As I stepped off the plane on Friday afternoon, I was hit with oppressive heat and humidity. After several moments of thinking “oy vey, it’s hot,” I made my way into the terminal, where I collected my luggage, and met my vehicle outside. During the previous nine hours of travel, I had been full of excitement, with a twinge of self-doubt. “What will it be like? I hope I am able to meet their requirements.” These types of thoughts were racing through my head as I waited for my ride to the farm.

internship

I had arrived in Montgomery, Alabama, to spend the summer working, in order to complete my Sterling College Internship requirement. I chose to spend the summer on a very unique farm, Spencer Farm. The farm is located in a socioeconomically depressed region of Alabama, known as the Black Belt. In this county, 40 percent of the economy is based off of federal subsidies, such as SNAP, or Food Stamps. This farm, which produces organic meat, vegetables, and microgreens,as well as goat’s milk products, is committed to increasing access to local, fresh, food, as well as revamping the economy of this region through the local food system.

In the past two months, this farm has started a CSA,the first in their region, which delivers fresh vegetables to 25 members, in neighboring Selma.

Once I had settled in, I began my work. We spent my first afternoon tilling the fields which will be planted in the coming days. Less than 24 hours after finishing my Animal Science final exam, I was in the field operating a tractor. It had been a hectic 24 hours, full of packing and shlepping, but I was ecstatic to have arrived. The next day, I had experience changing a tractor tire for the first time. Over the past few months, I’ve been in correspondence with the farmer here, about creating a charcuterie operation on this farm. They produce high-quality Tamworth pork, which is sold mostly in the form of ground pork, as well as the premium cuts, such as center-cut chops.

internship

I reckoned that there might be a way to create high-end products such as prosciutto and other charcuterie. This is one of the projects I’m working on. I’ve spent the past two days researching hydroponic options for their microgreens, which are sold to restaurants in the neighboring city of Tuscaloosa.

Some may ask,”why Alabama?”

Well, I’ll tell you. I chose this farm because of their commitment to increasing access. In places like the Northeast, and the Pacific Northwest, organic food has become common and farmers markets are ubiquitous. This isn’t the case here, in southern Alabama. Therefore, the work of this farm is truly pioneering and I am really excited to be a part of it

I’m only just getting started with my 10-week internship, so more updates will follow.

Stay tuned, y’all!

–Ariel Drouault


Filed Under: Blog Student Blog Sustainable Agriculture

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