This first appeared in the Washington Island Observer.
This summer Gathering Ground hosted seven students for its summer internship program, Ground School. This program creates an environment for students to learn about the theory and practice of sustainable farming while living in community.
Gathering Ground has hosted the internship program for five year and this year, the program was renamed Ground School. It was also the first year of a 10-week program instead of the previous six weeks.
Each student worked at a farm including Hoot Blossom, Birchwood, Island Orchard Cider, and Hidden Acres. They also worked and learned at Gathering Ground’s demonstration farm in the vineyard, orchards, and chestnut nursery. Students took field trips, read and discussed sustainable agriculture texts and articles, and cooked community meals together. Here are some of their takeaways from the summer. The program concluded with the students giving community presentation at Gathering Ground.
“What I’ve taken away — with a far deeper understanding than I had before — is that the relationship between people, land, and food, is much more intimately related than I ever could have thought. Obviously, I still have a very limited grasp on the nuances of these concepts, but this summer has opened up my mind quite a bit.” – Jaxson Salmon
“I learned a lot I didn’t know about the current food situation in our country, and I learned ways to eat better. This summer sparked inspiration to get native plants in my yard and grow what I can.” — Pauline Taylor
“During my summer at Ground School, I learned I want to focus more on learning about food justice and migrant labor on farms in the United States. Thinking about and drawing our gardens throughout the internship helped me realize that I want to work on helping Latino people that are involved in agriculture. I also want to continue to learn more about soil health and agroforestry, which are both topics I previously did not know a lot about until this internship.” — Crystal Guzman
“First, I’m a lot happier, more comfortable, and more interested in communal living than I had expected. That knowledge won’t necessarily change my career path or course of study, but it will affect the way I choose and plan to live going forward. Second, something we discussed during seminar really stuck with me: We don’t all need to do everything as long as everyone does something. I don’t need to grow all my own food, but I do need to grow some of it, support my community, and put at least one food that I grew or foraged on every plate”. – Claire Chamberlin
“I now know that I want to work in food systems/sustainable agriculture, though I’m still open to anything I can find in sustainability as a broad field. I think that agriculture and food systems don’t get enough attention and push for action, and I want to contribute to education and expanding efforts toward improving our food system. I also want to continue to build my personal gardening and preserving skills so that I can slowly take more and more control over my own foodscape.” — Izzy Fuller