IMG_0497Building Skills for Rural Development

Interns at Tillers experience work in sustainable agriculture, rural development, historical interpretation, and organizational operations. Interns receive practical training from artisans, farmers, and international students in a range of skills relating to small-scale farming, research, rural enterprises, and training.

In exchange for these learning opportunities, interns are expected to do farm work, to assist in teaching skills to shorter-term guests, to assist in developing training materials, and to assist with organizational and guest support.

Work Activities

Each year, Tillers invites up to six interns to help in farm, shop, and organizational work for a duration of three to nine months. On a daily basis, interns participate in the farming activities of the season. This gives them practice in working with draft animals and using farm machinery. They plant, cultivate, and harvest a rotation of crops, and learn many associated skills, such as woodworking, blacksmithing, and gardening. These activities create an understanding and empathy for the work demands of farmers and crafts people.

In the woodshop, interns learn to shape ox yokes, bend bows, and do joinery for timber frames. In the fields, they drive oxen and horses in tasks from manure spreading and soil preparation to logging. In the blacksmithing shop, they learn to make tools and repairs.

After the internship, many have gone on to work on overseas projects. Others work on small farms or at historical sites. Interns are encouraged to develop individual projects in sustainable agriculture, rural development, or related fields. Some interns receive university credit.

007 IMG_2308Background and Experience

Tillers invites applicants from a variety of backgrounds, especially students of international development, animal science, agriculture, engineering, history, economics, anthropology, and museum studies. We also welcome applicants from farms and development agents. We are particularly interested in people with skills or experience in education, photography, historical collections, and computer applications, as well as knowledge of crops, animals, woodworking, and mechanics. Of course, we do not expect to find all these skills in one applicant. Preference is given to candidates who will be able to apply the skills and knowledge gained at Tillers in their future work.

With the many opportunities for learning, interns with initiative and enough practical or international experience to ask questions gain the most from work at Tillers. Interns must be able to communicate ideas, to work without close supervision, and to cooperate with co-workers. Interns are expected to work with flexibility for weekend activities and seasonal farm activities. Due to the farm work required, interns should be able to lift 50 pounds repeatedly without problems and be in adequate physical condition to work long days in the fields. While much of the work is physical, it is generally enjoyable.

Terms and Support

IMG_2999The focus of the internship program is on the growing season of March to November. We prefer applicants who are available for the entire period and thus can build on the progression of farm activities. However, we will consider anyone available for at least 12 weeks (Other workshops, special trainings, and volunteer programs are available for shorter periods). Only two paid internships are available each year, plus additional sponsored or volunteer interns. International experience and plans are considered heavily in selecting candidates for paid internships.

Paid internships are available each year, plus additional sponsored or volunteer interns. International experience and plans are considered heavily in selecting candidates for paid internships but not a precluding factor. While paid a modest stipend of $150/wk, most intern compensation is the opportunity to learn rare skills. The stipend, however, includes on-farm housing. Rooms may need to be shared at times. Unpaid, part-time internships may also be available.

Food is not provided, though eggs may be available in season and there is a large garden area that interns are welcome to plant. Lunch is provided for all classes, however, and interns are welcome to both the meal and leftovers as available. Frequently, excess produce from the intern garden is used in class lunches.

IMG_4689Other Options

Individuals with considerable expertise in the use of animal power in international agriculture are encouraged to ask for more information about Tillers’ Fellows Program. Fellows are given short-term support, but must be capable of instructing and writing on relevant technical topics.

Individuals with limited time may be willing to participate in our resident volunteer program. If you are available for less than 12 weeks, but more than two weeks, we will be pleased to discuss a work/study program with housing and garden privileges.

Tillers internships often attract more good applicants than there are openings. If this type of training is critical to you for overseas work, consider approaching an international agency or your church to sponsor an internship. Perhaps you can initiate an important new partnership project with Tillers.

Applying for a Tillers InternshipDSC_2223 (2)

To apply for an internship, submit a letter explaining your interest in Tillers, your skills and how Tillers might contribute to your future plans, the time period during which you are available (and by when you need to know of your acceptance), and a resume with two references with addresses and phone numbers. For more information call Tillers at (800) 498-2700. Early application is advised. If at all possible, we prefer to interview applicants in person or by phone.

Applicants for paid internships must be U.S. citizens or have visa status authorizing work for pay, such as “practical training” related to a student visa.


Mail applications to:

Attn: Internship Application
Tillers International
10515 OP Ave E
Scotts, MI 49088 USA