By Alex Krantz, Gathering Ground intern 2020
Before becoming an intern with my sister Izzy at Gathering Ground, I was an Island regular. Every summer my family would drive up from our Illinois suburb to Washington Island, anticipating the euphoric moment when we would be driving down the curving road, alongside the lake to Gibson’s West Harbor Resort.
After we learned about Gathering Ground through the farmers market, we knew we wanted to join. Any extra time living on the Island was a plus, and after quarantine, I ached even more to work outside and revive my antsy bones.
The pandemic made my sister and me doubt that we’d be able to go, yet sure enough, at the end of June we were in between the vineyards meeting new faces and beginning a six week journey. We adapted to a flexible schedule that allowed for structured and unstructured days. We learned how to communicate as a team on what areas of the farm needed to be addressed and taken care of first.
Some of my favorite parts of Gathering Ground were the seminars. We worked through one to two readings per week, discussed them at the seminars, and applied the lessons to our farm work. Additionally, a few times there would be baked goods from Island Cafe and our mouths would go from conversing to watering. My favorite areas at Gathering Ground were the squash garden and the sheep enclosure. First, the squash garden was where I felt I could see the most progress. We planted them on day two and saw them stretch to large squashes by the end of week six. Second, the sheep were white Dorper sheep and shed hair on their own. Before I knew this, I was worried we’d have to shear off heaps of their fluff. I soon realized the sheep weren’t as wooly as I originally assumed and were instead addicting to hang around.
While my days at Gathering Ground were filled with gratifying hard work, the one thing I wish I had done differently was taken more days to recuperate. There were days we could take off as long as we met our 25 hours a week, but my sister and I still found ourselves drawn to work every day. We also felt a separate burnout from dealing with the exasperating beetles called rose chafers. Luckily most died out a little over halfway through the six weeks which brought an intense feeling of relief.
Lastly, one of the biggest pluses to working six weeks on the Island was the community. My sister and I grew up vacationing on the Island every summer, but the internship helped connect us to more people. There were fewer volunteers this year due to COVID- 19 and stretched us to work harder with less help.
Russell and Alessandra Rolffs were patient and caring mentors. They welcomed curiosity, encouraged hard work, and radiated kindness and understanding. Their commitment to Washington Island and dedication to Gathering Ground are truly inspiring. I’m beyond excited to stop by next summer and see them and the grounds once again.
Gathering Ground is hosting a virtual fundraiser this year to support our programs in lieu of our usual in person fundraiser, Dinner in the Vineyard, due to COVID-19. If you’d like to support our internship or other programs, please check out our virtual fundraiser or contact our executive director, Alessandra.