Internship Plans: Three Farm Summer

My Three Farm Summer Internship in Local Food Producers - FoyUpdate
Packing shares at Hawkin's Family Farm.  I've helped with the CSA since the fall of 2011. 

There are three family farms less than ten miles from our house: RiverRidge Farm, Hawkins Family Farm and Joy Field Farm.  Over the three years we have lived here in northwest Indiana their meat, eggs and produce have made their way into our pantry and onto our table.

They are a friendly bunch of farmers. Whenever I get the chance I corner them with my pressing garden questions including but not limited to: how they store root crops for winter, build their soil and extend the growing season. 

There are many commonalities between these farms beyond their location.  All three are family farms with strong faith, and deep ties to their community.  I have a reading list that will take me years to finish from their recommendations.

They are scholarly agrarians.  Not quite in the way the professors we hang out with are scholarly.  Professors tend to be interested in how to teach a foundation of information for their specialization.  These local food producers are seeking knowledge for practical application: How can we protect the environment through local food production?  How do we feed our community body and soul?  How does working the land put people in greater connection with nature and god?  How do we get good quality food to the people most at risk for food insecurity in our community?  

Last summer I was sitting out on Hawkin's Farm enjoying a pizza from their brick oven, hanging out with family and friends, when I saw a trio over at a neighboring picnic table.  I put together what I knew about each of them and realized two of them worked with Joyfield Farm and the other worked over at RiverRidge Farm.  I imagined them sharing gardening tales and discussing the merits of different harvesting techniques.  One of the things I miss most about working at public gardens is talking plants.  My kids are great, but their agriculture conversation could use some work.  The little group of farm girls made me smile.

RiverRidge Farm lettuce mix in covered rows spring #3farmsummer FoyUpdate
Nathan at RiverRidge Farm shows his mixed lettuce growing under row covers at his 5-acre family farm. This photo is from the first time I met him on a farm tour in March 2012.  

I didn't think about it too much at the time, but later when I saw a Help Wanted sign at one of the farm stores, I considered I could get some first hand experience too.  Somewhere along the way that evolved into maybe I could work one summer at each farm.  The more I thought about it, the more I like it.  But I also realized taking three summers to learn when I could be using that time to earn money for the other things a family needs and wants didn't seem practical. I mentally condensed my three summers into just one. Then over the winter, I folded in the goal of feeding my family locally produced or home grown food for a whole year.   (Here's the goal setting blog post.)

In early March I drafted a letter proposing I work one day a week at each farm in exchange for food for 12-weeks over the summer.  A couple weeks later, I visited with each farm and found all of them very willing and even excited about the idea.  We talked about how they could best use me and the potential things I could learn and I put together a schedule.

It's going to happen!  It's going to be a three farm summer.  I will get to learn by doing, observing and experiencing what it takes to make a living on a diversified, organic, family farm.  Part of my plan is to share the experience here on this blog (and on social media using #3FarmSummer).  I will start working the last week of May and go through mid-August 2015.

In April, I'm going to write a little about each farm as I understand them now.  I'm curious to see how my views change as I get to know them better and gain first hand experience working on these farms.

It's going to be an exciting #3farmsummer!  


  1. Wow, that is absolutely fantastic! You go girl. That's a brilliant exchange. Hands on is absolutely the best way to learn, which is why farmers who use the same techniques you want to are the best resources for knowledge.