Apprenticeships at Innisfree in 2017


Overview of the program

This 4 or 8 week program allows you to be totally immersed in learning to grow, harvest, process and use herbs and food plants from seed to finished product, to nourish and heal yourself, your community and the land.  This program will explain and explore how to grow, harvest, process and use your own herbs and food; providing practical tools, experiential learning, and over 30 or 60 hours of classroom time, to reach a wide range of students with diverse learning styles.

This apprenticeship provides opportunities to learn by doing in field practicum as well as in more formal lessons. Some of the field work is cold, wet, or simply repetitive and boring, but we try to mix it up every day and give you new challenges often.  This program is focused on direct plant experience and some classes will take place in nature where students will work hands-on with medicinal plants, on the farm and in the woods. There are over 200 medicines at Innisfree and apprentices may work with several dozen during their stay.  The apprenticeship is partly an experiential training, learning by doing.  It requires a strong work ethic, a strong back and a strong will to learn. 

The apprentice is expected to be a self starter and a self directed learner. There is an extensive library of books, videos and audio lectures on all aspects of herbal medicine, culinary arts, and sustainable food production. Apprentices will be given a study guide if they wish, outlining areas for further reading and posing questions to direct their reading.

Who is this program for?

This Apprenticeship is designed for people who
~   want to better understand the link between what we eat and our health and well being
~   appreciate that food production, the environment and social and personal well being are all interlinked
~   are passionate about natural medicine and plants
~   have an interest in local, sustainable and low cost plant medicines and building community and personal resilience through plant medicine
~   want to empower themselves with knowledge about self care
~   want to be able to help their friends and family with simple health challenges
~   want to rely less on the medical system
~   want to know how to identify, grow, harvest and process their own herbal medicines
~   want to learn how to make and dispense herbal remedies – storing herbs, stock control, making liniments, tinctures, oils and more

In the 8 years we have been running apprenticeships we have met all sorts of people from all walks of life –  from the 19 year old school leaver with a passion for plants and food and sustainability to the 44 year old lawyer looking for a new sense of purpose; from the newly graduated doctor looking to “dig her way out of medical school” to the 55 year old doctor, raw food chef and Green party candidate; over 50 people have spent anywhere from a month to a season with us.

Course objectives

At completion of this apprenticeship the successful student will be able to describe, discuss and demonstrate at least 5 of the following skills sets after 1 month stay and 8 of these after 2 months stay, according to season and duration of attendance:
~   the ways and means of building healthy soil through amendments and mulching
~   the methods and processes required to make potting mix, choose plants for the season and the purpose, plant out flats of seeds, prick out seedlings, pot up seedlings, transplant seedlings, trellis or train the plants
~   the method and processes required to prune, weed and maintain the plants
~   an appreciation for the structures and parts of plants and how they function (botany)
~   skills and techniques of wild plant identification
~   harvesting techniques for roots, barks, leaves, flowers, seeds
~   drying and processing methods and equipment
~   the methods and processes required make herbal remedies
~   knowledge of how to use herbs and natural medicines for personal, family and community wellness
~   saving seeds and seed banking

herbal medicine curriculum

Botany and plant identification

Learn to recognize your medicines – and to recognize the poisonous herbs – so that you can safely pick in the wild.
-       plant evolution and taxonomy
-       botanical features of root, stem, leaf, flower and fruit
-       using a plant key
-       family characteristics


Harvesting and processing herbs

Careful harvesting ensures long term sustainability of the plant.
Careful processing ensures a high quality medicine.
-       wild crafting in the forest
-       harvesting techniques for barks, roots, leaves, flowers and fruits
-       processing techniques for barks, roots, leaves, flowers and fruits
-       drying and storing botanicals
-       processing herbs

Pharmacognosy (plant chemistry)

Knowing how the plants exert their therapeutic actions allows us to better understand how to use them in clinical practice.
-       overview of plant metabolism
-       introduction to holistic phytochemistry –  mucilage and polysaccharides, phenolics (tannins, salicylates, flavonoids, anthraquinones), bitters, volatile oils, saponins.

Pharmacy and medicine making

Shifts in the herbal dispensary, as well as regular tutoring sessions, will allow a practical understanding of the use of herbs for medicine – formulating and prescribing for specific ailments. Throughout your stay we will make many medicines and discuss their pros and cons.
Learn to make a wide variety of remedies for different ailments and build your own first aid kit.
-       water extractions – infusions, decoctions
-       solvent extractions – oils, tinctures
-       syrups
-       emulsions
-       steams
-       plasters and poultices
-       the herbal first aid kit

Materia medica and clinical applications

Taught through discussions and question – answer sessions, we will consider in detail how the herbs do their work and how to use them effectively and safely.


-   clinical applications of herbs within body systems
-  formulating strategies and treatment planning
-  dosing, contra-indications and safety concerns

Guided reading will follow through several text books explaining how body systems work, how things go wrong and how to use herbs to heal. Students will work through case studies to understand principles and practice of phytotherapy.




Seasonal harvesting schedule is weather & time dependent



Plantain, Cleavers, Horsetail, Elderflower, Dandelion leaf, Violet leaf, Nettle, Chickweed, Marshmallow root, Poke root

Plantain, Cleavers, Horsetail, Raspberry lf, Marshmallow lf, Motherwort lf,  Yarrow lf,  Ladies mantle, Lavender, Violetlf and flwr, Vervain, Chickweed,

St John’s wort, Yarrow flwr, Oregano, Mint, Thyme, Tarragon, Lovage, Sage, Lemon balm, fennel leaf, Hyssop, Savory, Calendula flwr, Lavender, Violet flwr, Dianthus, Nasturtium lf & flwr, Chrysanthemum lf & flwr, Vervain, Marshmallow lf, Mullein flwr

Mullein flwr, Fennel, Sage, Epazote, Echinacea tops, Calendula flwr, Violet flwr, Dianthus, Nasturtium lf & flwr, Chrysanthemum lf & flwr

Fennel seed, Rosemary, Basil, Stevia, Lemon verbena, Echinacea tops, Calendula flwr, Black cumin, Caraway, Dill seed, Cape gooseberry

Dandelion root, Burdock, Yellow dock, Oregon grape, Chicory, Petasites, Willow bark, Cape gooseberry, Golden rod,

Dandelion root, Burdock, Yellow dock, Oregon grape, Chicory, Petasites, Willow bark, Poke root

Symbiosis, a new Biology

A 10 hour lecture series that provides a foundation to our recent knowledge of life's processes.
 Molecules of Life
The building blocks of life, water, metals, proteins, RNA, DNA, lipids, glucose.
The Microscopic Level
Prokaryotic cells, archea, bacteria, viruses,
Eucaryotic cells, protists.

Fungi and Plants and Animals
Physiology, behaviour, root brain network, soil animals, food web.
Microbiome, mycorrhiza, endosymbiosis


Room and Board

Apprentices live and work on the farm, becoming part of a deep community of soil stewards and plant people.    In exchange for Board and Lodging - private room, linens, laundry, kitchen, cooked lunch on work days, all basic pantry supplies and produce, a communal lounge, WiFi ... you work 5 mornings and 2 afternoons each week growing and harvesting food and herbs, as well as maintaining the teaching gardens and amenity gardens.  Innisfree runs a registered Botanic Garden and is open to the public on Saturday every week during the summer season, serving lunch and afternoon tea and giving guided garden tours and apprentices may participate in all aspects of this from baking to customer service. 


Schedule and Tuition

Apprenticeships are 4 or 8 weeks long
Tuition is $ 700 or $ 1400

Spring     # 1   March 21 - May 13
                # 2    May 16 - July 8

Summer  # 3    July 11 - August 5
                # 4   August 8 - September 2 

Fall           # 5  September 5 - October 28



Let us know who you are and how to contact you - name, age, sex, Email, mailing address, phone, etc  

A few paragraphs about yourself (as much detail as you feel is appropriate):

Your background, where do you come from, what education and practical work experience do you have, have you worked in a garden before, doing what ?   What has been your experience of botanical medicine ?    What do you want to learn - be specific.  

Do you have particular skills or knowledge that you could contribute ?  Any relevant training you may have: landscaping, social media, anything digital, wood working, construction, bicycle repair, automotive, Food Safe, First Aid, etc ...

We are vegetarians but we eat fish and eggs.  Our diet is high in veggies, legumes and fruit, and low in dairy and gluten.  Do you have medical needs, allergies, physical or mental challenges that we need to know about ? 

Tell us more about you, what your world looks like, your hobbies and habits, your values, your future ?  Copy - paste and Email to us your comments and answers.  We will respond promptly to acknowledge your application.  

Include what session you are applying for (and a second choice) and whether or not you want to be on a waiting list.  

If you are accepted you will send a $200 deposit to hold your place in the program.  

Tuition fees payment in full is required four weeks before your arrival.