RICHMOND, Va.—Acclimating to new surroundings took some time for Claire Racette when she arrived as a summer Hodson intern at Tricycle Gardens, an urban agriculture organization.
“The words employees used and the tasks they performed at first seemed foreign to me,” she said. “Upon arriving and realizing that I was not yet a professional farmer, I had to admit my ignorance much like we do at school.”
Though overwhelmed at first, Racette (A17) eventually found her footing.
“If I could conquer the sexigesimal system without instruction and push myself to learn ancient Greek, I could figure out this small, one-acre farm and its vision,” said Racette, referring to her time at St. John’s College.
Now a junior, Racette applied for the internship to put her theoretical appreciation for agriculture to practice.
“[My sophomore year], the primal and fundamental relationship emphasized in Genesis between man and the earth resonated and impassioned me. I wrote an essay on the diet in Genesis and what it means to work for one’s food and eventually used this philosophic relationship as inspiration to help revitalize the campus garden,” she said.
Claire worked at the farm alongside staff, volunteers, and fellows to grow healthy food, harvest and process fresh produce, and research best practices, among other tasks.
At each turn she found a kinship between her work at Tricycle Gardens and her study at St. John’s. When confronted by the varieties of farming methodologies, for instance, she felt at home comparing various theories and techniques.
“Much like comparing the ideas of the great books, we would often consult books from various farmers, comparing and cross-checking advice and information in order to develop a farm philosophy that worked for us.
“This was all too familiar to me, as was evaluating the results each practice yielded much in the style of our lab classes at St. John’s.”
She also enjoyed working alongside staff and fellow interns, while learning how to engage the community “not only by selling them produce, but by inspiring them to dig in the dirt and find their own meditative rhythm of weed pulling.”
Turns out this small nonprofit was the perfect place for her to put theory into practice.
“I’ve realized that having this close connection to the community in which I can directly see and talk to the people affected by my work is extremely important to me. As much as I loved farming this summer, I don’t think I would have thrived as much in a secluded farm in the country where the produce is shipped to anonymous families.
“Working to personally bring that sort of down-to-earth country experience to the city where I can see the effect on the all too rushed inhabitants is something I will be thinking about as I draw nearer to graduation and a career.”
The Hodson Internship Program offers students the opportunity to pursue summer internships in virtually any career field, by funding otherwise unpaid positions through a generous grant from the Hodson Trust. Visit our Hodson Trust Internship Program page for more information. Quotes are excerpted from the student's internship report and used with permission.
—Brady Lee (AGI14)