Hi, my name is Sarah Cohn, I am a rising Junior at Whitman majoring in Sociology- Environmental Studies. This summer I am interning at Hayshaker Farm in College Place, Washington, just outside of Walla Walla. I decided to intern at Hayshaker because I am fascinated by food systems and how disconnected most people are from the processes that create their food. I have always wanted to learn more about growing produce, farming practices, and the relationships humans have with food.
My internship is split into two parts. For half of my time, I am on the farm performing regular farming tasks. I mainly harvest vegetables, but when I am not doing that, my time is spent trellising plants, hoeing and weeding, and in the pack shed washing and packaging the produce. I also got to try working the downtown Walla Walla Farmers Market! My favorite parts of this half of my internship include washing and packing during the hot days, chatting with the other wonderful farmers as we work, being astounded by the growth of the tomato plants each Tuesday when I return to trellis them, and of course finding vegetables that look much different from how I see them in stores. Oh, and I get to take home imperfect produce to eat!
The other half of my internship has centered around getting fresh produce to communities that have trouble obtaining it. I was given a fair amount of leeway with this project, but my supervisor from the farm is always there to meet with me as the project has progressed. Originally, we planned for me to organize a pop-up market outside of the farmers market that would take place in low-income communities to remedy issues with transportation. I explored ways to make the market accessible in other manners, such as translating market signs into Spanish, holding the market on an evening so it would be more accessible for folks who work during the morning farmers market, selling produce at a reduced cost, and accepting government assistance as payment. A couple weeks into my internship, after doing substantial investigation into all of these elements of the proposed market, my supervisor and I decided that a pop-up market wouldn’t be the most effective project because we wouldn’t be able to complete the process that would allow us to accept WIC (Women, Infants, and Children)/ Senior and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) during the span of my internship. The two government assistance programs are heavily relied upon by the communities I am targeting with the project, and so it would be hard to make a market accessible without it being able to accept them.
So, I found myself back at square one. Well, not really. Throughout my research I had come across other possibilities. The disconnect between farmers and consumers and misconceptions about incorporating vegetables had also come up as important obstacles in the accessibility of fresh produce. After reaching out to many community members, I came up with the idea of a community event that connects producers with consumers, hopefully making the farmers market (where government assistance programs can be used as payment) feel more comfortable for those who don’t frequent it. My other goal for the event has been teaching people that vegetables are tasty and easy to prepare, and providing information on health benefits of fresh produce. Right now I am in the final stages of preparing for the event and I am pretty overwhelmed, but super excited! I am hopeful that through this event, I can facilitate meaningful relationships and provide information that helps people incorporate fresh produce into their diets.
Experiences like Sarah’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez