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
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.
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,
Farming now means more sweaters, scarves, long underwear
and jackets to me, because fall began one week ago
and now I am very cold. On Thursday it was raining and we
couldn’t work outside, so Mike (one of the farm partners)
and I decided to make some cookies and granola. They were
so delicious that everybody ate more than a few.
Days are now shorter, so we changed our schedule for yoga
practice. I am doing yoga in the evening instead of the afternoon,
but Mark (the other farm partner) is doing his practice in
the morning. One day I tried to do yoga in the morning, but
my muscles were so rigid that I couldn’t move.
On Saturday, Mark and I went to Walton Arts Center to listen
to the North Arkansas Symphony, they played modern and classic
music and were very good. On Sunday after mass in a Catholic
Church, I went to another concert in Orchard Garden. The kind
of music I listened to this time was sort of folk rock; this
concert was organized for our neighbors, Marcy and Dianne,
who live across the creek.
The following Thursday, I went to the farmer’s market.
This day was very cold and wet because it was raining. I wore
two sweaters, a jacket, gloves and one scarf; even with all
these things I was so cold that I couldn’t do bouquets
easily. This day we had frost, and the zinnias, dahlias, and
blue ageratum died.
Finally, on Tuesday, I learned how to drive a tractor. It
was exciting and scary at the same time.
Any way these two weeks were fantastic.
My farm assignments for the past few weeks have been:
- Pull out drip tape and lisianthus.
- Pull out celosia (We used to have three different kinds
of celosia: ‘Flamingo Feather’, ‘Cramei’s
Hi – Z’ and ‘Chief’, which were
on the field, but we have more in the greenhouse).
- Pull out blue ageratum and sunflower.
- Pull out sweet and hot peppers.
- Harvest celosia, statice, gladiolus, dahlias, collards,
mustard, tatsoi, kale, carrots, sweet Williams, zinnia,
lilies, chief celosia, arugula, bok choi, mei choi and Chinese
- Sow snapdragon.
- Fertilize two beds to sow onions.
- Plant lettuce and tatsoi in hoop house.
- Seed spinach in hoop house.
- Mulch several bachelor’s button’s paths.
- Weed lettuce beds.
- Dig sweet potatoes
- Make bouquets at farmer’s market.
Rio Negro, Ecuador (Vrindavan
October 14, 2004.
Claire is in Ecuador following
stints working on organic farms in Belize, Mexico and
Guatemala. Next, she’ll be heading to Chile, and
Argentina, where she will also be volunteering on organic
One of the goals of the Vrindavan is to increase
tourism and public awareness of the farm. So Sanatana,
Gabriella and I are putting together a brochure for tourists.
Gabriella is a student from the university, doing plant identification
here as part of her internship towards a degree in tourism.
Apparently in Ecuador, becoming a tour guide involves three
years of study, and part of this is dedicated to natural history
and wildlife. She also seems pretty savvy about how to make
things look and sound good.
I would rather be weeding, but Sanatana begged me to spend
the day cross- referencing a list of birds from across Ecuador
with the birds specific to the region…and hopefully
to the farm. Being as Ecuador is the most bio-diverse country
on the planet, this task took me all day. At first I was a
little obstinate about spending the day writing, but the three
of us took a table in the sun and distracted ourselves by
playing with the pet monkey.
It was interesting to watch the dynamics between an easygoing
outdoorsy farm type of guy and a polished educated city girl.
Whereas Sanatana knows how to plant, weed, water, lift things,
and organize the plants and tools, Gabriella can present ideas
in a simple and friendly manner so that the listener or reader
feels comfortable with the information. This turned out to
be an important skill when they got around to creating a mission
statement. Maybe it was faster than usual...it seems to me
that at home there would be numerous board meetings dedicated
to this process. Instead, we pulled together a mission statement
in a half-hour. I believe Gabriella could have produced one
in 10 minutes, if she didn’t have to gently nudge Sanatana
towards user friendly and politically correct language.
And tomorrow....I get to translate it all!
Nevada. October 10, 2004
Patrick is a self-described
“intern over the traditional age.” An attorney
by training, Patrick currently takes one day a week
away from his job as a legal aid to volunteer on a CSA
in Silver Springs, Nevada. He is contemplating a shift
from a career involving what he terms “moral ambiguity”
to “a way of life that involves honest work, simple
pleasures and well-deserved fulfillment.”
Today was a short day at the farm. There’s
little to do aside from what Virginia refers to as “putting
the farm to bed for the winter.” This somehow doesn’t
feel right; once the cold mornings are done, we are still
enjoying mid-day temperatures in the seventies and even eighties,
creating the illusion that summer still holds sway. The ever-shortening
hours of daylight, however, tell the real story.
Putting the farm to bed mostly involves clearing our small
patches and pulling up stakes and makeshift fencing from around
what were once carefully tended rows of vegetables. The two
acres or so that we have in production function like one of
those children’s toys that involves sliding tiles across
a plastic board using a single empty space, trying to arrange
and rearrange them into a cohesive picture. The square which
this year grew corn, next year might be melons or peppers
Coincidentally, today was also the last day that the farm
stand will be open for the season, though if memory serves
I don’t believe anyone stopped by. After a while, more
out of boredom than anything else, I join Ray as he digs up
that last of the potatoes he calls “Idaho Bakers.”
With his usual patience, he shows me that when digging for
potatoes one cannot violently stab down into the earth; this
will only have the effect of rupturing and smashing the very
roots you are looking for. Instead, one must gently comb across
the ground, feeling for a telltale tug at the end of your
gardening tool. It is painstaking work and you get as many
rocks and dirt clods as potatoes, but filling a bucket to
the brim with the fruits (so to speak) of my labor is well