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Alumni Profile: J. Sarah Sorenson '11
Majors: Environmental Policy,International Relations
The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), formed in 1971, is the oldest and largest state organic organization in the country. The purpose of this association is to help farmers and gardeners grow organic food, protect the environment, recycle natural resources, increase local food production, support rural communities, and illuminate for consumers the connection between healthful foods and environmentally sound growing practices.MOFGA's Farm Apprenticeship program connects people wanting to learn organic farming with experienced farmers willing to share their expertise. The typical arrangement involves an exchange of labor for room, board, a stipend, and informal, intensive training and experience in farming.
As an intern at Long Meadow Farm in West Gardiner, ME for the summer of 2008 I learned through hands-on experience a great deal about sustainable agriculture and the process it takes to start up a small-scale organic farm. During my time at the farm, I was able to witness and take part in the seasonal progression from seeding to harvesting. Starting in March, I visited the farm occasionally to start the seeds growing for the season in the greenhouse. As time came for them to be transplanted outside, I witnessed the transformation of the 1.5 acre garden from a bare land plot covered in snow to one full of a variety of organic produce.
Throughout the season, I learned to farm without machinery or animal labor, relying on my own endurance and commitment to tend to the crops. This instilled in me a great sense of connection to the earth as well as to the hardship of other farmers throughout the world. I can now truly understand the plight of small-scale farmers today and the injustices they endure as they are subjected to industrial agriculture. While I understood the importance of buying local and organic, I was never able to really commit myself to this ideal. However, through this experience, I now understand the importance of this commonly overlooked aspect of environmental initiatives. Supporting organic and local agriculture is a fundamental issue that needs to be taken seriously in the global sphere today and I intend to devote myself to these ideals throughout my life.
Another interesting aspect of this internship were the MOFGA apprentice workshops which specialized in various interesting topics of farming and agriculture that took place on different farms throughout the state of Maine. A particular program that was memorable was a tour of the Lots to Gardens initiative in Lewiston, ME. Here I was able to learn about the transformation of inner city abandoned lots into communal neighborhood gardens. Many of these gardens were run by Somali refugees and their families, and their produce was then sold at the local Lewiston farmers market. This was an amazing system to tour as it showed that even in the inner city there is a possibility of growing sustainable produce on a small scale. I was especially struck by this program as I grew up in a large city where farming was something unheard of in a backyard lot. Thus this is an area of interest that I would like to look more into in the future.
Overall, this summer internship has given me ideas as to what I would like to do when I graduate Colby in 2011. As an Environmental Policy and International Relations double major, I hope to someday work in developing countries to enact environmental initiatives revolving around sustainable development. Supporting local and organic agriculture is a key point in this process and with my familiarity working with MOFGA in this area I think I will be able to reach this goal.