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In Their Own Words: Ellery Berk ’14

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

“In Their Own Words” is an ongoing series featuring the experiences of Middlebury students at their summer internships. This summer Ellery Berk ’14 interned with Gardens for Health International in Kigali, Rwanda.   

What did you do?

For the month of June, I interned with Gardens for Health International as a communications intern, conducting interviews, collecting media and writing blogs. Gardens for Health  is an agricultural NGO that partners with Rwandan health centers to equip families facing malnutrition with the knowledge and resources for greater self-sufficiency.

What did you learn?

Through Gardens for Health, I learned anew the values of self-sufficiency and community, and I have great expectations for our partnership moving forward. I learned that it is very important to be flexible.

What are your plans for the future?

My interest in development and global health remains strong; however, I realize that my place in the field likely does not lie in a small grassroots organization. While in Rwanda, I found that the most effective work Gardens for Health did was completed by Rwandans themselves. Expat staffers provided programmatic and technical support for Rwandan staff members, but little else. From this experience, I’ve learned that if I want to continue in the global health and development field, I should probably work with larger organizations, like Oxfam or the UN, and I should get an MPP and MBA.

Think this experience sounded pretty cool? Check out opportunities like this and more on MOJO.

Farm Fresh: Easy and Local

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

During the first week of July, I picked up three succulent beefsteak tomatoes at Your Farmstand, located in the Mahaney Center for the Arts. I was ecstatic. For me, summer officially starts when there are luscious tomatoes to be had (not those rock-hard fakes trucked from across the continent). I also picked up a bag of freshly cut mesclun lettuce tossed with colorful edible flowers from Middlebury’s organic farm, slicing cucumbers from the Lalumiere farm, and rainbow chard.

Since joining Your Farmstand, I’ve been the lucky recipient of an abundance of high quality, local produce and meat without having to battle crowds at farmers markets or find parking at the store. The College helped organize this new venture for the Middlebury community in response to a faculty/staff survey indicating keen interest in local agriculture. Francisca Drexel,  farmstand manager,  and Greg Krathwohl ’14, coordinator, were key boots on the ground. Originally conceived and started by growers in Charlotte, Your Farmstand has the potential to elevate local agriculture, opening new markets with a fresh approach that combines the best parts of CSAs and farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and e-commerce.

When I log into my account at yourfarmstand.com I can see “what’s for sale.” The producers have listed what they have available this week, from their home computers. I can see descriptions of the products, the quantity available, and where they are from. Some describe how the item was harvested, or how it tastes, or was grown. I can click on the producer’s name and learn more about the farm or business.

“We visited local farms and recruited growers,” said Greg Krathwohl, explaining how the program works. He showed me on Google Maps the locations of the 23 producers currently supplying Your Farmstand at Middlebury. This is really local agriculture. The farthest away is Ferrisburgh, which is less than 20 miles. When selecting growers for the program, the organizers wanted to be able to offer a wide variety of items to customers. “If growers all sell the same produce, no one would benefit,” Krathwohl said.

Your Farmstand has been offering almost enough variety that I could do most of my grocery shopping there: organic milk, cheese, beef, pork, lamb, sausage, blueberries, summer apples, carrots, cucumbers, several lettuces, cabbage, broccoli, bread, croissants, baguettes, cinnamon rolls, eggs—chicken and duck, green beans, red and golden beets, rainbow chard, fennel, fresh garlic, kale—many types, kohlrabi, onions, scallions, new potatoes, summer squash, chicken—grillers and broilers, specialty granolas, beef jerky, jam, sunflower oil, pesto, fiddlehead dilly, vinegar, coffee, spices, herbs, tea—calendula and nettle, honey, beeswax, gourmet chocolate. Even firewood.

The way it works: I opened an account on the site and deposited money (by debit card, but I could have mailed a check) into my account, from which my orders, due by Monday, are subtracted. The website keeps track of my order, and I receive a receipt listing what I selected. The farmers deliver to Middlebury on Tuesday afternoon, and my order is waiting for me to pick up at the MCFA a couple of hours later.

The most unexpected surprise for me so far has been the amazing pork chops. I am old enough to remember what pork tasted like before it was raised in factory settings. And these pork chops, from Meeting Place Pastures, taste like those from my childhood. Is it possible for us to transform agriculture back to its more wholesome days?

When I walk into the MCFA and there are colorful, healthful baskets brimming with food raised by our neighbors and friends, I feel hopeful.