Get Involved – Letter from an Intern

By Cassie Phillips

As a seasoned web-surfer for awesome summer experiences, I thought it would be helpful for prospective interns to hear from a seasoned intern to get a better idea of what their experience might be like. As a general disclaimer, this is a dynamic environment and no two experiences, work, or perspectives will be alike. That being said…

Farming is hard work. Period. Don’t come here expecting a vacation. However, if you are seeking an internship in sustainable farming, you probably already know that. As a “city girl” I was mentally prepared for the daily toil, but I wasn’t quite physically prepared for the sunburn, aching lower back, cracking, calloused gardener’s hands, and total exhaustion at the end of each day.

Thankfully, alongside the trials of labor, there are numerous joys, motivations, and rewards. Perhaps the most obvious benefit is sharing the delicious food, the “fruit of our labor.” Interns and staff rotate a breakfast-cooking schedule, allowing everyone the experience of cooking with the fresh crops, often picked that very morning. Fresh eggs and raw milk were also staples at every meal. Breakfast usually is the biggest (and most enjoyable) meal of the day, allowing a break in the morning tasks, time for everyone to convene to discuss the days’ goals, and one of the best community times. After a summer of eating such fresh, healthy, and high-quality food, it is hard to leave at the end of the season.

Garden tasks are made more enjoyable by working in groups. As this kind of work draws interesting people, conversations flow with ease and knowledge is shared with passion. Weeding tasks are finished in no time as farmers and interns play games, share stories, and goof off (all while focusing on the work at hand, of course!).

Personally, I looked forward to market days. I loved giving my dirty farm clothes and sore back a break for a day to help out with our market booth. I loved arriving early, creating a stellar display to showcase the beautiful produce I had helped grow, and interacting with the customers. I learned to weigh out perfect 8oz. bags of salad mix and land a pile of potatoes exactly on 3.5lbs. according to the requests of the customer. I felt so proud of the food and so pleased to be on the farmer’s side of the table. I shared recipes and growing advice with consumers who trusted me and the product I offered them. The best reward of all was seeing the regulars who sought out our booth specifically, week after week, consistently satisfied with the quality of our food.

I also liked the option to switch it up a bit and work with the animals of the farm. It is great fun to feed and pet the goats (and their kids!), collect chicken eggs, and help move the horses. Learning to complete the animal chores really brought the picturesque farm image to life. Having animals on the farm completes the circle. The animals are the eager recipients of food scraps and garden “waste” (no waste on a farm!) and they recycle the nutrients in a readily available form: their manure. I learned that every animal has an important “job” on the farm: the roaming chickens, rooster, turkeys, and ducks patrol the grass, dirt, and puddles for insect larva; the pigs eat all of the food scraps; laying hens produce delicious eggs year-round, and cows provide milk. Everyone works together here.

But back to the garden work (for that is likely where you will spend the bulk of your time)—I learned so much working side by side with the farmers. They are so knowledgeable about SO many things. I learned about plant classification, soil fertility methods, bed preparation, efficient ways of weeding and spacing plants, transplanting, starting seeds in the green house, how to harvest, and on and on. It is effortless to pick up on all of this information when your hands are doing the work and memorizing the skills, and when you are able to see the new concepts in action.

Yes, if you come to work here, it will be a summer well spent. You will learn lots, meet great people, and eat well. If both working and playing hard sounds like an ideal combination to you, I certainly recommend the experience.