Brienna (“Brie”) Gerard and Gracie Schatz are interning with the Food Love Project this season. I got to know them a little better over a freshly-picked lunch on a lovely Spring afternoon on the back porch at Lost Hill Farm.
How did you come to be an intern with Sierra Harvest?
Brie: I was living in Michigan and substitute teaching, wanting to get into educational farming, and winter was getting close. I drove to California, and eventually found this internship, after falling in love with Nevada City and the trees and the mountains.
Gracie: I was managing a butcher shop in San Francisco, but I have always wanted to be a farmer. I thought that Food Love would be the place where I would learn the most, and where people would offer the most knowledge. It’s true – all the older farmers in the community offer us starts and advice. 25 hours a week felt manageable – I can still work on my music, ceramics, canning, cooking, butchering… I eventually want to teach butchering classes, and teach people about food preservation.
Describe a Day in the Life of a Food Love Project intern.
Brie: On field trip days, we get out to the farm early, and make sure that the farm is ready for the kids to come – we turn off the chicken fence, clear the paths, make sure the tools are safely stowed.
Gracie: This week I took kids on a scavenger hunt, tasting chive flowers, finding bees, catching chickens. We plant, seed, harvest strawberries, find worms. After the field trip, we work on the farm – we weed, turn beds, add amendments, test soil, move chickens, turn the compost piles, mulch, and water the green house.
Brie: It’s hard work, but we rest and take care of our bodies.
Gracie: We drink lots of water, snack.
Brie: We get done around 1pm and have the rest of the time to explore other farms, and work in the garden at Lost Hill where we grow our own food. Once a week we milk goats at Wet Hill. Thursdays we take a farming class at Woolman.
Gracie: Once a week we do permaculture projects with the owner of Lost Hill. She is great about letting us run with our ideas. As long as our plan is well-researched and thought out, she lets us do it.
Brie: Like put in a sauna.
Gracie: Or a solar shower.
Brie: We do a lot of propagating – native plants that we want to disperse. In the evenings, Gracie often cooks. At least half of what we eat comes from the garden. For breakfast, we collect eggs and kale and potatoes – it’s delicious.
Gracie: There are so many opportunities here to grow and learn from farmers, from previous Sierra Harvest interns, from Food Love.
Brie: This community is amazing for farmers.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Brie: Sheep sorrel is ruining my life right now. It grows all over the farm. It’s a perennial that can choke out our crops. It can regrow from even just a small part of its root. Sometimes you have to dig down two feet to get the roots. We basically have to dig up the whole farm.
Gracie: The hardest part of my job is figuring out not only how to make farming exciting and fun for the kids that visit the farm but to also make sure that they are retaining information about what quality food is. We want to change the way they relate to their food so that they can be catalysts for change in their families and their communities.
What do you hope to learn from this internship?
Brie: I want to learn how to connect an educational farm to a community, filling community needs, and figuring out how to make growing food important and interesting and FUN. Educating children and getting them excited about food through taste testing is a big part of that, but I’m excited about U-pick and plant sales, and everything else that gets people connected to the farm.
Gracie: I want to learn how to make a farm financially sustainable. Farms are clearly something the community needs – how do we make them thrive? I’m interested in how young farmers like Tim of First Rain and Amanda of Food Love started their farms – what starting a farm looks like. I want to get practical farming skills – amending soil, hardening plants from the greenhouse. And then relating it all to children is a whole different set of skills I hope to acquire.
What are your plans for after the internship?
Brie: I want to stay in the field of farm education – work in urban farming, with low-income inner city communities that don’t have access to food, food deserts. I want to bring the idea of gardening and farming to those kids.
Gracie: Farming and Butchering have complementary seasons – I want to work at a butcher store in the off-season and farm the rest of the time. I want to spend the next 2-3 years farming other people’s land and learning from those endeavors. I want to transfer my knowledge of butchering to farmers, and start a mobile butchering education business. I also want to go on tour with my band.
What do you love about farming?
Gracie: I really love watching things grow. I get so excited when seeds sprout up, and then watching them get bigger, and then we get to eat them! Watching that whole process is what I want to do with the rest of my life.
Brie: Farming is a way of life. Even as a hobby – it changes the way you live. Thinking about what you are buying or not buying. I love eating locally and conscientiously. Small scale farms build real community in a way that institutions can’t. Nevada City is a great example of this!