Want to be an organic farmer? PA creates new earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship grants

29 February 2024- The Shapiro Administration announced today a new grant opportunity that will help more Pennsylvanians chart their own course in the organic agriculture industry. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) is inviting organizations to apply for grants up to $350,000 for earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship opportunities for Pennsylvanians interested in agricultural occupations, including certified organic farmers.

“Organic farming has a bright future in Pennsylvania, so we need to make sure this growing agriculture sector has the robust workforce needed to continue producing high-quality food for consumers all over the world,” said L&I Secretary Nancy A. Walker. “Apprenticeship programs are an ideal way for growing industries to build their own skilled workforce – while ensuring that workers earn a family-sustaining paycheck along the way.” 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture ranks Pennsylvania third in the nation for organic commodity sales – which exceeded $60 billion in 2022, according to a study by the Organic Trade Association. 

L&I has partnered with the Department of Agriculture to create more apprenticeship opportunities and training programs within Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry. This work builds on Governor Shapiro’s investment in organic agriculture through the Center for Organic Excellence, created in the 2023-24 budget. This first-of-its-kind Center empowers and supports organic farmers and businesses. As part of this initiative, workforce challenges were identified as a top priority for the industry to ensure continued growth and success.

“Someone looking for a better job can’t always afford to put their earnings on pause while they learn new skills,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Apprenticeships offer an earn-while-you-learn opportunity to gain the skills employers need in a growing field like organic agriculture. These new grants are yet another example of Governor Shapiro’s approach – investing in very real solutions to the most pressing challenges facing Pennsylvania workers and businesses.”

About $700,000 in funding has been allocated to the PAsmart Supporting Pennsylvania’s Organic Agriculture through Registered Apprenticeships and Pre-Apprenticeships Grant Program. Applications are due March 21, 2024.