Karina Ricker was this year’s UVLT Patchen Miller Intern, spending her summer working in both of UVLT’s food pantry gardens. She wrote about her experience there and the value of her time learning about food production, sustainability, and our local food systems.
“As I work through my undergraduate degree, I increasingly feel like the future of conservation is through community and a sense of responsibility towards the land we live on as well as the people and organisms with whom we share it.”
My name is Karina and I spent this past summer interning with the Upper Valley Land Trust in their two food pantry gardens as the Patchen Miller Intern. On the daily, this meant a great deal of weeding, planting, making beds, watering, and harvesting. But I also ended up getting to know some great people, as well as learn about food, conservation, my community and more.
Despite my many hours tending the garden alone, the highlight of my internship was almost certainly the volunteer days. This summer, we had a core group of steady volunteers whose smiling faces I could count on almost every week. I loved how eager everyone was to spend a couple hours a week working on this project with us to help grow food for people in need. I learned so much from the volunteers and from (Programs Director) Alison, and enjoyed chatting about the garden, and life in general.
The summer before this, I worked on a farm and loved it! So I knew working in the food pantry gardens was something I would enjoy. However, I was increasingly surprised at how different working in the gardens was from my previous farm experience. it felt more intimate and was challenging and interesting in totally different ways. We prepped beds and planted seeds directly by hand and relied on the community for labor and some supplies. Being partially involved with the facilitation and decision-making was new to me as well. At Up on the Hill in Charlestown, NH, I was part of the beginning of a new garden location, starting from scratch in a plot of ground and a new community. It was a bit slow getting started, but by the time I left, we were pulling pounds and pounds of squash, eggplants, and tomatoes out of the ground, a fecundity that as I understand it, continued into the fall long after I left for school. It was wonderful to watch the progression of the crops throughout the summer and to see the fruits of our labor making it to people in the community who need it. I admittedly was a little sad to leave just as the bulk of the harvesting started picking up!
I also really enjoyed working with the group of volunteers from Red River and the high schoolers from Camp Coniston. It truly did show how many hands can make a big difference in a day. I also got a chance to get a tour of Willing Hands and learned about their sustainable practices, and ultimately, where the food we grew ended up. Other highlights included the big, beautiful onions we grew, learning about tomato hornworms, and watching a heron frequent the garden.
I was initially drawn to this internship because I wanted to learn more about food production, working with volunteers, and the Upper Valley Land Trust as an organization. I am currently studying Biology and Contemporary Studies at Dalhousie University and the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. And, as I work through my undergraduate degree, I increasingly feel like the future of conservation is through community and a sense of responsibility towards the land we live on as well as the people and organisms with whom we share it. This internship reinforced my belief that community engagement and deeper connections with where we live is one way to work towards a future that is more sustainable and more just. The Upper Valley has been my community for much of my life, and I am incredibly grateful to have been offered this opportunity to engage with it in a new way through interning with UVLT.