Laura Fletcher
Environmental Studies 220
May 5, 2005

Internship Final Report

Introduction:

My internship was originally with Thundering Hooves and independent research on my own. Due to weather and scheduling, I was able to expand my internship to work with Ideal Organics as well. I wanted to get majority of my internship finished over spring break, but Thundering Hooves did not have chickens or work for me, luckily Ideal Organics provided a place for me to learn about farm production in Walla Walla. My work over spring break with Ideal Organics was to log in sufficient hours for my internship requirements, but in addition, provided a wonderful supplement to my interaction with Thundering Hooves and sustainable agriculture. Ideal Organics had a Whitman Intern last summer and were very helpful and welcoming. I was able to job shadow and work with the owner of Ideal Organics, Sarah Sisk. I am very pleased with how my independent internship has allowed me to experience different aspects of sustainable and organic food production.

My original goals and objectives at the beginning of the semester were broken into three realms; experience, academic and personal. My goals were - Experientially: I hoped to share this experience and knowledge to promote more sustainable agriculture and purchasing habits. I am hoping to gain insight about issues of the rural West. Academically: I hoped that this internship will challenge me to be creative in my project outside of job shadowing and gaining insight from daily farm activity. I hope to gain professional knowledge of the organic livestock niche market. Personal goals: As a consumer this internship will allow me to see the other angle of the producer-consumer path. I was excited to spend time outside working with animals (although they are raised to be killed) and learn how a farm operates.

 

Reflection on my Goals and Objectives:

I have achieved my goals of getting first hand experience of agriculture with working with Ideal Organics. I had hoped to expand upon my experience with Thundering Hooves, but I was not able to connect with them and I did not do actual work for them this semester. My other experiential goal was to share my experience and promote awareness on the Whitman campus. I was able to share my experience of working with Ideal Organics through conversations about the Co-op. There was a possible conflict with selling farm produce at the Co-op and the similarities to the Walla Walla Farmer’s market, I was hoping establish a relationship with Ideal Organics and CSA and the Co-op, but the Co-op is not going to carry a substantial amount of fruits and vegetables because produce does not have a high profit return. Because Ideal Organics produces the majority of their fruits and vegetables during the summer, the Co-op would be a good place to distribute information, but they are small enough that they are able to sell their products through CSA and local restaurants. I hope to continue my connection to Ideal Organics and link them to the Whitman community through the Co-op.

Academically I hoped that this project would challenge me to be creative while gaining insight into daily farm activity. Working at Ideal Organics I was able to get a feel for what running a farm might entail, but I was not able to see the production through a long period of time, such as through a season. This project challenged me to make contacts and find businesses to work with. I had to work to independently plan my internship and make outside contacts. This is an area that I could have worked harder at this semester. I was focused on logging in enough hours and I did not utilize enough resources on the Whitman campus to enhance my internship. Overall I am satisfied with my internship, but I wish I had incorporated it into my weekly schedule to have a concrete project.

I completed my personal goals of see the other angle of the producer-consumer path. Unfortunately, I did not work with Thundering Hooves and I was hoping to familiarize myself with the meat production industry.

 

Reflection on my experience:

As an intern, I offered Ideal Organics and Thundering Hooves labor in exchange for knowledge and training of how they run their operations. Unfortunately, since I do not have much farm experience I needed a substantial amount of training. Sarah Sisk of Ideal Organics was very supportive and instructed me on how to do daily tasks. Thundering Hooves was receptive and supportive; schedules and timing did not coincide very well.

This internship has made me more aware of the issues going on in the meat industry, as well as agriculture. I was very interested in events that were going on this semester relating to food production, but there are many local issues that were brought to the attention of students on the Whitman campus. For example, the Tyson workers’ rejection of a union was highly publicized, criticized and analyzed.

My real work and the most time spent was with Ideal Organics, working in their green houses and preparing crops to be planted. I learned more about what it takes to run a small agriculture business, than the actual skills of planting due to the cold and rainy weather. I was excited to work with Thundering Hooves after spring break, but the work schedule did not work with my school schedule and we had communication difficulties. Thundering Hooves got chickens to be raised after spring break and I was supposed to help construct brooder houses and learn about the raising process of chickens. Unfortunately, I communicated with them through email and we did not check in enough. We were not able to schedule a time to work and I was not able to work with them. This was frustrating, but I should have been more insistent and contacted them over the phone instead of email, but email worked previously and I did not feel comfortable intruding.

Personal Experience and Learning Value:

Although I learned a great deal how to plant and prepare crops, I feel like the most valuable experience that I gained from spending time with Ideal Organics was hearing personal stories from local farmers running their business. I admire Sarah and her husband’s work. They have a vision on how they want to live and run their company. They shape and cultivate a relationship to the land that is labor intensive and time consuming. Sarah was very proud of her farming background and proudly detailed her “fifth generation farmer” heritage. Initially, Sarah told me about how her business is a way of life. I did not fully understand this concept over the phone and spending time at her house and place of work displayed her and her husband’s commitment to their lifestyle.

I have gained a valuable cultural experience. I grew up in Seattle and lived in a big city until coming out to college. I am thankful I had the opportunity to work as part of agriculture production to see first hand the labor that goes into producing sustainable, local and organic produce.

I think this internship helps build a relationship between locals and Whitman students. Whitman faculty and staff are a part of the Walla Walla community. I think it is harder for Whitman students to feel like part of the larger Walla Walla community outside of Whitman. This disconnect does not promote personal relations between students and locals. There are wonderful programs and jobs that help foster this relationship, such as mentoring and off-campus jobs. I feel that this internship has allowed me to build relationships with community members. I plan on furthering these relationships by helping out at Ideal Organics and hopefully connecting the Co-op’s space for public and campus awareness.

This semester, there is an increase discussion about effects of food purchasing. For example, the Tyson Union workers vote was highly publicized on campus. Eric Schlosser’s talk on campus promoted discussion about the horrors of the commercialized meat industry for the animals, workers and eventually the consumers. This semester has been unique that there have been more discussions around campus about the production process that food goes to before it is on our plate. For example, the Fair Trade group, Tyson worker’s support group, Co-op and the class Whitman in the Global Food System have presented and raised consumer conscience around the Whitman Campus. My internship this semester has opened my eyes and increased my awareness about my food purchases.

 

Logistics:

This internship, logistically, has been relatively simple. I am fortunate to have a flexible spring break schedule to work with Ideal Organics. I am also fortunate to have a car to be able to travel to Kwick Freeze Meats, Ideal Organics and the Thundering Hooves Ranch. In the future I would recommend weekly meetings to keep updated with my internship sponsor. I contacted Thundering Hooves through email, which was not adequate. I should have made a stronger effort to maintain contact with them. Thundering Hooves and Ideal Organics are well run businesses and I would recommend an intern for both of them in the future, but the majority of the work should not be done over spring break.

 

Successful Parts (value to the community):

I think that this internship helps build relations between local agriculture producers and Whitman students. I hope that relations between Thundering Hooves and Ideal Organics with Whitman students, such as myself continue.

 

Obstacles and Difficulties:

Timing and weather were my two main obstacles. Since Thundering Hooves has limited work until the end of March, the majority of work with them is going to be after spring break. Thankfully I could also work for Ideal Organics during spring break to log in time, but the weather was cold and rainy and we were limited to doing indoor and green house activity.

 

Time Commitment:

My time commitment to this internship has been very flexible due to the independence of this internship. I was able to work for Ideal Organics over spring break to make sure I had enough hours. I am fortunate that there were a fair amount of campus events and speaker that related to the meat industry, especially with the Tyson labor disputes. I have also spent time researching and reading articles about the meat industry and organic agriculture. I think that there is a general increase of awareness of food production and consumption. Organic Produce, although traditionally more expensive is becoming more popular. Seattle Farmers’ Markets (there are 5) opened at the beginning of May and stay open until early December. I think that the upper/middle class food consumers are becoming more conscience of what they are buying.

 

Key Contacts :

Joel and Cynthia Huesby, owners of Thundering Hooves
Kwick Freeze Meats: 509-529-2453
Sarah Sisk, owner of Ideal Organics
Home: 509-526-4208