INTERN JOURNAL Insights and experiences from organic farms

Good-bye. Hello.
One of our journaling interns lands in a new world of geometric sustainability (i.e., a greenhouse operation) while another says goodbye to Arkansas (and prepares for a new farming experience in California).

Posted November 23, 2004

Editor's NOTE
New Farm Introduces "Intern Journal"

In this new biweekly column, interns on farms across the United States and beyond climb out of the trenches to share the details of their day-to-day grind and the lessons learned in the field.

This next generation of farmers offers insights into what motivates them to go against the tide when so many farm families struggle to keep up-and-coming generations interested in farming.

As they will tell you, it’s a combination of love for the land, good food, sharing community, and a sense of purpose that keeps them going.

--NF Editors

Diana Oleas Chavez
Arkansas. Reflections on October.

Diana is a visiting intern from Ecuador, working this summer at Dripping Springs Gardens, an intensive market garden nestled in the Ozark Mountains 60 miles east of Fayetteville, Arkansas, as part of the MESA program (Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture). For more information on MESA, visit

The season has finished for me here in Dripping Springs Garden and now I have to leave from this wonderful place, where I spent seven months, to start a new adventure on another farm in Vista, California. I have to say that I have really enjoyed every minute with Mark and Mike, who are the owners; they have taught me a lot of things not only about organic agriculture but also about life.

On October 23, Mark, Mike, myself and another friend went to see Pilobolus again, but this time was Pilobolus Too (the performance was only with three persons instead of six as with Pilobolus) in Eureka Springs. It was a very exhausting day because it was after market, but it was fun.

On October 30, Mark and I went to a weeding party after market again; then we went to our friends’ house to watch a movie and eat dinner before I leave. (I don’t know how I find all this energy.)

On Wednesday November 3, Mark and I went to Fayetteville to do yoga and to visit some friends. The day after this I went to Fayetteville again with one friend to eat ice cream, because we wanted to spend one more day together.

Saturday, November 6 was my last day at Fayetteville Farmer’s Market and I had the opportunity to say not “goodbye” but “see you later” to all my friends and customers. You never know—maybe someday I can return to this beautiful state to visit them. On this day all the farmers who attend this market had a potluck party at which they distributed some awards for best display, highest sales in one day and other categories. Dripping Springs Garden got two first places for highest one-day sales and for outstanding total sales and one second place for attending the most Farmer’s Markets. I wanted to share this with you because I am very proud and feel that we have done such a great job in the garden.

My last farm assignments were:

  • Plant garlic
  • Harvest kohlrabi, bok choi, mei qing choi, green mustard, Chinese cabbage, collards, red mustard, tatsoi, kale, carrots, mizuna and spinach
  • Pull zinnias, plastic and drip tape out
  • Sow cover crops (wheat and peas)
  • Plant tulips
  • Clean garlic
  • Replace bachelor’s button
  • Pull statice out
  • Clean hoop house
  • Cultivate bachelor’s button
  • Move lily crates to greenhouse
  • Take zinnia piles to compost
  • Weed in the hoop house
  • Make bouqets at farmer’s market

It was hard for me to realize that Friday, November 4 was my last harvesting day, but it made me appreciate this day even more.

Finally, I would like to thank Mark Cain and Michael Crane of Dripping Springs Garden a lot for this marvelous time. I will never forget these seven months.

Emily Gallagher
Pennsylvania. November 6, 2004.

After interning for the summer and part of the fall right here on The Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pa., Emily has traveled to Spring Grove, Pa., to work with low-input greenhouse guru Steve Moore. Emily graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1999 and came to the Institute after returning from two years in Kolda, Senegal with the Peace Corps. For more on Steve Moore, click here.

I have visions of hexagons dancing in my head! I woke up to my second Saturday morning at Sonnewald Natural Foods yawning off a crazy dream about planting lettuce in a proper biointensive bed. I could not get the spacing quite right! It was my solo debut preparing the harvest from the farm and greenhouses located behind the legendary store. I munched my healthy Sonnewald-inspired breakfast wondering that farmer Steve Moore and apprentice Elaine actually trusted novice me with the weekend harvest.

Fortunately, Sonnewald and Steve Moore attract lots of eager visitors. I shared my crazy hexagon dream with a weekend volunteer traveling home from an internship at the Good Life Center in Maine. I would not be alone. We laughed off our harvest reservations and decided that we were ready to learn a lot from a little unsupervised veggie work.

Steve greeted us with a list and me with a couple of carefully chosen books from his personal library. He takes the learning agreement with interns very seriously. We walked through the Saturday plan to relieve my harvest havoc fears.

Steve casually disappeared into his Saturday plans and all the vegetables suddenly shrank below marketable size or vanished into unknown corners. The farm looked completely different from the eyes of responsibility.

We worried that the bok choi was too puny. We worried that we harvested the collards too hard. We worried that our chard and kale bunches were of variable size. We worried that the lettuce was too tender and floppy. We second guessed our common sense, wandered in search of bigger and better plants, and finally decided that common sense had served us well. The harvest was beautiful and delivered promptly with confidence. Only the veggies and the elusive greenhouse rat would know that we had ever doubted our harvest judgment.

The produce manager made a second harvest order. Uh-oh. We stared at unripe eggplant and pondered the marketability of rat-chomped peppers. We finally agreed on one more pac choi and swiftly gathered more lettuce after a vain search for good mizuna. Our confidence a little shaken (but reparable) we delivered the second harvest and ran away to calmly seed wheat grass and plant lettuce in perfect hexagon patterns.