I joined PICA on a whim. As an inexperienced, naïve freshmen, I was looking for an internship where I could physically practice and comprehend this new foreign term “sustainability.” When I visited the environmental internship office I was immediately pointed toward the Program in Community and Agroecology for its reputation of teaching students the core values of sustainability in agroecology. Despite the lack of experience and knowledge I had about sustainable food systems, I felt comfortable joining this foundational roots community.
With little awareness of what I was getting myself into, I began my first day learning about various types of plants and their symbiotic relationships. I was overwhelmed with the amount of information offered to me, yet I became anxious to know more and explore all the opportunities the garden had to offer. Everyday I interned, I would attempt to identify a new plant and learn more about the various techniques applied to organic gardening.
As my passion for food systems grew, I began to attend garden-based education workshops. Here, I acquired garden teaching skills from staff and students affiliated with the PICA program. The people involved in this community are food-savvy intellectuals that never cease to expand their devotion to sustainable systems. I feel as if I have taken on their enthusiasm of the natural world by teaching others about the remarkable food web.
It wasn’t until last summer that I realized how important PICA is in my life. From the extension of terraced beds to building a complete fence, I have never physically worked so hard nor felt so accomplished on a project. Yet, the completion of each task would not have been as fulfilling if it wasn’t for the people helping me. The summer work crew represented more than community, we were family. Through them I discovered myself as a worker, companion, and individual in the food network.
Presently, I am involved in PICA’s school garden internship, in which I travel to elementary schools in the surrounding area and teach lessons on an assortment of garden and nutrition activities to K-12 students. Through this internship, I am able to inspire children to explore their natural environment while eating a healthy diet. I gain a sense of pride from teaching my acquired knowledge to the youth and knowing that this transfer of knowledge is positively affecting the future of sustainable development. Altogether, the PICA program has taught me the underlying principles of a sustainable community that I will carry with me throughout life.
Rachael Witt, illustrious PICA intern