My internship with Grow Food Northampton (GFN) involved working on numerous and varied projects, ranging from food access, community outreach, an agricultural economics report, a local foods assessment survey, and a community garden committee. I felt that my work at GFN often related closely to my first year studies at Bard CEP, sometimes in ways directly related to coursework and BCEP-related projects and other times through the experiences I shared with my classmates.
For example, food security is a key concern for GFN. The understanding of the relationship between climate change and food security that I gain during my second semester Science of Climate class was useful in understanding the urgency given to this issue. In particular, my term project for that class, linking food security to the increasing frequency of severe heat waves and droughts, provided a solid understanding of a concrete threat to global food production due to climate change. This understanding helped me to speak knowledgeably with GFN members and the public about the importance of food security and adaptation to expected future local climate conditions.
My literature review on soil carbon sequestration as well as Agriculture and Ecosystems class taught about the benefits of cover cropping. I was able to see firsthand its importance in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. During the hurricane, there was extensive flooding of the Connecticut River, including to a significant portion of the field that will become the Florence Organic Community Garden. In the aftermath of the hurricane, it was discovered that erosion on land owned by Grow Food Northampton was minimal, in large part because of cover cropping.
The ample practice I gained in research and analysis of literature during my first year studies was useful when conducting research for this internship. For example, I researched information about gaining approval for the CSA that operates on Northampton Community Farm land to accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)/food stamp benefits. Many farmers markets across the country are able to accept SNAP benefits, but the licensing process is more complicated for a CSA farm. The research and communication skills I honed during my first year studies were quite helpful in tracking down the information I needed to pass on to GFN and the CSA owners, and hopefully by this coming spring the farm will be able to offer low-income households the opportunity to use their SNAP benefits to purchase a farm share.
I did a great deal of writing over the course of this internship. This included formal and informal emails to colleagues, government officials, and other nonprofits; requests for assistance from GFN’s volunteer base; informational and persuasive pamphlets or brochures for supporters and potential donors; grant requests; and more. Each of these writing styles requires a different level of formality and different assumptions about the reader’s initial degree of knowledge on the subject. My first year writing class and relevant brown bag presentations were extremely helpful with this. The writing portion of the literature review, particularly the feedback and revision process, was also very useful in that it provided me practice and insight into effective editing.
I also had numerous occasions to talk to the public about the work GFN was doing. In fact, public outreach was something I ended doing much more often than I had expected and is something I’m not thoroughly comfortable with. I ended up gaining confidence in my ability to talk to strangers about issues I’m passionate about and had a wonderful time interacting with people from the community who care about similar issues. I received a lot of support from GFN during these experiences, which was a big part of why it was a successful experience for me. The preparation for numerous class presentations during my first year also helped to prepare me for transmitting information about local food and sustainable agriculture to interested members of the public.
A great deal of the work I did during my internship was group work in one form or another. I worked closely with the other GFN interns, and I also acted as a representative for GFN in meetings and on projects where GFN partnered with like-minded organizations. I had a good deal of experience working in groups before coming to Bard, but extra practice is always beneficial. My previous experiences with group work, including my first year Bard CEP S.T.A.R.S project and numerous group presentations for classes like Economics and Agriculture and Ecosystems, were useful in helping make the experience go smoothly. My co-workers were very intelligent and knowledgeable, easy to work with, motivated, and extremely enthusiastic. We all came into the summer with different background areas of interest and expertise, and I really appreciated learning from them as much as from my supervisors. This felt very similar to my first year course work at Bard CEP, where although my professors were excellent, I felt that I gained just as much from my classmates.