Farm intern Justine Appel ‘15 gives a personal account of the Lazarus Summer Internship:
It’s impossible to pick which day of the Lazarus Summer Internship was my favorite, but here are some contenders: The day we pressed 1,300 soil blocks (imagine eleven large wooden flats loaded with brownie-like cubes of soil) and filled them with lettuce seeds so tiny they looked like coffee grounds. The day I hung hundreds of feet of twine from the top of a hoop house so that our climbing beans could grow upwards into a beautiful curtain of vines and leaves. Maybe the day we sliced up 25 basketball-sized cabbages, soaked them in brine, and packed them into big white buckets to ferment into incredible sauerkraut (if you think sauerkraut is gross, you clearly haven’t tried making your own). Perhaps the day we visited the gorgeous Thimble Islands, and when the tide was too high to continue clamming, went trolling through the water at such a high speed that we would go flying whenever we hit a wave and couldn’t contain our screams and laughter. Definitely the evening of our visit to the Yale-Meyers forest, eating blueberry crisp out on the porch and sharing stories as the sun went down.
The Lazarus Summer Internship is the Yale Sustainable Food Project’s summer-long program in which six Yale College students manage the Yale Farm. This includes preparing beds, seeding, irrigating, and harvesting crops, and finally selling them at the CitySeed farmer’s market at Wooster Square every Saturday. But what the internship offers beyond that is what makes it extraordinary. The interns get to go on weekly field trips to organic farms around Connecticut, and take weekly classes on topics such as the economics of small farms, food lexicon, and soil science. The educational dimension of the internship showed us how the principles and techniques of organic farming could apply to farms much bigger than our beloved acre, and farms that were more animal-based (including a sustainable oyster farm!) than ours. We picked the brains of brand new farmers, struggling farmers, farmers who managed large heated greenhouses, and farmers that had experienced significant losses due to pests and diseases.
At the end of the summer, we went to the Northeast Organic Farming Association summer conference: three days of classes and workshops taught on everything agricultural, from worm composting to efficient irrigation to increasing food access in impoverished urban settings. Between the beginning of June and the end of August, all six of us had gained not only an understanding of how to grow and care for a diverse array of crops, but also tremendous insight into the world of sustainable food and the many paths we could take to get more involved. The YSFP staff taught us not only how to make perfect pesto and how to properly grow leeks, but how to think critically about the big picture issues inherent in our food system.
The internship, like the Yale Farm itself, demands real effort from your mind and your body. Most days, I would come home and collapse on the couch with a book and a big spoonful of peanut butter, lacking the energy to even hop in the shower and wash all the soil out of my hair. But, also like the Farm, the rewards far exceeded the amount of work we put in. Fresh vegetables to take home every week, the opportunity to pick up several new skills and experiences every day, and the lasting bonds we formed with each other and with the incredible staff far surpassed the value of our monthly stipend.
I cannot recommend this opportunity more strongly. All of this past summer’s interns had different areas of interest, and different reasons for wanting to work on a farm all summer. If you love to learn, and more importantly, if you love to eat, you should spend the summer on the Yale Farm and see what crazy adventures it brings.
Farm intern Justine Appel ‘15 on why caring about food and agriculture doesn’t make her a hipster:
When I found out I was going to be a summer intern at the Yale Farm, I felt like I had secured a dream summer for myself: working outdoors, growing and eating wonderful food, and learning from and with people who cared as much about sustainable agriculture as I did. After volunteering on the farm throughout my freshman year, I was seriously looking forward to further developing my comprehension of the problems and challenges of our food system. But around the same time my interest in the sustainable food movement heightened, I started noticing a strong, adverse reaction to it.
One morning, I opened the Yale Daily News magazine to find myself labeled a pretentious hipster. When I expressed my frustration with factory farming to one of my close friends, she told me that I was developing extremist tendencies. When I told my mom that I was going to try to eat more seasonally, she became defensive about buying strawberries in December. “Don’t you like strawberries, Justine?”
Whether being gently mocked by a Portlandia episode or accused of attempting to make food into some sort of religion or art form, I can’t seem to escape the stereotypes associated with passion for farming and concern for how we can feed seven billion mouths without contaminating our air, water, and soil. What I thought were good intentions are often perceived as idealist, naive, and, most disturbingly, elitist.
I reject being placed in special category of people who think about the way they eat, one that is characterized by privilege and even by extravagance. Being food conscious is not something inherently white, wealthy, or seductively bohemian. Moreover, such a discourse is dangerous because it strips everyone outside a certain social category of his or her agency to eat well, affordably, and ethically. Accepting that eating sustainably and locally is somehow bourgeois is both denying history and legitimizing a system that restricts access to fresh, healthy food within poor communities.
Don’t dismiss the sustainable food movement because it seems like a hipster’s cause. People who think of it that way will tell you that you can’t afford to buy organic. But with the world population expected to reach 9 billion within our generation’s lifetime, what we really can’t afford is ignorance or denial of the agricultural challenges ahead. No, we probably can’t feed the world on small-scale organic farms, but we certainly can’t go on burning more fossil fuels in order to have our winter strawberries while 870 million people go undernourished. We should strive to create a world where no one is too poor, too disadvantaged, or most importantly, too busy to exercise their right to healthy food.