Businesses that host student interns can gain enthusiastic help while providing valuable hands-on experience to those soon to enter the industry.

Are you thinking about offering an internship? If so, you are in good company. Last year we surveyed the 850 members of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers about internships. Of the 72 responses, 25% already offered internships and an additional 54% were thinking of starting to offer one (Table 1). North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington had the most respondents to the survey, with 27 states represented.

Table 1. Companies or institutions offering internships

QUESTIONNo.%
Currently have internships.1825
   
Don’t offer an internship, but are thinking about offering one. 3954 
   
Don’t offer an internship and do not have an interest in offering one at this time. 1521 


Fifty-six percent of businesses with internships offer them during multiple seasons of the year, and another 42% do so primarily during the summer season (Table 2). Most businesses with interns have 1-2 per year (66%). Another 25% had 3 to 4 interns per year and one business reported up to 30 interns per year. Wages range from minimum wage to $15/hour and the provision of benefits differs widely, from none to housing, classes, workshops, field trips, and for at least one business, one week paid vacation. Table 3 lists the responses to give you an idea of what various businesses are providing.

Not surprisingly, most of the respondents were cut flower producers selling retail or wholesale (Tables 4 and 5). The diversity of the ASCFG membership was represented by a broad range of crops and business models.  Forty percent of all respondents had sales of $50,000 or less, while five respondents had sales or income of $10 million or higher. Of the 21% of businesses responding that they did not have an interest in offering internships, all had sales of $100,000 or less.

During the winter and spring we receive many requests from businesses for interns. Considering the drop in student numbers at many horticulture programs, we wondered how many businesses were having difficulty getting enough interns. Of those businesses in the survey that currently offer internships, the majority were able to get enough applicants to fill their positions. However, about one-fourth of businesses offering internships were not able to get enough applicants. This topic would be a great one for the ASCFG Bulletin Board, where members could discuss what works for them in terms of finding interns.

Table 2.  Season(s) during which internships are typically provided.

QUESTION No.%
Primarily Summer2242
Primarily Fall12
Primarily Winter00
Primarily Spring510
Multiple seasons or year round internships1834
Multiple internships take place at different times of the year612


Offering an Internship.
From our experience here at NC State University, any position can count as an internship for a student as long as it provides a broad range of experiences within your company. Obviously, the type of experiences will vary with the size and nature of the company. Management and decision-making experiences should be included in the internship as much as possible. It is important to be upfront with interns about what you can offer. If an intern wants retail experience and you only grow wholesale, he or she obviously will not get any retail experience. We also hope the student will do more than just pull or spray for weeds for 12 weeks as that would provide relatively little additional educational experience. In addition, we hope you will pay the students sufficiently well that they can save some money for school (if the student is so inclined!). Students seem to be most concerned with where they might live during the internship. Anything your organization can do to facilitate housing for the intern (provide or help find) will likely increase the number and experience level of the applicants.

Writing an Internship or Job Announcement.

If you have not created an internship before, the announcement should contain the following:
• Name of business
• Contact information
• Desired dates of employment
• Duties of position
• Location of position
• Desired qualifications (may be minimal for basic positions)
• Salary
• Any perks that you might be able to provide such as assistance with housing.

As mentioned previously, housing can be a major limitation for students. You don’t necessarily need to provide the housing, but provide information that, hopefully, will help a student easily find housing.

Post the announcement on your web site and send it to local schools (NC State maintains a list of internships and would be happy to post yours).  Another avenue is to post it to Craig’s list, especially when trying to get local interns. Other websites you may want to use are the ATTRA site (https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/internships/), which is especially good for sustainable ag, and Ecojobs (http://www.ecojobs.com/environmental-internships.htm), which focuses on environmental science. The ASCFG also hosts an “Interns and Apprenticeships” page on its web site.

Table 3.  Average wage and benefits for internships offered by respondents

• Minimum wage (3 responses)
• Minimum wage and a place to live
• Pending skill level & experience: minimum to $10+
• $8/hr, seminars, field trips, work with florist
• $8/hr
• $8.00/hr, no benefit
• $8/hr + FICA
• If interns proved valuable, would pay $8-$12
• Depends on if we provide housing, which is limited, $8–12/hr
• $9/hr
• $9/hr to start, one week paid vacation in early August
• Mostly student volunteers or students that only work a few hours a week with class schedules at $9/hr
• $10
• $10/hr plus $100 month stipend due to no on farm housing. We do a weekly class that provides more detailed growing information, 8 sessions.
• $10/hr, lodging
• $10, plus meals and boarding
• $10-12/hr (2 responses)
• $12/hr
• $12-20/hr depending on experience
• $13-15/hr, housing a possibility
• $15/hr, don’t know benefit rate
• Depends, some university students need the experience more than the wage. Minimum most likely.
• No pay, provide food and course credit
• Interns are provided living accommodations in our farmhouse, all food, and a $30 a day stipend.
• Room, board and $250 stipend
• Undetermined. Pay at end of season depends on revenues. No benefit
• Room, some board, $800/mo for ~40 hrs week of work, classes, workshops, field trips
• We are thinking of offering housing and a wage or a percentage
• Depends on the job but competitive hourly
• TBD, but we would have housing available onsite
• NA (2 responses)

Table 4.  Crop types grown or services provided by respondents  (multiple responses allowed)

 QUESTIONSNo.%
Fruits and/or vegetables1319
Nursery crops34
Landscaping23
Public gardens34
Cut flowers6087
Greenhouse, garden center, other floriculture operation812
Others1623


Table 5.  Type of business of respondents

 QUESTIONNo.%
Mostly production, with crops sold direct retail1826
Mostly production, with crops sold to processors,  
wholesalers, retailers, landscapers, community groups, etc.3043
Mostly post production, i.e. processor, wholesaler, retailer12
Mostly a supplier to one or more horticulture industries23
Mostly a public garden23
Mostly a landscaper or landscape design23
Other1420


Table 6. Estimated annual gross sales (if a private business) or annual operating budget (if a non-profit) of the respondents.

John Dole, Cristian Loyola, and Rebecca Dunning

North Carolina State University