Polyface Farm Summer Internship: Week One


“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” - Socrates

chicken tractorWhen I first sat down to actually write this post, I was trying to think of a way to describe my first week as a Polyface summer intern and this quote came to mind. This past week has been very impactful to me: humbling, gratifying, tiring, eye opening and exciting.

What has really struck me, though, is that there is so much to know when it comes to farming, and I really and truly had no idea how much there is to learn. Farming is not simply sprinkling cracked corn to your chickens and watering lettuce while listening to the birds chirp. Challenges are constantly coming up, issues occur and solutions need to be thought up and executed quickly. And I love it.

In my weekly blog posts, I’ll go through day by day and let you know what we did. We do a lot in a day (I keep a daily log or else I’ll forget), so I’ll explain which farm tasks we do, but may not get into specific methodology of what was done until later on when I either have a more detailed lesson on it from farm leadership or when I have pictures to help me explain.

Sunday, June 1st

The Polyface Summer Internship always starts on June 1st. This year, June 1st happened to fall on a Sunday, which is a day of rest at Polyface and is chores only. We interns had arrived a few days earlier to settle in and unpack (I arrived Friday 5/30 at about 5:30pm, having left Massachusetts at 6:30am.) and were asked to meet Daniel Salatin and the farm apprentices at 5:45am on Sunday to shadow them while they did chores. I was able to go with one of the apprentices, and another intern to the turkey shelters. He explained to us how he moved the shelters (all poultry shelters are moved daily), how much feed to give the birds and showed us how to water them (more on that later). We also fed the some of the pullets (young hens not yet of egg laying age), checked on one of the groups of pigs and let one of the herds of cows into a new paddock. I had never seen such happy cows before and it was fun to watch them run to the new grasses. We were then free until 4pm, the next time chores were done, and a welcome dinner after.

I am one of four female interns and we currently live in The Roost, a converted mobile classroom you may have read about in some of Joel Salatin’s books, most recently Fields of Farmers, a book he wrote about he and his family’s experiences having farm interns and the importance of fostering our next generation of farmers. (I picked up a copy before I came to Polyface… I was being impatient and wanted some hints on what this summer would be like.). The Roost has a kitchen/eating area, a bathroom and large bedroom with bunks and storage areas for our clothes and essentials. We are given a lot of freedom with regards to how we set up our living quarters, but are expected to keep everything clean. We are also allowed access to the Polyface larder, which is a big treat. Thus far, we’ve had lots of fresh eggs, meat, vegetables and sometimes other little surprises (my favorite item from the surprise bin thus far has been rolls from a bakery in town).

For evening chores, I shadowed while the rabbit shelters were moved and the broilers (meat chickens) and pullets’ food and water were checked and refilled as necessary. We then went to Daniel and Sheri Salatin’s house for our introductory dinner, where we went over Polyface’s standard operating procedure and their expectations of us. I left feeling very welcomed and excited about the coming week.

6/13/2014 8:28:23 PM

Hello, and congratulations on your internship! You are a lucky young woman, I hope you will make the most of the opportunity! Can you tell us more about the turkey set up? Is it just the "drying rack" contraption, with a tarp on top for shade, in a circle (more or less) of electric netting? Would appreciate your reply, and any photos you can post :-)

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