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 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 fill walls-o-water 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 to get everything ready on Friday for the Saturday market.)
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:
- 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)
- Thinning (beets, carrots, etc.)
- Trellising (mainly tomatoes)
- Cultivating (tractor cultivation, wheel hoes, stirrup hoes, linear hoes, hand weeding, thinning)
- Harvesting (All harvesting is done by hand)
- Wash area work (washing, bunching, quality control, packing)
- CSA pickup
- Farmers’ market
- Restaurant orders (harvest, clean, and pack orders, then deliver to area restaurants)
This is our weekly harvest schedule. Harvest days start at 5:30am on Friday and 6 am every other day 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 3:30pm except for Fridays, which run longer.
- Monday: We harvest for our Google CSA pickup.
- Tuesday: We harvest for our North Boulder CSA and for restaurants.
- Wednesday: This is a critical work day at the farm. The may be some harvesting for restaurants. But we mostly focus on tending to our crops on Wednesday.
- Thursday: We harvest for our East Boulder CSA pickup.
- Friday: Friday is our biggest harvest day with large restaurant orders and harvesting for the Saturday farmers’ market. This is a very long day and can sometimes go from 5:30am to 8pm. We try to finish work by 4:30pm, but the entire crew is required to stay until everything is finished and ready for market. You should not expect to make plans for after work Friday night.
- 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.
Employees will work from March or April into October or possibly November. Hours will change as the season progresses.
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 planting small fruits and other crops at that farm. Others will also have the opportunity to go to a greenhouse 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: The Saturday farmers’ market starts at the beginning of April, and we start working regular hours depending on weather and how much there is to do. We begin the season with 10-15 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 several times a week while planting in every spare moment, sometimes until late in the evening. Five acres of pumpkins and thousands of vegetable transplants need to be put in the ground during this time. 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 brutal) 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 weeding, watering and harvesting.
July: By July most crops are planted and need to be maintained. We will still continue to harvest for market, CSA, and restaurants. We will also have a lot of weeding to do, which can be really 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 try to 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 all the crops (like tomatoes and peppers) that we planted and took care of earlier in the season.
September: September days can still be really 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 14th 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 farm stand is October 31st.
October comes and the days get shorter and we have less daylight to work. The number of hours worked is less but it feels the same to tired bodies. It is also a struggle to harvest everything with the reduced number of daylight hours. We continue to harvest 5 days a week. We try to bring as much as we can to each Saturday market so we can sell all the food we have left in the field before the end of the season.
The end of our CSA means that we have a little more time for cleanup and other fieldwork like planting our overwintered garlic and shallots. Some employees will end work at the farm in mid to late October.
November: The last Saturday farmers’ market is in mid-November. We have work for some employees up until the week of Thanksgiving. We still do some harvesting 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 and tools and implements.
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 80 hours a week. Most the farm workers work 40-50 hours and managers work 60-70 hours throughout much of the season.
Farmers’ Market and CSA
For many of our new hires, we will request that you make yourself available to work at least two Saturday markets each month. We will pass out a sign-up sheet for each month but cannot guarantee that you will be scheduled to work shifts you sign up for: we may not have enough shifts for everyone who wants to work but we need to be sure we’ll have enough people to cover our staffing needs.
A typical Saturday market day starts off at 6 am in downtown Boulder. The market crew meets to unload our box truck and any other vehicles of product we bring to market. It’s important to work quickly and efficiently, and to follow procedures that we repeat each week. We usually barely have enough time to get ready for the market opening at 8am. Throughout market you will remain busy bagging, stocking, cashiering, organizing, or doing a crazy combination of all these things based on your experience level at market. We work hard to keep our stand stocked until the end of the selling period; after this we clean up and load our vehicles and typically leave downtown Boulder at around 3:30 pm.
Our CSA pickups are similar to market but not quite as complicated, and are managed by our CSA Coordinator. 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 number of 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.
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 are relatively new to farming ourselves, having been in this business since 2004. We have minimal infrastructure but have worked around this and focused on our strengths. Our farm has been incredibly productive with little more than some land and a tractor. We do not have greenhouses. In 2010 we finally got some refrigeration. In 2011 we built our first hoophouse. We also have two new 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.
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. We try to give employees who are interested some tractor experience. All employees who want to work some farmers’ markets will get the chance. Learning how to do markets well is an important part of market farming.
In the past we have shared any information with employees who have expressed an interest. This includes planting dates, varieties grown, financial information, etc. The financial information could be especially helpful to employees who are working on budgets to begin their own farms. Farm finance is a critical part of learning to farm. 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 participated in the Boulder County Extension “Building Farmers” Program (a local program to train new farmers) on several levels. Amy has been part of the steering committee for two years. We have presented as farmers at it several times and have attended the class twice. We have been mentors in the mentorship program part. We know how hard starting up is and do want to offer encouragement to other new farmers.
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 market and farm stand 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 do have a volunteer program for people who can commit to working every Tuesday morning and this program can occasionally accommodate additional participants. Anyone interested in this opportunity should contact our Volunteer Coordinator Mo McKenna.
We have more than twenty workers who will get to know each other well and work together every day; therefore it is critical that you can work well with and enjoy the company of a variety of other people.
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. We cannot have people leave work early on Friday for any reason. Do not expect to go camping every weekend. We have had many people try these things and it has not worked. 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 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 and sufficient minutes to communicate with managers and coworkers throughout the day.
Our season runs from the beginning of April into early November and we need people who are willing to commit to the entire season. There will be a two-week trial period at the beginning of employment. If both employer and employee agree to continue the work arrangement after this two week period, the employee will sign a contract to commit to the rest of the farm season.
Employees will be allowed to take one week off during the season, but we cannot accommodate time off during August or September due to the increased level of work at the farm during this time. Fridays are also a mandatory day at the farm because this is our busiest harvest day. We expect everyone to work Fridays and not miss more than one Friday each season.
If you’re interested in working at Red Wagon, please respond by e-mail with the information requested below. We are looking for people who are thorough and follow directions. Please keep this in mind when responding.
- Phone # (preferably a cell phone number)
- Please attach your resume if you have one.
- Availability (dates, days, times)
- Past job experience including any agricultural experience
- Position(s) you are interested in
- Why do you want to work at Red Wagon?
- We recommend that you live within 30 minutes of the farm. Do you live within 30 minutes of the farm? If not, what are your relocation plans? (Do you have a place to live? Do you have the finances to relocate?)
- After reading the job description, what makes you think you would be a good fit at Red Wagon? What do you think you would contribute to our farm?
- What is your past management experience? (Manager and Coordinator positions only)
- What are your goals in agriculture?
- Will you be able to commit to the entire farm season? We need people who can stay until the end of the season. Unfortunately we cannot hire people who need to leave or cut back on hours in August or September due to school or other commitments.
- Can you work long, hard hours and still have a good attitude?
- Are you able to work outside in all weather conditions?
- Do you have anything we should know about that would prevent you from doing physical work? Are you able to lift 50 pounds?
- Do you have a valid driver’s license and a good driving record? If not please explain. We have numerous farm vehicles that some of our employees need to be able to operate.
- Do you have reliable transportation?
We need workers with their own reliable vehicles due to the demands of the job. Our farms are 15 minutes east and 20 minutes north of downtown Boulder. The farms are about 20 minutes away from each other and you may have to drive from one farm to the other during the day. Also, you cannot plan to carpool with other employees because work schedules often vary.
- Please provide three professional references with a description of your relationship with the people you list.
- Tell us anything else you care to share about yourself.
Send all applications to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for your interest in Red Wagon Farm!