Friday, March 20, 2009

The Intern Blog - Firsts (by Courtney McDonald)

For me, the past month has been filled with firsts. During the first month of my internship with Flying Mule Farm, I milked a sheep who had lost her babies, helped move portable electric fencing in the rain, met a real live mule, got stuck in the mud, learned to use a hydraulic splitter to cut firewood, worked at the Auburn farmers market, and learned how to build a permanent electric fence. I learned more at an agricultural commission meeting than I ever thought was possible - that’s without even understanding three quarters of what was being discussed.

Now in the middle of my fifth week, some of the pieces are starting to fall into place. More and more I have begun to understand how everything I have seen over the weeks relates to everything else. As I repeat certain tasks and hear certain terms over and over again, I have become a little more comfortable with the jargon of farming.

I also feel quite fortunate to have met some extraordinary people so far. For the first time, I have been a witness to everyday interactions between farming peers, their families, and their local advisors. In many ways it has been a study in friendship and genuine goodwill. There seems to be a growing community around us that is now working together for the common good rather than selfish motives. When I briefly spoke to a farmer at the Small Farm Progress Days fencing school last week, he expressed a hope for the future of farming in our area. He has noticed a recent shift of mindset within the farming community towards working together and sharing knowledge to benefit the community, rather than a single family or farm. As an outsider, this is quite inspirational, and it is also something that I have witnessed first-hand during the few weeks of my internship.

Today Dan is going to pick up a milking ewe that we will share. Another example of the above-mentioned strong community sentiment was our trip to meet Earl and Sue Mentze who have a small flock of milking ewes, one of which we will own by this evening. They were so happy to share the information they had gathered over many years of hard work and research! They were more than happy to talk about their systems for milking, their cheese-making process, and all of the details in between. Tonight I will own half of my first milking ewe!

The past month has flown by, and I’m sure this is only the first of many times I will feel this way.

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