Kerr Interns Learn by Doing
Education forms the core of the Kerr Center’s mission, guiding and uniting all of the center’s many activities. The work of education can take many forms, but some of the most important are those that reach the next generation.
In recognition of that fact, the Kerr Center offers internships to college students seeking hands-on experience in agriculture. The program began in 2008.
Student activities revolve around Kerr’s sustainable livestock and organic horticulture demonstrations, education, and research.
These internships are designed to appeal to college students and are structured with time for reading, personal research projects, and opportunities to attend educational events. A monthly stipend and housing is provided.
Interns learn practical skills in a hands-on setting. To date, the center’s four interns have been instrumental in helping to launch the pastured poultry operation and herb garden, as well as playing active roles in maintaining the meat goat herd and heirloom vegetable trials.
In addition, roughly a quarter of interns’ time is reserved for academic endeavors, including reading and study, film screenings, and independent research on topics of individual interest. This aspect of the internship can qualify for college credit, and has also contributed several reports to the Kerr Center’s files of online informational resources.
The internship calendar generally coincides with college semester scheduling. Internship positions are limited, and fill months in advance, so early inquiries are encouraged.
The first of the crop of interns, Jenny Hardy, put in a summer term in 2008. A native of Texas, she is majoring in environmental studies at the University of Tulsa. She worked closely with Mary Penick and Andy Makovy on goat and cattle projects.
The fall-term intern for 2008 was Tulsa’s Erica Hellen, a student at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She came to the ranch with farm experience gained from her work on the college’s student farm and gardens, and went to work using – and building – that knowledge by setting up a greenhouse and helping to bring the hoop house into production.
As Erica described it, her internship at the Kerr Center gave her the opportunity to be “totally immersed” in sustainable agriculture.
In the course of making her daily rounds in the small utility vehicles used on the Stewardship Ranch, she became curious about whether she – and millions of other farm and ranch workers – caused more environmental harm by turning the motor off and then on again at every stop, or by leaving it running during short stops.
That question led to a report on that topic, titled “Idle Impacts.” Her conclusion? For stops of more than ten seconds or so, “Shut ‘er off!”
Bobby Quinn, from Stillwater, arrived in January 2009. A botany major at OSU, he helped to get the pastured poultry project off the ground, grew spring vegetables, and started transplants in the greenhouse for summer variety trials of squash and tomatoes.
Bobby was also instrumental in getting the herb bed up and running and wrote a report on comfrey, a perennial herb.
The most recent intern, Frances Forrest, is an environmental science major at OU. She worked with intern coordinator George Kuepper on the trials of heritage varieties of tomatoes and squash.
Forrest used the study portion of her internship to examine the ways in which the meaning of “local” is taking shape in food marketing. She synthesized these reflections in her report, “Beyond Local.”
Intern writings can be read online at www.kerrcenter.com/stewardship/ interns.
For more information on the program, visit the same page or contact the Kerr Center.