Quail Springs is a leading environmental educational nonprofit that empowers students of all ages and backgrounds with knowledge, skills, and inspiration essential to cultivating ecological and social health.
about our nonprofit
Founded in 2004, Quail Springs Permaculture is a leading educational nonprofit stewarding a 450-acre, high desert permaculture farm and regeneration site. We are dedicated to demonstrating and teaching holistic ways of designing human environments, as well as facilitating deeper understandings of our relationships with ourselves, one another, and our local ecologies. We teach strategies and techniques for designing resilient environments and creating healthy and culturally vibrant communities.
About Our Community
About Our Farm
We aim to provide all our own dairy, eggs, meat, greens, and herbs throughout the year for staff, students, and visitors to Quail Springs, as well as for our food-giving animals, and to maximize our harvest through various preservation techniques, such as cheese and yogurt making, pickling, and fermenting. The animals on the farm currently include an 18 goat herd with 7 milking does, a flock of approximately 100 chickens, a thriving bee colony kept with the top bar method, 2 livestock guardian dogs (Great Pyrenees), and a farm cat.
We are conducting experiments in dryland agriculture and watershed restoration, and we continually endeavor to demonstrate regenerative land stewardship. Most importantly, we aim to open our doors to new agrarians to gain knowledge of the landscape and healthy agroecological practices within that landscape to encourage the continuation of caring stewardship of the Earth.
Our work trade offering is a 3- to 6-month residency (with possibility of extension) at Quail Springs, grounded in community living and a work exchange with our holistic food systems. The experience provides extensive practical opportunities to sustain the day-to-day operations of a full-time functioning Permaculture farmstead, community, and education center. Learn how to deepen connection with yourself and others while acquiring practical skills and empowering the next steps in your journey. Be a part of the team that is running the farm for the season and receive structured orientation into working on our Permaculture-based farmstead, living in intentional community, and supporting the endeavors of an educational nonprofit organization.
We are searching for flexible, self-motivated individuals who embrace simple, remote, rural living. Successful applicants are self-starters, curious, inclusive, comfortable in groups, creative problem solvers, and are able to manage themselves through a wide range of challenges. High energy, a good sense of humor, strong communication skills, a positive attitude, and a strong curiosity are essential attributes.
Note: We allow shorter commitments during the summer months (June through September). Please contact us!
What to expect
Work-traders are part of the team that is running the farm for the season. They are oriented into working on our Permaculture-based farmstead, living in intentional community, and supporting the endeavors of an educational nonprofit organization. Participants gain skill and understanding, and build confidence through hands-on, field-based training in addition to immersion into our daily life.
Throughout the 3- to 6-months, work-traders take on increasing responsibility in specific areas and have the opportunity to mentor others in skills learned. The goal of this opportunity is for participants to gain practical, resilient homesteading skills, like no-till, dryland vegetable gardening, caring for goats and chickens, and baking bread in earthen ovens, all while fostering personal connection and growth in a supportive, community-based environment.
The farm team meets twice a week to talk about farm tasks. Daily chores that are divided between farm team members include: milking goats, tending the poultry, moving grazing cells across the landscape for the goats, watering and maintaining the greenhouses, irrigating annuals and perennials, cleaning animal pens, and working in the garden.
This opportunity is geared specifically for those deeply drawn to working and integrating long-term into community. Participants are fully included in Quail Springs community activities. This includes attending our regular Tuesday Town Meetings, assisting in hosting various courses and groups, signing up to cook dinner or wash dishes 2-3 times/week, and participating in regular communal tending, e.g. doing kitchen laundry, tidying & cleaning the various common spaces, chopping firewood, and other projects that come up.
Farm and garden tasks are a daily focus for work trader volunteers and select staff, while other community members and staff spend their days focused on other tasks (e.g. facilities, education, programming, administration).
Farm and garden work and community tasks will roughly total 35 hours per week over 5 work days. Each work trade volunteer will have two days off per week. Working early mornings will be regularly required.
Cellphones do not receive service. And as a fully off-grid community in a remote location, our community phone and internet services are very limited. Furthermore, we are dependent on our photovoltaic panels. Consequently, we have to be flexible about which machines we use on cloudy days. If any of this is a concern please speak with us about what is available.
*subject to change based on weather and season, but early mornings should be expected
5:30–8:00 – Chores: Goat Milking // Caring for Chickens // Irrigating // Personal Time
8:00–9:00 – Breakfast
9:00–12:00 – Farm or Community Projects Time
12:00–2:00 – Lunch // Siesta // Personal Time // Lunch Chores // Optional Projects
2:00–5:00 – Farm or Community Projects Time
5:00–6:00 – PM chores // Rest // Personal Time
6:00–7:30 –Community Dinner
7:30–8:30 – Personal Time // Lead Something You Like for the Community!: full moon night hike, games, crafts, music sharing, ecstatic dance, storytelling campfire, movie night, or learning to make fire by friction
8:30–10:00 – Optional Socializing // Bed-time
What skills will I be exposed to and practice?
- Basics of Caring for Goats and Poultry
- Basics of Animal Husbandry
- Collecting and Storing Eggs
- Upholding Healthy Dairy Protocols for Milking
- Animal Processing (optional): Harvesting, Skinning, and Butchering
- Seeding According to Biodynamic Calendar
- Hand Watering Seedlings
- Hardening Off Plants
- Planting Greenhouse Crops
Harvest Preservation and Food Preparation
- Root Cellaring
- Fermenting, Pickling, Freezing, and Drying
- Making Yogurt and Basic Cheeses
- Sourdough Bread Baking
- Cooking in Earthen Ovens
- Dryland Farming Techniques
- No Till Gardening
- Plant ID
- Drip Irrigation Set Up, Use, and Maintenance
- Planting and Managing for Biodiversity
- Compost Pile Construction & Turning
- Application of Compost and Other Soil Amendments
- Using a Broadfork
- Cover Cropping
- Crop Rotation
- Companion Planting
- Plant Nutrition Basics
- Proper Shrub & Tree Pruning Techniques
- Integrated Pest Management
- Seed saving
Additional Opportunities (As Needed or As Interests Give Rise To)
- Light Carpentry
- Maintaining Photovoltaic Panels
- Chopping Firewood
- Mushroom Inoculation
- Natural Building
- Watershed Stewardship
- Working with Natural Fibers
- Other Types of Crafting
Quail Springs is located near the tiny town of Cuyama, CA in the Upper Cuyama Valley in Southern California. The elevation is approximately 3,600', and the land is high desert, piñon-juniper woodland. Tucker's Scrub Oak, Great Basin Sage, Yerba Santa, Rabbitbrush, Ephedra, and many other high desert species inhabit the valley floor. The ruggedly beautiful Los Padres National Forest surrounds Quail Springs on three sides.
Sliding Scale: $0 to $350 donation per month, plus a $150 non-refundable deposit upon acceptance.
The cost of this opportunity is your deposit and your time commitment only! The cost to the organization to host and feed each person is $350 per month. As we are a modest not-for-profit organization, any donation you are able to give helps us keep our programs as accessible and inclusive as possible.
Besides nutritious food and facilities, also available to you are a camping space (bring your own gear), immersion into a lively community atmosphere of various ages, a vast extended network of permaculture professionals, hundreds of acres of beautiful wilderness, and what many have deemed a treasured, life-changing experience.
We ask all visitors to adhere to our no drugs policy, and to smoke tobacco products only in the designated smoking areas as we are a high risk for wildfires. We understand that the use of cannabis is legal in many places, but we strive to maintain a cannabis free social setting. We also understand that this means living at Quail Springs may not be a fit for everyone. We ask that there be no public drinking of alcohol during our children’s courses and minimal/discrete alcohol consumption during all other courses in order to support those who may be challenged by the presence of alcohol.
Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate any new pets at this time.
Qualities & Qualifications of the Ideal Person
This opportunity is what you make it. Successful candidates take a “participant” attitude over “observer.”
- Desire and ability to work in a community (a must!)
- Ability to work within a team as well as independently on projects after adequate orientation has been given
- Strong work ethic, an enjoyment of physical work, and strength & stamina
- Ability to lift up to 50 lbs
- An enjoyment of tending animals and gardens
- No allergies to animals
- Mindfulness, cultural sensitivity, and an ability for self-care & self-managing independent time
- Willingness to listen actively and speak authentically & honestly
- Good interpersonal skills, a positive attitude, and a good sense of humor
- Willingness to engage in community chores (laundry, cleaning, etc.)
- Completion of a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) or experience working on a farm is highly desired
- We are willing to train someone who is eager to help out and support Quail Springs in its mission
Once you begin, there is an initial two week trial period. During the trial period, work trade volunteers and the Quail Springs community can terminate the agreement.
If you have paid a donation to cover your food costs up front, you can opt to receive a pro-rated refund.
Please take care to fully fill out our online application so we may best get to know you.
If your application is approved, we will set up interviews. We are hard-working folks, so please be patient with response time! But also don’t hesitate to check back in on the status of your application.
We highly recommend planning to come out for a day (or night if a host is available) to see if it feels like a good fit.
Please let us know if you have any questions about this description, your work, or your stay here at Quail Springs. We look forward to reviewing your application!
Please let us know if you have any questions about this description, the curriculum, your work, or your stay here at Quail Springs.