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Interning at a Kitchener market garden Emily Wong

Apr 07, 2017 10:57 AM

Posted by Rachael Chong

If I only had one word to describe my experience at the Hacienda Sarria Market Garden this past season, it would be “enriching”. It was an experience that gave back far more than what I put in. I met so many kind, energetic, and thoughtful folks who encouraged my ideas both in the garden and outside in the wider Waterloo Region community. I also achieved any student’s dream: I used my classroom knowledge to overcome real challenges at work in the garden.

Through this internship, I learned the ins and outs of market gardening. In the spring, I learned how to prepare beds and plant seeds and seedlings. Early summer brought heat and dry weather, so I learned to lay drip irrigation lines. I also cared for our fruit trees by spraying them with a chemical-free concoction of neem oil, fish emulsion, molasses, and compost tea to protect them from harmful bugs. By mid-summer, our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program was in full swing and I learned how to harvest and store the different kinds of produce for CSA member pickups and delivery to restaurants and local grocery stores.

All this time, I worked with dozens of volunteers from the Waterloo Region community who came with their own stories and experiences of gardens and growing food. Even as I type this, I can picture Lucille, a long-time supporter of the garden, arranging beautiful bouquets of cut flowers for the weekly CSA pickup. I remember how the garden became a hive of activity when the huge group of workers from Blackberry helped get us through a very busy week of planting seedlings. I can remember the quiet conversations in the toolshed as we drank tea and waited for the rain to stop. For me, the most valuable parts of this internship were learning, teaching, and interacting with the many volunteers who came to the garden this past season.

My role was fluid at the beginning, but as I interacted with other interns and volunteers, it coalesced into a more specific position – that of the “perpetually organized, detail-oriented task master”. I was happy with that and I am glad that I had (ironically!) the freedom to settle into that role. The internship was flexible enough that all of the interns were able to decide on their roles for themselves. I prefer a more concrete approach to my work, so I did just that with my internship. Other interns preferred changing up their tasks to have more variety and a more free-flowing role – and the internship program valued both preferences equally.

I began in April knowing very, very little about gardening, but my initial lack of knowledge made the internship even more enriching as I learned so much about plants, soil, and the practice of market gardening. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn from everyone, eat fresh food, and get my hands full of meaningful work.

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Emily was an intern in 2015. She is a graduate of Environment & Resource Studies at University of Waterloo and is currently studying to be a teacher in Ottawa.

The Hacienda Sarria Market Garden is a project of the Working Centre. The community-enterprise urban agriculture project in Kitchener is currently accepting applications (due April 17) for its 2017 internship. We are also always open to new volunteers and visitors. Beginners welcome! See more details more by visiting https://www.theworkingcentre.org/garden-internship-2017

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