Our newest intern, Courtney, started her intership this morning. She received a great introduction to the world of small-scale sustainable agriculture - there's nothing like seeting up electric fence in the rain and wind! Despite the conditions, we're both excited about working together.
Internships are, for me, an interesting addition to the world of farming. I've realized that many of the production-related skills I've developed over the years are not skills that I learned in college or in any other formal training program. In earlier generations, children learned these skills from their parents. As farming fell out of favor as a profession (in part, because family-scale farming wasn't profitable), these skills were not passed along. The kind of labor-intensive, low technology farming that we do belongs to another time, in many respects. Internships are a way for people without a farming background to learn the hands-on skills necessary to farm at this scale.
Courtney is the fourth intern we've hosted in the last year. Our experience has been mixed, and I'm sure our interns would say the same thing. I've learned that I need to take more time to explain what I do and why I do it. I've also learned that I need to be more patient as our interns learn and then master the skills that I take for granted. On the other hand, I've also learned that my own ability to work hard and for long hours is not a universal trait.
My ultimate hope is that our interns will come away from their time with us with a better understanding of the business and work of farming. I hope that some of them will go on to start their own farms. Selfishly, I hope to receive some much needed help in exchange for sharing my experience. Ultimately, I hope our internship program, and others like it, can rebuild the sense of community that attracted me to farming in the first place.