Since 1994 Green Gulch Farm has welcomed those with an interest in both Zen practice and organic farming to live and work there as farm and garden apprentices. Some of the participants have remained in the community (for example, City Center Tanto/Head of Practice Nancy Petrin first encountered Zen though her apprenticeship) and others have gone on to share their practice and agricultural skills in the wider world.
In 2020 the program was suspended due to Covid-19 shelter in place protocols. Green Gulch Farm was fortunate that seven residents from Tassajara relocated to help keep the farm going during this time. And this year Farm Manager Sara Tashker is happy to report that eight new apprentices will be joining the community as farm or land stewardship apprentices. They range in age from 20-50. Most are coming from the Bay Area, but also from as far away as the East Coast and Mexico. Some of the apprentices will work on the 6-8 acres of the farm proper, growing the crops that help to feed the Green Gulch Farm and City Center residential communities, and which are sold at local Farmers Markets and to various restaurants. Other apprentices will tend the formal garden and work on the remaining 100 acres of wild/uncultivated land, including multiple creek restoration sites. As well as learning about the land and responsible agriculture, the apprentices will be fully incorporated into the religious life of the community. They will follow the full schedule of zazen, service, lectures, and a weekly class with the GGF Tanto. Regular crew meetings and teas with GGF Abiding Abbess Fu Schroeder to discuss work and community practice will also form part of the training. There may even be an additional, unforeseen benefit. Recently agricultural workers (which include anyone who lives on a farm, even if not directly engaged in farming) have been given priority in Marin County for Covid-19 vaccination. To date close to 50% of Green Gulch residents have been vaccinated. Though it can’t be foreseen when Green Gulch Farm and San Francisco Zen Center, as well as the whole country, will be returning to pre-pandemic functioning, the return of the farm and garden apprenticeship program is a hopeful harbinger in that direction.