Friday, June 19th, 8:30am
The day is already hot and sticky, but a cool breeze sweeps through the field as I meander down the dirt road to the high tunnel which houses the green and yellow zucchinis. I have no gloves on but am determined to find as many ripe summer squashes as I can. The plant grows from a firm base up to around 2.5 feet high. Its big green leaves hide the rich produce below and are reminiscent of prehistoric vegetation. The plants are wide, bush-like, and due to their size and proximity to one another it is often difficult to tell one plant from the next. The beautiful bright yellow of the squash blossoms stands out against the pine green leaves. With a serrated knife in one hand and my light blue tubtrug in the other, I bend down and reach to the base of the first plant, parting the leaves that keep the produce cool. The branches prick me as pass by – natural pest deterrents – but what the plant reveals is definitely worth the slight annoyance.
Wow! So many zucchinis!
I spend the next 30 minutes excitedly searching through the stalky bramble for those ripe zucchinis. They are large and definitely ready for harvest. They are also deep green and camouflage against the rest of the plant. They are good hiders, but I seek them out…
Hello! My name is Amara Killen and I am an incoming senior studying Race and Ethnicity. I have just finished my first two weeks working as one of two interns at Hayshaker Farm. The farm is located near Andy’s Market in College Place, and Jessie and I wake up at 7am each morning to either drive or bike to the farm. Biking is definitely more fun but sometimes we need the car to complete tasks off the farm. Yesterday we drove out to Milton Freewater to deliver flyers to local businesses. Hayshaker recently has become SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) approved, and owners Chandler and Leila are hoping to spread the word to increase food accessibility for people in the Walla Walla Valley.
Their intentionality behind this goal is a large part of why I am excited about working with Hayshaker. They are not only dedicated to growing delicious and high-quality food, but also to support a wide range of people in their goals to access this food. They have multiple projects in the works that both Jessie and I are involved in. We stand by the Black Lives Matter movement, show up at protests, and have donations set up on their new Online Market for customers to add to their shopping for the week. We also are fundraising for the Blue Mountain Action Council Food to Farm Pantry program, and we donate produce to the food bank.
In addition to the physical work I do most mornings on the farm, my job includes translating their website and Online Market into Spanish and supporting Jessie with finding recipes that are simple, delicious and unique. As so many people struggle financially due to COVID-19, it is increasingly important that we can provide relatively quick and enjoyable recipes for families, couples, or people who may live alone and want to try something new! We are also compiling a list of information for customers on how to best store and cook their food and are working with a local Chinese Medicine practitioner to better understand the relationship between our bodies and the food we eat.
So much about this work relies on strong relationships, and I truly believe this is what keeps small businesses alive. For example, Chandler and Leila provide Hayshaker produce to cooks who then bring the crew lunch a few times per week, using the vegetables from the farm. These relationships between businesses, acquaintances and friends build up small towns like the ones in the Walla Walla Valley, and keep people getting the support and nutrition they need. I am very excited to be involved in this work for the remainder of the summer, and beyond.
Experiences like Amara’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