PEAS Farm Internship (ENST 396/590)

Growing Healthy Food for College Credit

2-6 credits
Offered every semester

Instructor: Josh Slotnick

Students will get their hands dirty in every facet of the University of Montana’s 10 acre PEAS farm, sowing seeds, transplanting, irrigating, and harvesting for our 100-member CSA.  We also custom grow tens-of-thousands of pounds of produce for the Missoula Food Bank, the WIC program, and a mobile market for seniors.

As a PEAS student you will learn about  propagation in the greenhouse, season extension, transplanting, direct seeding, farm planning, use of cover crops, harvest and post-harvest care of a diversity of vegetable crops, drip- and overhead-irrigation, tractor implements, hand and mechanical cultivation, composting, weeds and pests, CSA management and distribution, orchard care, and more. You will also learn to cook for the class and to collaborate with many other Missoula community groups. Most importantly, you will help form a lasting community that will make the farm go.

The farm provides a transformative experience for a small group of Missoula youth each season, and hosts thousands of school kids on field trips. As a PEAS student you will be involved in all phases of the farm, from greenhouse work in February to selling pumpkins in October. Most students report that the summer season at the Rattlesnake Farm is the most enriching experience they have ever had. After a summer of spending 20 hours a week together working and learning on the farm, PEAS students are bonded to each other and to the place.

Farm work is humble hand labor and this kind of shared experience in a beautiful place melts the barriers that typically separate people. The tangible results create a feeling of personal effectiveness many students have never before experienced. The knowledge that your efforts have made a real difference in others' lives and the rich sense of community you will experience may set you on a new path. 


Semesters (Sessions)

Fall Semester

Work on the farm will begin immediately after school starts and continues through Halloween. Until the first frost, much of the student work will focus on harvesting and setting up the food for pick-up by the public at our barn. These harvests supply our Community Supported Agriculture cooperative as well as the Missoula Food Bank. We will share weekend watering responsibilities for the field and the greenhouse.

Spring Semester

Work on the farm begins in late February. We work in the greenhouse until the ground thaws and the soil is tillable. In the greenhouse we make potting mixes, sow seeds, transplant and learning about greenhouse plant maintenance, such as building planting flats and greenhouse benches. As the weather warms and we work outside, we will learn about springtime biological and horticultural issues pertinent to raising produce, herbs and flowers. We will consider fertility and soil health, weed management, preventative as well as curative pest control, and farm planning. We will share weekend watering responsibilities for the field and the greenhouse.

Summer Session

The summer program is the heart of PEAS. The formal portion of Summer PEAS focuses on Agro-ecology. Agro-ecology means considering a production oriented system from the vantage point of ecology. Students will examine crucial biological production issues such as soil fertility, weed management, crop physiology, and pest management in light of the health of the whole system. As the season progresses students will assume more of the decision-making responsibility at the farm. Throughout the season students will manage the irrigation on the weekends. By August, students will know the major vegetable crop families and understand their culture. They will be familiar with common techniques for building soil, managing weeds and dealing with the pest populations we have here. Students will also gain an appreciation for the tight western Montana growing season and learn some strategies to work within those limits.

Summer Weekly Schedule
  • Monday-Thursday the days run from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm, then we eat lunch together, from the food we’ve been growing (we take turns cooking, in pairs).
  • On Fridays we have a sit-down class and then go on a field trip to farm in the area.

Out-of-State Applicants

  • We know students from other states or countries may not be able to come right away or stay until late August, so we can be flexible about arrival and departure dates.
  • We can provide a syllabus and a letter to your school if you wish to transfer the credits you earn here.
  • Registration information (select “Summer Semester Only Admission Status”)
  • For any questions about housing, credits, curriculum, or arrival/departure dates don’t hesitate to contact Joshua.slotnick@umontana.edu.

Partnerships

Amazing Community Partnerships through the PEAS program, the UM has created valuable and unique partnerships with the community.

  • Garden City Harvest: GCH works with PEAS to manage the farm and a community supported agriculture program. CSA members buy seasonal shares of the farm's produce, which helps to fund some basic farm operating costs.
  • Missoula Food Bank, where most of the farm's production goes to provide high quality food to low-income people.
  • Local government also plays a role because the farm is sub-leased from the School District, which leases the land from the City of Missoula.

Other partners include the Poverello Center (a homeless shelter and soup kitchen), the Salvation Army, the UM Noxious Weed Program, several community youth programs, and some area schools.