As crisp fall days and brilliantly colored leaves set against impossibly blue skies signal the change of seasons, we reflect on our first growing season at Frogtown Farm. We have been fortunate to work with a terrific group of committed interns this year, in addition to service learners, volunteers, and groups from various organizations. It’s inspiring to see the development of the farm through their eyes.
Our interns have contributed so much to the success of the farm. They have embodied the “many hands make light work” philosophy. They bring diverse interests and experience from plant science to a passion for good nutrition and health to an interest in permaculture and a love for working with children. They have been generous with their time and passionate about the future, the environment and the farm. They have been enthusiastic and committed in the face of the sometimes hard/hot/cold/wet/repetitive physical labor that is an essential ingredient to building a viable farm. They have shared their knowledge, talents and skills, honed leadership abilities, and helped to develop the farm from its infancy.
In the field our interns, service learners and volunteers have gained knowledge through hands on experience working alongside Farm Co-managers on myriad projects. Some examples include building the hoop house, weeding, watering with limited water pressure, painting and organizing shipping containers, planting perennials into our Permaculture inspired water management system, caring for the newly established perennials and annual vegetable production fields, installing drip irrigation in the hoop house,
Our interns report learning about farming practices like Permaculture, organic certification, the importance of building soil as the basis for healthy crops and the associated challenges. Learning first hand how critical a viable water source is to the success of the farm, helped them consider how lack of access to water has a major impact on a global scale. In addition to applying newly learned skills in the field, our interns further developed their understanding by teaching others. Through the Knowledge Share format, our interns were given the opportunity to research a topic relevant to the farm and facilitate a discussion with peers, neighbors, professionals and educators. Topics included Soil and microbial life, composting, weeds and pests, companion planting, medicinal gardens, foraging/edible weeds, culturally important foods, seed saving, and more. They also developed leadership skills while cementing knowledge as a by product of the practice of sharing the knowledge they gained with other participants.
Our interns will take away with them cherished memories of weeding the pollinator sanctuary, shoveling compost, seeding in the cover crops, transplanting starts, building bermed rows, moving 275 gallon IBC totes, collecting tons of cardboard for sheet mulching, the meditative quality of watering by hand or harvesting in the hoop house, and the grounding experience of being connected to the land. They will remember visiting the diagnostic center to ID weeds and bugs, taking organic produce to the food shelf for distribution, harvesting and preparing produce to sell at the farm stand, and following organic practice and permaculture principles for continuous attention to improving the soil.
They also learned the importance of connecting with members of the Frogtown community as they interact with the farm. Paraphrasing one of our service learners as he recounts his most memorable experience, Frogtown Farm is connecting with the community face to face through the farm stand, “the farm is building a healthy relationship with the community, and I was part of that process.” Others report that “Frogtown Farm leads by example” and that they experienced an awakening of the senses from being on the farm. Across the board, our interns report having benefited from spending significant time on the farm, and Frogtown Farm has definitely benefitted from their contribution of time and energy!