In the last decade or so, internships have been called into the legal limelight with a number of lawsuits establishing that interns and apprentices need to be treated as employees in most cases. This is true on farms as well- interns are generally employees and all employment laws apply. Of course, every general rule has its exceptions and there is an opportunity to create an internship program that does not follow all employment laws. Non-profit organizations have wide latitude to create internships and volunteer positions. For-profit farms will have a harder time but can be successful if they show that the position benefits the intern more than the farm, among other factors.

Read the Farmers’ Legal Guide to Intern and Volunteer Programs (32pgs) to understand the legal criteria for a non-employee intern program.

Most states follow federal law in their treatment of interns and apprentices, but there are some that go above and beyond with additional rules. Our Selected Essentials in Farm Employment Law for each state will be updated in 2023 with information specific to internship rules.

If listening or watching is more your learning style, check out our tutorial, Building a Legally Sound Intern and Volunteer Program for Farm Work (115min) to help you get ahead of the curve and learn ways to build a legally compliant intern or volunteer program for your farm.

Looking for more support and practical resources as you create a workforce wage strategy that works for your farm? Take our Advanced Employment Law Course, an online, comprehensive experience that helps farmers understand and apply farm employment law to their specific situations.

New to farm employment law, not yet a member, or looking for an overview of issues? Try our Hiring Farm Workers Basics (6pgs), an FAQ-style resource that answers farmers’ most typical questions about hiring workers for the farm (available to members and non-members alike). This resource will help you discover what you didn’t realize you didn’t know. It will also direct you to more detailed resources on the issues relevant to your farm.