, CSA members, and restaurant customers. However, we view our farm as a business, not an educational outreach center. We have found that it does not work for us to have volunteers at the farm. We have found that it is too distracting to have visitors and volunteers at the farm during the work day.
We know that each employee has a personal life outside of the farm. At the same time, farming takes dedication to the job that is often not required at other jobs. Farming is all-consuming and does not allow for much of a social life or other recreational activity during the farm season. Staying out late at night with friends and only getting 3 or 4 hours of sleep is not compatible with a farming lifestyle. Trying to have an active social life by going out on a regular basis will exhaust you to a point where your work suffers.
The season is long and brutal and very few people have experienced physical work like this. Managing your life so you have fun in moderation is important. You must make sure to get enough rest or by the end you will not be able to go on. Workdays are often over by 4 pm which should allow time to do all of your personal things. Cooking a good meal and resting will often be your best option to prepare for the next day.
There is no smoking at the farm and drug use on the farm will be grounds for dismissal.
We do not have employee housing or camping available.
Much of our communication at the farm occurs via cell phone, therefore you will need a working cell phone to communicate with managers and coworkers throughout the day.
Our season runs from April into early November and we need people who are willing to commit to the entire season.
Employees should be allowed to take one week off during the season, but we cannot accommodate time off from August 15 through the end of September due to the increased level of work at the farm during this time.
Click here to go to our application.