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Week Five: 4,000 Miles Down, 30 Surveys Done and 5 Weeks to Go


Round bales on the drive out in Washington County.

My task for the rest of this internship this summer is to get as many surveys done as possible, ideally around 150. It is really nice to just have one main thing to focus on and just do it! So far I have gotten 30 surveys done, and it feels like a great accomplishment! Though it has been a ton of driving (over 4,000 miles so far) I am getting to see so many new places in NY state, and I get to listen to Harry Potter on tape which helps the driving time go by. Despite all the driving, it has been really wonderful to meet so many farmers, I think talking to people has been my favorite part so far, besides seeing so many diverse farms. I have had some very interesting and exciting conversations with people about the weather, about having more people grow their own food, about soil science, and more. I talked with a farmer about the idea of a farm family for a while, they felt that it was important to look not only at the owners, but the whole farm family. The idea that the owners and their family, all the workers, and consultants, and everyone involved in the operation was a part of a big family. This farm is trying to support the local population and provide them an opportunity to participate in agriculture. It has also been neat to hear about how people started farming, how they got involved, or just how long some farms have been in the family for!


This Orchard had a fabulous farm store, with delicious baked goods (I highly reccomend the sugar cookies with raspberry in the middle) and they even had a small ice cream shop!

I have gotten to see orchards, beef operations, a Christmas tree farm, a maple syrup operation, greenhouses and nurseries, dairy farms, vegetable and fruit farms, of all different sizes! I am trying to focus week by week on a few different Counties, so I have blocked out times to be in each area. So I once I block out a few days in one county, then a few days in another for the week, I then go ahead and try to fill in each day with interviews. I have found that calling a week in advance is too far ahead, and calling a day before is too late, 2-3 days before seems to be best so people can try to anticipate their schedules. This week I got to see a small grass-fed beef farm, with gorgeous red barns and very happy looking animals. They also had some pretty awesome chickens.


Very cute and friendly Polish chicken


Some lovely Dexer lady cows.

The most challenging part of this internship so far has been setting up the interviews. I am calling people during the busiest time of year, so its key to get right to the point and be respectfully persistent. A few people have been very much against doing the survey, and they were appalled that we were even trying to do something like this during the summer. This is certainly the worst time to be asking farmers to do a survey, but it is what it is, and I gotta keep on trying!  Some people have been very happy to participate, and about three people even opened up the letter and filled out the survey on their own! Generally, most people are so busy, that they have not gotten to glance at the letters we sent out, but with some persuasion, most people are happy to set up an interview. I have certainly learned good phone etiquette during this past week; making cold calls is hard! It is important to introduce yourself, explain very briefly what you are doing and the purpose, enough so they know whats up. The key is not taking up too much of their time, and then politely asking if they have about thirty minutes free on so and so days when I will be in so and so county to go through the survey. I learned the hard way no to schedule the interviews too close to each other. First there is just the variety in the amount of time it takes to go through the survey, then the time just  chatting, then there is the distance from farm to farm I have to think about, plus because it is summer there is a lot of construction with unexpected delays.  It seems that so far the right amount of interviews is 4 or 5 per day.

Beautiful flowers in a greenhouse in Washington County

Beautiful flowers in a greenhouse in Washington County

This very cute garden gnome exemplifies how I have been trying to spend my weekends after my sometimes crazy weeks.

This very cute garden gnome exemplifies how I have been trying to spend my weekends after my sometimes crazy weeks.

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