Internships have become an almost universal experience for today's college graduates. These frequently unpaid positions are lauded by many employers as important steps into the professional world. However, in a world where educational debt is skyrocketing, this free labor market has also gained many critics.
The staff with the Montezuma School to Farm Project understands this duality of professional development vs. a lengthy unpaid commitment. That is why we want to take the opportunity to highlight the importance of our interns and offer them our gratitude for their contributions.
Since 2011, the project has found interns through the Adventure Education Department at Fort Lewis College. The first was Dustin Stein. Many people probably now recognize him as the muscle behind Burke Beef and the owner of Stubborn Farms in Mancos. Dustin laid the groundwork for the internship program at School to Farm and even went on to temporarily take the reins during the pregnancy of Erin Bohm, our Mancos School Garden coordinator.
Our next intern was Patrick Della Ratta. His contributions include working on garden expansions at the Mancos and Dolores schools and helping to develop the Summer Garden Day Camp at the Cortez Recreation Center. Also, Patrick stands out for his financial donations as well as his time commitment.
We are now waving goodbye to current interns Miles Pastuhoy and Derek Gallegos. The opportunity to be educators in an experiential outdoor environment originally drew them to MSTFP. Pastuhoy recently said that the agricultural focus of our program was actually secondary to the teaching experience.
"But," he said, "now I see that what we're doing is teaching lifelong skills, skills that are being forgotten in many parts of the world."
Both Pastuhoy and Gallegos have commented on the affirmation they get from seeing how well the students retain the lessons they learn in the garden.
"You can talk to kids who have gone through the program in years past and ask them Socratic questions and they can quickly come up with answers. They are really on top of it and want to tell you what they know!" said Pastuhoy.
Gallegos is now looking forward to a career "focused on educating the citizens of tomorrow." He believes farm-to-school education should be a part of every school in Colorado. The 600-hour commitment they both gave, to our program and to the betterment of our communities is noble and impressive. The Montezuma School to Farm Project has grown wildly with their help. And as we wish them well on their voyages beyond Montezuma County we think brightly to the next group of inspired and courageous young people wanting to put their energy into a program that they believe in!
I leave you with some School to Farm updates and a gardening tip from our director and master gardener, Sarah Syverson.
As June starts to wane, our gardens are bursting with vegetables. So far this month we've harvested over 90 pounds! Now, that might not seem like a lot to all you market gardeners, but consider the fact that students grew all that produce! The Wednesday and Tuesday Weed 'n' Greet gatherings are in full swing and it's great to see the community coming out. Stop by the Dolores Garden north of the elementary school fields from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays or the Mancos Garden between the middle school and the high school from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays.
Don't forget to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about our Run Wild, Get Dirty, Have Fun Summer Camp. We'll be gardening, cooking, making crafts, playing games and telling stories from July 30 through Aug. 2 in Mancos and Aug. 6-9 in Dolores. This camp is for first- through fifth-graders.
Lastly, don't forget to friend us on Facebook (facebook.com/montezumaschooltofarm) for a more up-to-date stream of current events.
Now, from Sarah's mouth to your garden: "In this time of extreme drought conditions, water conservation in your garden has never been more important. Utilizing drip irrigation that you can buy locally from the Dolores Conservation District. along with mulching your plants once they've sprouted above the surface, will go a long way in taking care of our limited water resources. Join us at the school gardens during the Weed 'n' Greet days to see our drip irrigation in action and get tips on installing your own system. If we can do it, you can too!"
Harrison Topp is an Americorps OSM/VISTA volunteer with the Montezuma School to Farm Project.