For the second summer in a row, Elm Street Gardens and Sparta Imperial Mushrooms have had the experience of hosting students from Oglethorpe University and Agnes Scott College. For the month of June five students spent their time with us in Hancock County. They worked at farming, growing mushrooms, finding out what it takes to raise grass fed beef and sheep as well as experiencing what middle Georgia has to offer for its citizens.
We shared these good workers with Fort Creek Farm where Bob and Susan Woodall and Chris Jackson raise grass fed beef, goats, and chickens as well as diligently work on preserving the history of this old Hancock plantation. The interns also spent some time with Lyle Lansdell at Forest Grove Farm, her old family farm in Sandersville, where in addition to fruits and vegetables, she raises sheep. They spent a morning with Debbie Waugh of Salamander Springs Farm near Milledgeville and were awed by her practice of permaculture and ability to live off the grid. Forester Jeff Lacksen gave them an afternoon’s view of the forestry industry in Hancock County.
This was a terrific group of students who were articulate, interested in the world around them and agreeable to whatever task was assigned to them. They had the opportunity of attending farmers markets, working at Helping Hands (a Hancock food bank) and cleaning up the grounds at the Hancock Library as well as exploring parts of middle Georgia that were new to them.
I’m going to take the liberty to share some of the comments made by the interns on their evaluations at the end of the experience:
“I really enjoyed getting to know the other interns and learning how to farm. I left the internship with a solid idea of how to maintain a farm. I also enjoyed the stars, the rock quarry and the slow pace of life.”
“ working on Forest Grove farm was interesting to see how one woman is able to do so much with what was given to her.”
“It is also important to experience the poverty in Hancock County. It's one thing to intellectually understand poverty but it is another thing to experience it. That aspect of the internship cannot be replicated.”
“For the most part this experience met my expectations. I think there could have been more educational materials and hands on learning. Instead, we mostly did hands on work with little explanation. The level of work was as I expected.”
“The people. Hanging out with my peers. Working and learning with the Currey's, Jim, Liz, Brian, Jonathan, Chris, The Woodalls, Tom, Mr. Ned, Ms. Lyle, and Karina. This honestly was the best part, I made connections and relationship that will help me facilitate my endeavors and will be friends and support.”
“I feel like I got a bit of Hancock in my blood now.”
We were pleasantly surprised with the comments made by the interns on their evaluations, but they almost all nailed us on our greatest weakness: Which was the fact that they would have liked more educational instruction on farming. I agree that we and the schools could have done more in that department. I am pretty sure that they learned that farming is a lot of work and we will try to throw in more “book learning” and explanation of the processes involved next time.
I have invited them and hope they will be able to return to Elm Street Gardens and Hancock County whenever they wish, but most especially for our Community Labor Day Picnic. I was so impressed with these students and their attitudes and insights. They certainly made this old soul feel good about this generation that is coming along!
Below I am sharing some pictures Betty Longdergan (wife of Oglethorpe University President and skilled photographer among other accomplishments) took during a visit to Elm Street Gardens at the end of the interns’ third week here.