By Maddy Shaw
October 14 — This week will be my fifth at Mill Creek Farm, and I’m finally starting to feel settled and comfortable. It’s taken me a little while to find my feet because I’m pretty self-directed in my internship, and I’ve had to find my way without a ton of oversight or direction. As one of my supervisors, said in our three-way meeting (an initial check-in where we share our learning goals with our placement supervisors) with my faculty advisor, Deborah, “this is a trial by fire.” Since Mill Creek Farm is a new placement for TPC, my supervisors were not expecting to have an intern this fall until I called them asking for an interview. There is no specific workload for an intern, so my supervisors have had to figure out how to share theirs with me. With good communication, we’re figuring out a little bit at a time how to best use my intern hours.
As it turns out, I couldn’t have come in at a better time. The growing season is winding down, but they’re faced with a heap of administrative tasks during the winter months. The organization’s annual fundraising event is coming up on December 4th (it’s open to anyone, so save the date!), and it requires a huge amount of effort to organize. Then there are grants, strategic planning, and all the other administrative tasks that come with running a non-profit.
I’m glad I’m getting first-hand experience with “the administrative side” — it’s a good reality check, a reminder that there’s more to non-profit work than seeing a laughing kid fascinated by a butterfly in the garden. At least half of my time has been spent working on the fundraiser. This involves calling local businesses and asking for donations of food for the event or items for the silent auction. Glorious, I know. But scrabbling for money is the quintessential non-glamorous part of non-profit work. Lately I’ve been starting to do some grant research, and will likely be writing a grant proposal and an annual report before I leave Philly.
My favorite part is spending time at the farm: harvesting, weeding, preparing for market, and helping out with the various groups that come to visit and volunteer at the farm. In the short time I’ve been at Mill Creek we’ve had high school students, college students, Mariposa Co-op members doing their work hours, and people newly arrived in Philadelphia hoping to meet people. I love seeing the variety of people who come to the farm and to our bi-weekly markets.
One of the things that I find most compelling about small-scale agriculture, especially in an urban setting, is the strong sense of community that can be created around food production and distribution. On Saturday a woman came by the farm looking for green tomatoes and told us about how she had been raised on a farm in Georgia, where her family had grown and preserved nearly all the food they ate. I love that Mill Creek is an outpost for agriculture in the city, a place where people can reconnect with their farming roots or taste a cherry tomato for the first time. That’s what gets me through the hours of grant research at the Free Library.