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News & Notes

We Dig This Crew

The Hudson Valley Apprenticeship program provides education and support to ten apprentices across the Hudson Valley. Previous posts have introduced apprentices Sophia at Four Corners Community Farm, Melissa and Janine at Phillies Bridge Farm Project, Eric at Stonewood Farm, and Betty and Kanav at Ecological Citizen’s Project. 

In our final spotlight on participating HVA farm apprentices, we have the incredible team at Dig Acres in Chester, NY. 

While some HVA apprentices have come from places far and wide, James, Nicole, and Erica are all almost locals, coming respectively from neighboring southern NY State counties of Westchester, Rockland, and Orange. They’ve spent the season farming in the muck soils or black dirt of the Chester Agricultural Center, where Dig Acres is based. After a great season together – thanks in no small part to their farm mentor Larry Tse, head farmer at Dig – they’re all considering digging in a little deeper next season. 

Read on to learn more about James, Nicole, and Erica, whom we’ve had the pleasure of learning with and from this season. 

James Rapp (he/him)

“I began farming to deepen my connection with the natural world and to better understand how organic food is responsibly grown.”

James is originally from New Rochelle, New York. After years working in other sectors, and lots of time spent in and around the city, this is James’s first season in farming, which he says is unlike any other job he’s had. When he’s not farming or lounging on straw bales, he loves to play music and swim. 

Where were you one year ago today? I was working as a preschool music/art teacher in New York City. I also was tending to a small garden in Westchester, New York.

Do you have plans for next season? I plan to return to Dig Acres for my second season of farming with Larry and crew!

(How) has this apprenticeship influenced what you plan to do next? The apprentice program has been such a great experience! It allowed me to network and bond with new farmers and I picked up on a lot of foundational skills from the workshops. 

Nicole Bard (she/her)

“I started farming in the early pandemic days, when I wanted a job that would combine my love of plants and growing vegetables – and get me out of the house!”

Originally from Rockland County, NY, Nicole started farming in the early pandemic days. She has been farming – first in New York, later in Michigan – ever since. Nicole loves farming, as she’ll tell you with a wide, warm smile on her face if she gets the chance, and dreams of starting her own flower operation. When not farming, Nicole loves baking challah or chocolate chip cookies, taking pictures of cute vegetables and flowers, and spending time with family.

Where were you one year ago today? A year ago I was out in Novi, Michigan heading into the last month of my second farming apprenticeship through Michigan State University Extension. (I was also finally realizing I was a NY girl ready to come back home.) 

Do you have plans for next season? Next season I will be back again at DIG Acres as a Field Manager! I am also starting a flower farm through the DIG Incubator program which I am very excited about. 

(How) has this apprenticeship influenced what you intend to do next? This apprenticeship introduced me to farming in 2020 and showed me a career path that I feel so connected to. I love working for DIG and with this crew, and am very lucky to have Larry Tse as a mentor to help guide me along my farming career. I am looking forward to staying in Chester, NY and continuing to establish my roots here in the Black Dirt! 

Erica Reidy (she/her)

“This apprenticeship has completely changed the direction of my life.”

Erica grew up in Cornwall, NY and attended SUNY New Paltz, from which she graduated with a degree in sociology just before joining Dig for her first season of farming. She loves being out in nature, meeting new people and playing guitar with friends. 

Where were you one year ago today? A year ago today I was still in school at SUNY New Paltz, studying sociology. I was working in a warehouse for Calvin Klein and as a nanny.

Do you have plans for next season? Next season I hope to still work at Dig. I want to start growing mushrooms and I will have the space to do so next season! 

(How) has this apprenticeship influenced what you plan to do next? This apprenticeship has completely changed the direction of my life. I never planned to be a farmer. I actually had no interest in farming vegetables (only in mushrooms) but the job opportunity felt right and now I love farming! 

Join us in celebrating all that our apprentices have learned this year, and the ways in which their experience has enriched and informed this pilot year of the Hudson Valley Apprenticeship. As we look ahead to planning for year two of the HVA, we will continue to support this amazing group of 2022 apprentices as they navigate decisions around their futures in farming.