Internship: Biodiversity and Perennial Crops
Supervisor: Mel Sylvestre
I am a 5th year student in the Global Resource Systems program in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems with a specialization in Global Health.
For me, global health is unfortunately a very economic and political issue. Helping to achieve equity in health for all people worldwide is one of my goals and I want to achieve that not only through medicine or food but by encompassing political, economic and social aspects of well-being as well.
Interning at UBC Farm showed me how food and sustainability are integral to good health which made me see the UBC Farm as a home of solutions for local challenges that can eventually lead to global changes.
What was your internship about?
Through my internship, I had the chance to work on many different tasks. I worked with various projects encompassing all aspects of perennial crops and herbs (strawberries, blueberries, flower fields, hop yard, herb garden, etc). We also did research trials looking at which crops grew best, so growing different varieties of crops to see which ones had the best outcomes, all to help farmers across BC.
The Seed Saving Project was one of the tasks that I could label as my own role. The Seed Saving Project involves seed germination tests to determine the viability of the seeds that UBC Farm sells. In two months, I was able to learn and take on the project with minimal supervision. Having one large focus allowed me to improve significantly in that part of the discipline. However, taking on other smaller tasks enabled me to become familiar with all aspects in a broader way. It is good to have a focus, like a particular project to hand in at the end of the internship, but at the same time I liked helping with whichever project was happening that day. It was nice to get to know every little piece of the whole system.
What was something that surprised you the most during your internship?
The most surprising aspect of my internship was finding out how everyone came from different backgrounds. I first pictured the Farm as everyone being an expert farmer, but as I encountered many students, researchers, and other members of CSFS throughout my internship, I saw how they all had their own stories and came from different angles and different lenses.
I see the farm as a very inclusive environment that allows everyone to be involved in some way. Interns or newly graduates may tend to look for jobs that fit their qualifications perfectly, but the Farm is a place for learning and improvements and you don’t necessarily need any specific expertise. You could know nothing and still be able to help and be a part of it.
What intrigues you about the food system?
The linkage between food and urbanization is an intriguing concept for me and it is why I find the UBC Farm quite interesting. I like how the Farm embodies this intersection and is able to bridge these two concepts fully. It is hard to envision a good food system and there are a lot of things that are not going so right. UBC Farm shows us a path to know what we need to work on and how we can have good food systems in cities. My interest in urban farming is what led me to apply for this internship as well as to gain hands-on farming experience.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by reading about different places and times. It is how I connect and learn to think about the world. Interning at the Farm gave me a chance to appreciate the importance of learning once again. You never are done learning and especially with farming and food. There is so much you don’t know, like different ways of farming, different cultures and techniques. And it’s constantly growing.
I viewed my supervisor, Mel Sylvestre, as an expert throughout my internship but even Mel feels that there is so much to learn and never an end to it. Being part of a community that grows every day, and part of a land that is always changing, showed me how learning needs to be continuous at all times.
What is your favourite crop that grows at the Farm?
Sunflowers. When they are almost 3 metres tall, they look beautiful.