New Agrarian Voices

Learn about the impressions and experiences of each year's cohort of apprentices in their own words.

Aubin Lebegue, APPRENTICE, Vilicus Farms, MT

First Month Reflection

I arrived at Vilicus Farms at the beginning of March, which gave me time to get settled in. My mentors are very kind and smart people. Since my first days at the Vilicus Farms I have felt good and have enjoyed the people and landscape around me. I love the vision of Doug and Anna and the rest of the team. Their vision and way of running the farm is different from my previous experience and my culture, which has been a beautiful surprise. I have a lot of things to learn and I am so grateful for this opportunity as an apprentice.

How did you get interested in agriculture?

I grew up on a farm, so agriculture has always been a part of my life. I decided I would like to become a farmer at around 14 or 15 years old. I would like to take the farm over from my parents, but this is a big challenge because French farming is in reorganization and the French economics behind farming in France are not good. I started to get interested in organic farming during my technical degree, but it was after finishing my studies that I fully change my vision and made the decision to convert the family farm to organic. I finished my studies in September 2018 and I have held several different seasonal jobs leading up to doing this apprentices at Vilicus Farms. And now, here I am at the Vilicus Farms. For me it’s my greatest project and professional success so far. I have enjoyed every day of this experience and this adventure is beyond any of my previous expectancies… thank so much for this apprenticeship program!

What I am hoping to gain to my apprenticeship?

I have a few personal objectives with this apprenticeship: I hope to learn as much as possible about organic farming, so that I can go home with a concrete project. My mentors have a lot of knowledge and I am at the perfect place to learn how to farm organically on an arable farm (Vilicus produces the same products as my family farm). However, I know that I need time (I had a conversation on this subject during the orientation): English is not my native language, which makes learning slower and converting a farm to organic is a long process (3 years). It is a risky process and I need a lot of information. I need to see a complete cycle of crops, I need time to ask my questions and compare the different characteristics between Vilicus Farms and my family farm. It’s not the same soil, size, equipments, climate etc …so it will take time to apply what I learn here back home.  From this apprenticeship, I would also like to improve different parts of my personality such as my self-confidence, my agronomy knowledge, communication and general culture. I am lucky to be managed by different people with different backgrounds and experiences and it is really important for me to have different conversations about the previous experiences of the team and on American culture. I am also hoping through this experience to meet an American of my age with the same vision as me. In this moment at the farm we don’t have a lot of time for hobbies but I’m sure in the future I would like to take advantage of the opportunity around here, such as  camping, canoeing, diverse farm visits etc…

My reflection at the end of this first month to this apprenticeship is I believe  I have a lot of opportunities to learn and different tasks which I can’t in my country or at the smaller scale and it’s super exciting. I should work on my communication and improve this part it’s important for the rest of the apprenticeship proceedings and per respect for the Vilicus farms team.

Final Reflection

I am starting my eighth month here at Vilicus Farms in Havre, Montana. It’s a pleasure to work every day in this environment. These big plains help me to remember  how small we are and how powerful the nature can be. I did learn a lot and I continue to learn every day. This is the result of a hard work of my mentors Doug, Anna and Paul. I am so grateful. This apprenticeship is pretty unique for me because I am from another country. This  involves a little bit more  inconvenience for my farms community. But I am doing  my best  and I did improve my communication for sure.

This apprenticeship is very different to what I did before. I did pass a long time at school and grew up in a farm. During all this time I did build some ideas and knowledge in school of what I want to do for my future and how to do it. These idea are soo far and different to what I want and What I am doing now. This reflection it’s clearly happens during this apprenticeship and I am already in process to convert the family farm in organic (beginning with hay, and their crops later).

What we are doing at Vilicus Farms is unique. This is a huge organic farming operation and I am very impressed in terms of management and technical organization. The rotation, the fertility strategy, seeding and harvest times represent a lot of work and people investment.  I didn’t expect  also a strong connection that I have now with every people of the crew. I never had this felling before in a professional context.

This apprenticeship is a real opportunity and a big springboard for my personal career. A lot of things happening in my head these last 8 months in terms of maturity and decisions taking. I am really building my skills and vision  and this is the first time of my life then I am also enthusiastic and motivated to work for someone else then my parents. The answer of that is the trust and the recognizing that my mentors give me. This is not everyday  easy to farm and building a ecosystem and a soil like we are doing at Vilicus Farms.  But I am at 100% involve because I know of what we are doing is necessary and determinant for the future of organic farming and the area where we live. Everyone in the crew is from a different place with a different background and I think of this is the biggest strength of the farm and why we are so significantly different to the neighbors and I love that!  I am super proud of what we are doing and how and for the rest of my life I can tell to my family that I was part of one of the biggest organic Farming operations in Montana and the United States .  This doesn’t have a price.

When I did arrive in March, my communication was limited and everything was different compare to my experience and where I from. I did work a lot on myself to be able to understand, be active and efficient. These were my main objectives during this apprenticeship. I did all my necessary to conserve this beat and I did learn a lot in terms of total management but also farming operation and time management. I saw myself did grow in self confidence and total farming skill. I have here differents opportunity then I can’t have in France in term of dimension of farming and cultural experience. This experience is unique and nothing that I will do after this apprenticeship will be equal to what I am doing now. The experience to my mentor are a huge source of information for me to convert the family farms in a sustainable and successful way.   I am at the good place to make that happen. I have still a lot of things to learn and I am enjoying a lot What I am doing now. The question of the second year of apprenticeship did arrive very naturally for me. The opportunities and the total sensation that I have now makes me happy and ready to do another years of apprenticeship.   This years will be more oriented on  farming management  and responsibilities. This is exactly what I need to finalize my project and back in France with all the skills and information necessary to take the family farm over. I am not done with my apprenticeship at Vilicus Farms. My motivation and involve stay the same. I am ready to farm another season here and this is all what I need to be a happy personJ. What we are doing now is crucial for the future of agriculture. I am strongly convinced of this world needs more organic farms.

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