Green, Growing and Always Learning

Posted by Laura Mortelliti on Aug 15, 2017 6:23:39 PM

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“The Internship Program at White Oak Pastures was once just an idea.  How many countless emails and phone calls were intercepted as students and other like-minded people began begging for the opportunity to come learn with us?  We heard you.  Now we offer one of the most comprehensive regenerative ag internships in the country.  We are not perfect.  But we are better than we were this time last year.  Success is such a personal measure.  Our success is perpetuated each time an intern leaves here with new knowledge, a realized concept, or the desire to go further and know more”.

~Laura McDonald, Human Resources Manager at White Oak Pastures

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We recently said goodbye to our Summer Intern class and welcome our Fall Intern class to the farm. Below, Laura McDonald shares her thoughts on and quotes from the Summer Intern class, followed by a one-on-one interview with our Fall Interns. Photos from our Intern Farewell Dinner.

“The Summer 2017 Class was a very diverse group of students.  They came with questions and challenged us to present good answers.  They might have come with limited knowledge, but they took initiative and shared their creativity.  They were sharp and and had great work ethics.  They continued to push themselves (and us) outside our comfort zones and sought to understand “why?”  We learned a lot from this group.  We even tried to keep a couple of them.  White Oak Pastures grows with every lesson, every opportunity for discussion, every fresh set of eyes that sees nuances we might have missed.

Our internship program takes a considerable amount of planning and our flow is disrupted when we have to stop and explain things.  But we do it anyways.  Some of us are teachers, some of us philosophers, some cowboys, and everything in between.  We do our best to deliver a dynamic, yet realistic experience.  Real life happens here”.

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These are some things that our last group of interns had to say about the program:

“I learned more in 6 weeks of being here than I learned in my entire animal science college curricula.”

“The program structure is really good and allows you to experience the interconnection of holistic agriculture.”

“Seeing first-hand what goes into raising animals on this scale has been invaluable.  I wish more people really understood the message and value of buying organic.”

“You get what you put into this program.  All the tools are here.  All the resources are here.  And a lot of knowledge is here.”

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FALL 2017 INTERN INTERVIEW- JUSTIN & SARAH

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Sarah Jordan

What is your background? Where did your interest in agriculture start?

I graduated with a degree in Sociology from St. Joe’s in Philly. My experience since then has been in the mental health field. I’ve been working with adults with mental health and substance abuse disorders. Mostly people living in poverty. Originally, when I graduated, I did a volunteer program for a year. Within that program,there was a department working with individuals with mental health and substance abuse disorders doing horticulture therapy. I didn't end up getting to work in that department. So after that, I’ve always been looking for an opportunity to do something agriculture-based. I moved out to Denver and thought I'd work for a farm out there but ended up working for a Medicaid company. Then I had a friend who saw the White Oak Pastures billboards driving up Route 27.  She visited the farm when she drove by. She knew I was looking for a farming opportunity so she sent me the White Oak Pastures link. I looked into the internship opportunity, applied, was accepted, quit my job in Denver and moved down here.

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What do you hope to learn?

I’m really interested in learning a lot more about sustainability. I’ve always been interested in it in theory. I like to buy organic when I can, but I’ve never made a full effort to walk the walk. I’d like to learn more about where my food comes from. I always toyed around with the idea of being a vegetarian but I realized I really like meat and it’s not the meat I have an issue with. I just want to get closer to food.

What department do you think will be your favorite?

I’m really excited about the Garden Department. I originally thought I’d be working on a small vegetable farm but when I found out about White Oak it seemed very legit. I read a lot of articles about it and got very interested the more I read.

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Justin Borders

What is your background? Where did your interest in agriculture start?

My background comes from the service industry as well as landscaping. My parents own a landscaping company. I worked with them for several years while working in several restaurants as well. I like people. That’s why I like the service industry. But when I was in the restaurant, I missed being outside and I missed the work. Restaurant work is physical, and it is hard, but you're not outside for 12 hours, you're not lifting or moving things. There was a part of me that was like,“the money is really good but there is something about my brain that says I miss that aspect of life”. So I just thought having the opportunity to come to a farm would be great. I read a book called The Omnivore's Dilemma that my friend gave me and that’s when I really started paying more attention. I started to realize that the way we live isn't probably the best way- the way we’re taught as an everyday American consumer going through life- I realized that it wasn’t right. It was a very eye opening thing. I’ve been interested in agriculture for probably a couple years, but just lived life, went along the path that was there. I looked up WOOFing, I looked up things like that, but never really just had a push to go do it because I was making good money, I was happy where I was in life. So I was like, “This sounds really cool but I’m okay right now”. Then I was driving to St. George beach, past White Oak, and I was like “I’ve heard of that farm, I know that’s a really good farm”. I had seen White Oak Pastures in the supermarkets and knew you sold grassfed beef. Also, my sister works with the son of your Atlanta Farm Ambassador, Erin Fight. So I went to the beach for a few days, came back and decided to stop by. I actually came into the office and talked to Jenni for a few minutes, she gave me the paperwork, I went home, filled it out, applied and got accepted to the internship.

What do you hope to learn?

I’m really interested in being self sustainable, the basics of a garden, chickens, eggs, things like that. When I heard about the butchering and processing side of things on this farm, I thought that’d be really cool.  You don’t usually think about that. Like my mom hates when people butcher a deer. She’s like, “They’re so innocent”, but I’m like, “Okay yeah but you’re eating a cheeseburger from a factory farm”. She doesn't want to see that. People don’t like to think about that; where is this food is coming from- did that animal have a good life or was it a terrible life and now it's in the grinder and ‘see you later’? So being able to experience all of that and know, “I watched this chicken be born, raised it, fed it, killed it, and now I’m eating it”. That is the true experience of your food. I think that’s cool.

What department do you think will be your favorite?

I don't know if I’ll have a favorite department- I think the farm will be my favorite department- everything from gardening to carpentry- from chickens to processing- that’s what I’m excited about- just soaking everything in.

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Topics: Staff Spotlight, Women in Ag, Holistic Management, Internship



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