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Join us for an interview with one of Real Food CT’s very own interns/Garden Manager, Rebecca! Throughout our conversation, we learn more about the internship program, her experience and how she hopes to utilize what she’s learned in the future. We are thrilled that we could learn more from Rebecca and hope that others will be inspired to get involved too!

Tell me a bit about yourself!
I am 20 years old and am a rising junior at the University of Vermont where I study Environmental science with a focus in sustainable agriculture. I live in Newtown, about 15 minutes from both garden locations, Sticks and Stones, and the Catherine Violet Hubbard
Animal Sanctuary.

How did you get involved with Real Food CT?
This season is my fourth with Real Food CT. I began as a volunteer during the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the summer leading up to my senior year of high school. I have returned each summer since! That first year in 2020 was the first year of the young farmer internship program, and Sean (the founder and main boss man) was looking for his first interns. He took a chance on me and here I am 4 seasons later.

Can you share a bit about what you currently do for Real Food CT?
Technically my current job title is Garden Manager, but I basically do whatever needs to be done. I work with Sean to oversee the smooth functioning of both garden locations. This includes directing other interns and volunteers, making sure all tasks are completed, and solving problems where they occur. My responsibilities have increased over the years as I have continued to return each season. After being around for so long, and from the very start, I know all about the history of Real Food CT, about the ever evolving mission we have, and about our standard garden operations. I am also the driver of the Veggie Van! I take the van to drop off produce deliveries to the 10+
food pantries we work with multiple days a week. I also drive it to farm and market pickups, direct visits to local farms and farmers markets to grab surplus produce.

What are the top 1-3 things that you’ve learned from your experience?
This has been the only job I have ever had, and it has been educational in a variety of ways. Personally, the most valuable things I have learned from working for Real Food CT are the ones involving working with people. I started out very quiet and reserved, prepared to put my head
down and work. I had no people skills at the time, but slowly I began to open up and change my ways. The job that I do now is wildly more complex than it was in 2020, and I could not do it without the skills of communication and working with others that I have gained. I frequently
have to forge relationships with many different people, farmers, market staff, food pantry workers, garden volunteers, etc. I also had to learn how to lead people, working to do so in the most efficient, yet kind and pleasant ways possible. Undoubtedly, these skills will prove to be
critical throughout my professional career. Obviously, I have also learned tons about gardening/farming. Beyond the basic tasks required to
maintain a garden, I now have a nice understanding of concepts related to the work. These include timing of things such as planting and harvesting, as well as particular requirements when it comes to each plant; what fertilizer and water they need for optimal growth. Additionally, I now know how to drive a van and a tractor!

What are you most looking forward to this season?
This season I am the main boss on the ground for the first time. Sean is around less and I make many final calls that used to be his. This is something new and different from past seasons, and I am excited for the challenge. Also, this season we have received a grant for a pollinator project on the Sticks and Stones land. Outside of the garden there are some areas of land that we plan to recover from invasive overgrowth, and transform into lovely native shrublands.

How might what you’ve learned at Real Food CT translate into your future career?
I intend for my future career to be within the same field of work. With this in mind, my work at Real Food CT will be of immense value in prospective endeavors. What I have learned hands on from this job, combined with my formal education, will leave me with well-rounded knowledge of organic agriculture, ecosystem management and food systems.

How can other people get involved in the intern program who might be interested in learning more?
All of the 2023 season internship positions have been filled, but there are many more years to come! In the months leading up to next season (December-March-ish) check out the internship tab on the Real Food CT website. There will be instructions on how to apply there and probably
an email address you should contact. Until then, start getting to know the team now and come volunteer!

What is your favorite part about working with Real Food CT?
My favorite part about working at Real Food CT (and the reason I continue to come back) is that I find the work itself pleasant and purposeful. I am happy to get up early in the morning and move wheelbarrows around, dig in the dirt and pull weeds. In my opinion, it beats other
minimum wage jobs out there. Additionally, there is a quantifiable difference that is being made by Real Food CT and there are direct beneficiaries. I adore this feeling of purpose, it is one that I don’t believe too many other entry level jobs offer.

What is your favorite thing to plant/grow?
Over the years my favorite crop has changed, but this season I have found myself being the most excited about radishes. They grow incredibly rapidly, and have a turnover time of about 30 days. Other crops are so much fun to finally harvest, but they just take so long, sometimes all summer. Though some runner ups are peppers, marigolds and garlic.

If there is anything that I may have missed, feel free to share!

I suppose this is a great opportunity for a plug! Real Food CT has a great website where you can read all about our mission, the young farmer internship program, upcoming events, and more. There is a link to sign up for our weekly newsletters and also a donation link. We also have an instagram account which I partially manage with frequent garden updates and interesting content throughout the season. This season, our hours of operation are 7-10 am on weekdays, feel free to come and volunteer and learn with us!

Thank you, Rebecca, for taking the time to share about your experience with Real Food CT! If you are interested in learning more, be sure to check out all of the links that Rebecca shared above and stay tuned this winter for further updates about how to get involved as an intern for the 2024 season.

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