INTERNSHIPS FILLED FOR 2014 SEASON
We are looking for a couple to Intern at for Bow Hill Blueberries.
Training offered at Bow Hill Blueberries
See our facebook page for more pictures http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bow-Hill-Blueberries-llc/
Training offered at Samish Flats
40 acres of Certified Organic land with 20×80 High Tunnel
April 1 – November 1, 2013 Flexible
40 hour work week with 2 consecutive days off until we hit the harvest, which will require more hours. Keep in mind farming is not a 9-5 job.
Housing available. Shared meals and Stipend TBD.
Hank’s Internship 2013
I came to Bow, Washington to learn as much as I could about farming. Working at Bow Hill Blueberries, I accomplished that and so much more.
I arrived about a month before the blueberry season started, just in time for a long stretch of gorgeous weather. The rumors of Washington being rainy all the time weren’t true for us during our summer. We got really lucky. From July through the middle to end of August, the weather is fantastic. It’s dry and usually between 70-80 degrees during the day.
There were many preparations that needed doing before we opened for the season, so we quickly set to work (the next morning to be exact). As an intern, I did a little bit of everything. From helping to assemble the new walk in freezer to weeding to capturing fruit flies to collecting eggs and butchering chickens, my job description grew every day.
We opened for the season the third week of July. The work day increased from 8 hours to 10 or sometimes 12, each day more rewarding than the last (especially as I was able to eat more blueberries every day!). I quickly became acquainted with the store procedure, educating pickers on the different types of berries. I was proud that by the end of the season, I could pick out the different tastes of the berries.
Once the season kicked into gear, time flew by. The sun stayed high in the sky for so long during the day, something new for this Texan. Before we knew it, it was Labor Day and the berry supply was low. It was time to close the store down, but the work wasn’t completed yet.
As the days grew shorter and colder, there was still much to do to winterize everything. It didn’t get cold enough to prune, but there was more weeding to do before compost came, not to mention tons of other small projects.
When it came time to leave at the end of October, I left much more educated than when I came, with more friends then when I came, and a new understanding of farming. It was a great internship. I’ve never tasted berries that good and I probably never will again. (Post Script – Hank and his wife Kelsey left the farm pregnant. We hope they name the baby “Bow”)
Janelle’s Internship Musings
I’ve always heard that working on a farm puts you in touch with the seasons. You plant and nurture in the spring when nature is bringing the world into bloom, tend and harvest for long hours in sunny late summer and early fall, and just as the days begin to get shorter and wind down themselves, so does the speed and nature of the farm work. The sun tucks itself behind October clouds and the farmer tills the remains of her crops into the earth, putting the bed to sleep.
In addition to this macro-sweep of the seasons – rainy to dry and sunny to rainy once more – there was a seasonality in our week-to-week work on the blueberry farm.
When Greg and I first arrived in early June, it was still a long time until blueberry harvest. Yadira and I lived in vintage Silver Streak trailers at Samish Flats and Greg took a room in trade for part time work at Samish Bay Cheese just up the road from the blueberry farm.
It seemed like each week was devoted to one or two main tasks. The first few weeks the task was weeding in between the blueberry bushes where a tractor or cultivator couldn’t reach. We used various hoes and implements to weed as we encouraged and entertained each other during the repetitive and backache-inducing days. After a week or so of weeding the orchard rows, my arms and back muscles became significantly stronger and I didn’t ache so much at the end of each day. Because Susan and Harley had just purchased the farm, we also broke up the days with clean-up and beautifying activities; we also planted a new garden and worked in the high tunnel at Samish Flats where we lived. Yadira, having arrived eariler in April, actually helped Harley to choose what was to be grown and had sown and nurtured the seedlings before Greg and I arrived.
Next was the project of converting the overhead irrigation to an under-canopy system. In addition to conserving water, the new system would keep the berries from being stained by the iron-rich water (which is a good thing for “you-pickers” and fresh berry sales). To accomplish this, we spent about a week cutting and gluing pieces of PVC for the under-canopy irrigation system, and then installing it in the rows of berries. The farmer’s 12 year old son, Wylie, enjoyed helping us with this project. After work Greg and Wylie held an impromptu skateboarding competition on the cement floors of the warehouse, which had us all cracking up. I think my favorite trick was when they successfully managed to swap skateboards mid-glide; it was also pretty entertaining when this stunt went awry!
The next weeks saw us readying the warehouse and storefront from which we’d sell our berries. We washed walls and floors, painted doors, and completed countless small tasks to achieve the vision of our artistically-minded boss, Susan. We worked on getting the email list and newsletter up and running and painting the menu board for the store. Actually, Yadira worked the most on the newsletter and email list, and Greg did all of the work on the beautiful menu board until the very end when he finally accepted a little of my help in the interest of making our deadline. I think Susan did a lot more marketing and publicity behind the scenes than we interns ever saw, but we definitely got a feel for the tremendous amount of work that goes into getting your product sold.
Then, in the last week of July, the harvest finally came. We opened our doors to “you-pickers” and hired some “we-pickers” to supplement our own slow, inexperienced picking. Each of us took turns picking berries, sorting berries, stamping and folding boxes into which we poured and weighed the berries. We also took turns running the storefront, chatting with locals and day-trippers, directing folks to where they’d be picking that day, and weighing out each group of you-pickers’ haul of berries. We also worked in teams to tie back branches that were becoming heavy with the ripening fruit, so that the mower-tractor wouldn’t knock into them as it came down the rows. This harvest was highly enjoyable but often high stress as well, as we strove to balance the customer demand with the supply of fresh-picked blueberries. Flexibility was the name of the game, and it was a game I wasn’t too excited to play. But Harley and Susan made most of the hard decisions and we all worked to keep it operating smoothly. Overall, it was a very good customer service and retail experience, and also a pleasant one since people coming to a farm to pick blueberries are generally in a good mood. Talking to the customers was also just plain fun. It was exciting and rewarding to connect with people from near and far and have them say that they liked that the farm was transitioning to organic. I cannot emphasize enough the wonderfully unique feeling of providing a customer with a truly quality product.
One of my roles was setting up traps and monitoring for Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), a fruit fly devastating the crop of some blueberry farmers in Washington and Oregon. The biology nerd inside of me really loved this weekly assignment of checking the traps I had set up around the property and identifying and counting the number of male and female fruit flies in each. The organic-approved product that was sprayed on the farm for SWD was applied by an employee who was certified for such chemical applications, not by the interns, though Harley made sure we understood enough about how the product worked that we could explain it to concerned customers at the storefront.
The final week of August, we hosted a benefit “Blueberry Camp” at the farm for Edison Elementary School 7th and 8th graders to raise money for their school by picking and selling blueberries. At the free five-day camp the kids picked berries, played games, learned some local history, cooked healthy blueberry snacks, and made some awesome art. It was truly a community effort, with two or three guest speakers/educators coming each day and sharing their knowledge with the kids. As a counselor and game co-leader, Berry Camp was possibly the most exhausting week as well as the most fun. Coming up with and leading activities for fifteen energetic middle schoolers taught me some very valuable lessons in patience, creativity, and doling out discipline. It was also very rewarding, the culmination being the last day when the parents came and admired the students’ art, ate the blueberry crumble the students cooked, and talked about how much their children enjoyed the camp. There are lots of great pictures from camp on the Bow Hill Blueberries Facebook page if you want to check them out. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bow-Hill-Blueberries-llc/122988254487465?ref=hl
After Labor Day, the berries were almost all off of the bushes. With the start of school and end of our berry-abundance, the store saw less traffic. We took this opportunity to provide each customer that came into the store more focused and individual attention, often walking them out to the blueberry field to show them the best spots to look for the “hidden treasure.” We also spent more time working at and harvesting from the high tunnel, supplying the storefront with edamame, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes. We certainly did our share of local and seasonal cooking, finding creative ways to cook our bumper crop of summer squash and putting all of those green onions to good use.
Then began a kind of reverse of the operations that had readied us for the season: we made updates and corrections to our menu board as well as painted new signs for the produce and frozen berries that were now available; we irrigated the field a few final times and then flushed the system so the pipes wouldn’t freeze in the coming winter months; we cleaned and put order to the storefront and warehouse once more; we helped Pablo, the new field manager, prune the berry bushes and collected the thickest branches to use for smoking meat.
For me, the strongest component of this internship was participating in the Skagit FIELD Program. This experiential learning program brings together various farms in the area that have committed to teaching and mentoring aspiring farm interns. It includes regular “classes” that the interns attend at each of the farms and building community among farm mentors and interns. Greg, Yadira, and I had a great time visiting, working, and learning at a bunch of awesome farms this season. (See Yadira’s blog entry for a complete summary! http://skagitfield.blogspot.com/2012/09/field-program-musings.html) I always looked forward to these Field-trip days, as they provided both a change from our usual routine and also insight into other ways of running a small farm. I enjoyed meeting, working with, and learning from so many passionate people. I don’t think I’ve met a farmer yet who wasn’t passionate about his or her work. I got to be a part of the massive weekly effort to harvest and pack for a 900+ member CSA, transplant late season vegetables in the field, set-up and tear down drip tape irrigation, and help process a small legion of meat chickens. I am so grateful to each of the farmers who took some time to teach me this season.
At Bow Hill my involvement in the poultry operation included caring for chicks in the brooder, helping Harley with two sessions of meat bird processing, and my daily chore of feeding, water, and collecting eggs from the chickens and moving their coops to new grass. Yadira and I took turns each day taking care of the chickens at the Samish Flats property, and I told her that feeding the birds just after sunrise was when I most felt like a “real farmer.” The goats lived over at Samish Flats with us, but I hardly feel like I raised them; we just gave them fresh hay and minerals when they needed it! When I told this to Harley, he laughed and said that was most of what raising a goat entails unless something goes wrong. And though it would surely be an interesting learning opportunity, I am not really sorry to be missing out on the processing of these meat goats; they were a little too much like neighbors.
The corollary to farmers being passionate about their work is that they are passionate about food, which makes a farm internship a delicious place to be. Our experience with Bow Hill introduced us to the growing community of young farmers in the Skagit County. In addition to potlucks and meals shared during and after Field sessions, we attended the Washington Young Farmers Coalition Mixer and other farm-community events that could always be summarized that “good food and good times were had by all.” On our own farm, participating in regular “family dinners,” where the interns, Harley, and Susan took turns and worked together to prepare delicious food and enjoy each other’s company. Greg and I had come to the farm as vegetarians, and Harley got a kick out of introducing us to various kinds of chicken and goat meat (like the liver and gizzard!) that we became comfortable eating because we knew how and where it had been raised.
With a season of real farm experience under my belt, I believe I have a good understanding of where food comes from and the hard work that goes into making it grow. I hope to never forget it. (Post Script – Janelle and Greg are getting married September 2013)