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Fun Times on the Farm!

Hello all,
Time is going by quickly in my internship at Geneva. We’re starting to gain speed on a lot of projects relating to mustard, pumpkins, cucumbers, broccoli, buckwheat, and cover crops.

Isn’t buckwheat pretty?  No wonder Thomas likes it so much!

Recently, we’ve been taking a panoply of different measurements and getting exposed to different tasks without the help of our supervisor. One of the more interesting devices that Liz and I have gotten to use is a penetrometer- an device (sort of shaped like a T) that measures density of the soil that you are growing plants on. In order to use it, one has to insert the penetrometer into the soil and note a reading that appears on a dial at the top. The trick with the penetrometer is to not take all of the measurements by yourself! It seems fun at first, and the fun doesn’t diminish as you crazily stab the metal instrument into the ground, but it sure gets tiring. So it makes sense to trade off with a partner so your penetrometer doesn’t take the brunt of the damage.
What we’re starting to see so far with the penetrometer readings is that areas where a cover crop has been grown tend to be a little bit more aggregated due to root structures of the cover crop (like our dear old buckwheat). Soil is a pretty interesting indication of how healthy your plants are going to turn out–if there is a hardpan, i.e. a really bad crust from poor soil management, your crops aren’t going to turn out so well. What Thomas Bjorkman is researching is the impact of these cover crops on a variety of soil health issues.

Last week, Liz and I actually got to hop on the tractor and plant Bolo pumpkins for a study involving the impact of allelopathic mustards on pumpkin plants. It was pretty exciting, not going to lie, to drive a tractor super slow down half a length of a small field. You feel pretty powerful sitting up there being in command of a machine with a lot of horsepower! There are a lot of safety aspects to remember though. Perhaps the most important thing we learned was to keep our hands away from any moving equipment, chains, and gears (duh) and to push in the clutch at the first sign of any emergency. We’re pros now!

Last, today was an interesting study in both resourcefulness and amazing agricultural technology. In setting up drip irrigation for a plot of broccoli (which our boss insisted must be kept both immaculate and gorgeous), we learned about how important gravity is in making any system with water work properly. Also, keep kinks out of any hoses! Our broccoli was happy once our irrigation system was both properly lined up and kink-free.

For bigger fields, we utilized a much more complex tool. Our supervisor, Joe, hitched a large traveling irrigation cart to our van, drove it out to the field, and then left it in the middle of the field. The head of the apparatus, which looks like a common sprinkler, jettisons about 300 or so gallons of water per minute (or something like that, I think I was a little lost in the details) to a buckwheat patch. The head is on a rolling cart on wheels, which is attached to a water hose, which lies down the length of the field and is wound around a huge spool of sorts. As the field gets watered, the spool retracts hose into itself, pulling the cart with the sprinkler down the length of the field. It’s pretty cool! I’ll attach a picture so that my confusing definition doesn’t get more confusing. Irrigation traveling

Well folks, that’s all for today! Liz and I barely made it alive out of a large thunderstorm, so I’m counting my lucky stars I’m able to blog to you about our busy days in Geneva. More posts coming soon!

Week Four: From Barbers to Bohringers and Back to the Berkshires

This weekend there was a music festival in my hometown of North Adams, MA and there just so happened to be an Organic Valley tent there! They were giving out free cheese and had demonstrations and tastings of homemade butter, plus temporary tattoos! It was very exciting, and the people working there happened to know my fellow blogger and friend Casey Knapp!

This week I finalized the online version of the survey, so that now it is available for people to complete that way. I have also started calling farmers and setting up interviews. It has been hard to figure out exactly the best way to get participants because this is not the best time to be surveying in the busiest time of year. I have found that I have to be right to the point and be very friendly. I was able to set up a good amount of farm visits for the week, and it has been such an adventure traveling around and seeing so many different places.


This is Mandy's Spring Nursery, it was a gorgeous place with lovely plants and a really cute dog!

I even got to meet an Amish farmer who showed me around his farm and did the survey.


I think my favorite farm visit was to Barber’s Farm, and I ended up staying there for quite some time! I meet with Cindi Barber who showed me the farm from up on top of a hill, gave me a delicious cupcake, brought me down to the greenhouses, over the farm store, and all around the fields.



Overall, I completed 14 surveys this week, and bought some delicious produce along the way as I met with many awesome farmers in Schoharie county. We shall see how these next few weeks go, I hope I can get a good amount of surveys done!

A Capitol Fourth

Picture from my phone just in front of Washington Monument Capitol Side

Picture from my phone just in front of Washington Monument Capitol Side

Another week has gone by. This last week was a recess week for Congress meaning that we are not in session giving everyone time back with their family and districts. That being said, last week was one of the busiest of the year for Washington visitors. Tourists filled the Capitol on vacation for the Independence Day weekend. The metro’s were clogged and the city was full of people unsure of where to stand–whether a metro car or an escalator. In case you would like to know the rules, when riding the escalator, for courtesy, you should stand on the right side so people can pass you on the left.

This week was spent playing catch up and getting ready for the coming week of in session work. I was able to go to a meeting on trade and learn some of the current issues such as the Columbian agreement. This is a interesting one because the agreement that was made during the Bush administration still has not made it into use. This has been sort of a, for lack of better words, “slap in the face to the Columbians.” They are our best ally in South America and we are not able to give them a viable agreement for four years now. The reason we are waiting is because the President believes labor issues still need to be solved in Columbia, even though in my opinion a good trade agreement should help labor issues in their country.

Besides work, I was able to get out this weekend and see the parade and fireworks. I was not only able to see the Budweiser Clydesdales, but I also got to pet the Budweiser Dalmatian. I was at the Capitol Fourth concert where the highlight was Steve Martin playing Banjo. The fireworks were good, but after sprinting the mall to get closer before they started, the smoke ruined some of the awe of the display.

In all, the 4th of July in D.C. is a crazy experience with hundreds of thousands of people competing for the perfect spot on the mall to celebrate.

Ag Appropriations is Finished and so is Rep. Weiner

Ag Appropriations has past as well as the Weiner scandal. It was a interesting time filled with a lot of hussle to research amendments presented on the floor and a lot of phone calls. Ag Appropriations is when Congress decides what the spending allotment for agriculture will be in the coming year. It deals with everything from research to food stamps and allows for the allocation of funds to certain projects and inevitable cuts to others.
Since Appropriations has finished, I have been working on a number of subjects from Marcellus Shale drilling, to gaming regulations for U.S. casinos. Gaming regulations in New York is a really touchy issue between balancing the economy with the needs of casinos in the state.
Recently sitting in a meeting with our agriculture legislative aid, I had a chance meeting with a prominent NY farm constituent. It was fascinating to hear some of the real concerns from NY farmers about immigration policy and its effects on the future of my district’s agricultural impact. We also picked up two new interns, so my responsibility on new issues has increased, giving me more research and development tasks looking at positions on new and upcoming issues.
Besides the typical work day, I recently met with former Attorney General John Ashcroft. So far, this was my favorite moment in D.C.! I wasn’t expecting his continuing passion for our country’s future. He was an empowering speaker with a great sense of humor. He was able to answer all the questions thrown at him with ease and actually put a hush on the democratic side of the isle. His answers were clear and to the point and made me realize how little you need to say to make a huge impact.

Weiner resigns after his twitter scandal and his prior press conference saying he would not resign.

Weiner resigns after his twitter scandal and his prior press conference saying he would not resign.

Chance Encounters

So far I’ve met an impressive list of D.C. movers and shakers:

John Boehner (Speaker of the House),
Michelle Bachman (presidential candidate),
Don Rumsfeld,
Colin Powell,
John Ashcroft, and
Ron Paul.

It’s been great working in a place that can shock you at every turn and where there is never a dull moment!

Boehner the First Congressman I met in D.C. also the current Speaker of the House

Boehner the First Congressman I met in D.C. also the current Speaker of the House

First day South Africa

Simon's TownHello my name is Julio Pachon, I am a sophomore in Agsci and Plant Sci. I have an internship with ZZ2 which is a large tomato grower with headquarters in Limpopo, South Africa. Dr. Janice Thies, Masters student Christian Pulver, and two other undergraduate students (Jacob Benedict and Peter Narby) are also part of this internship with different roles.
Although I am trying to be flexible to as what I expect to be the outcome of my work here, my internship is divided in two; biochar research alongside Dr. Thies and Christian Pulver, and analyzing outreach project from the grassroots.

Port Elizabeth

Since this is my first day, we are currently getting to know the area and the people with which we will be working with. I am more concerned with writing on things I have learned on an internship abroad. Because of reasons out of my control Jacob and I ended up arriving two weeks prior to the start of our internship, and we decided to go backpacking in South Africa. This has been a great decision that has lead us to meet many people, see many places, and experience many things.
On our first day Jacob and I took a 31 hour train ride from Johannesburg to Cape Town. The changing landscape of this enormous country and the conversation with other travelers made this long trip enjoyable and very amusing. At Cape Town we did cage diving with Great White Sharks and we went to a site nearby, Simon’s Town, to see penguins. Because of our short time, we had limited areas to visit and next visited Storm’s River where we jumped off the highest bungee bridge. Then we stayed in Port Elizabeth where things got calmer, then to Coffee Bay where we surfed and hiked. Finally, returned to Johannesburg via Durban to meet the rest of the group and travel to our internship location.

Bungee near Storm's River

These incomplete and rough descriptions of the successions that have happened to this point are unequivocally an inadequate way to portray all the positive and educational things I have experienced. I write this first post with the intention of proposing to all those who go abroad to do an internship to spend some time traveling and backpacking around the country.

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