For my final blog post of the summer internship, I have decided to combine roughly the last month of my experience at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle (IFFS). This is almost a complete 180 degree switch from my work in the General Assembly. Both are involved with agriculture but one was a mentally draining job in an air-conditioned building and the other was a physically draining job in the 90, 95, and even 105 degree July heat.
The IFFS exposed me to a community food production/relief standpoint with a non-profit lens. The goal of this organization is to provide hunger relief for the city of Raleigh and Wake county as a whole while also including the seven surrounding counties. The farm I worked at was the 7-acre teaching farm, where community members can volunteer their labor to do their part for helping out others. My duties here included day-to-day harvest of many different vegetable crops, ranging from cucumbers to peppers, squash to arugula, and basil to tomatoes. Daily harvests likely averaged around 80 pounds between the species being grown. Luckily I was also able to gain a practical understanding of food production and post harvest management that I had learned about in several classes along with classes focusing on plant diseases, soil nutrients, and plant maintenance.
You may wonder how a non-profit organization is able to purchase their equipment, plants, and cooling facilities. The plan for IFFS is roughly a 50/50 split between donations to the community, and the other half being split into restaurant orders and farm stand produce. Restaurant orders usually hold the highest priority because more money can be made off of these transactions, but produce must all be nearly perfect for all sales. Disease prevalence and respiration rates are drastically increased when a plant is injured or stored improperly, and for this aspect of production the IFFS has modified an enclosed trailer with an air conditioning unit and a piece of equipment called a "Cool-bot". This equipment is actually used to "trick" the air conditioning unit to continuously making the area colder, and in this produce trailer it was around 40 degrees. This cool temperature is great to rapidly cool off produce that has been absorbing heat outside, and in removing this plant heat the ethylene production of produce is minimized. Ethylene is the gas that causes produce to ripen quickly, and the most common example are bananas turning brown when not eaten quickly enough because they are very sensitive to ethylene.
I enjoyed working here for such a relatively short period of time, and I think it showed a great contrast with the first two-thirds of my summer. There are also Burmese refugees that are housed on the land, and they are given a few acres to grow plants and food that interest them so they can potentially become financially independent and escape religious persecution. The refugees are kind enough to have a large gathering each year around harvest time and they made a huge meal for around 20 people. All of their dishes were signature to Burma, and were all very tasty. To see these people so thankful for being able to grow their own food and live in a country with the freedom and rights we are all granted as citizens was very satisfying.
With that, I conclude the blog posts for the most amazing summer that I have ever experienced. From the people I have met to the knowledge I have gained about public policy, agriculture, and leadership, I can not be more grateful and humbled to have been afforded this opportunity through the program.
To Dr. Stewart, Dr. Jones, and Sarah Dinger: I would like to sincerely thank each of you for challenging each Warren Fellow to become more informed, to become more professional, and to become better leaders. The work that has been done for the fellows has been astounding, and for that hard work and dedication I send a thanks to you. I have truly enjoyed every meeting and program we have attended, and I am positive that our meetings in the future will be just as electrifying and motivating.
To Mr. Joe and Mrs. Gail Dunn,
There are many words to describe how appreciative I am of your generosity and commitment to creating this amazing and innovative program. As Henry Adams once said, "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." When I came across this quote a while back, I knew that Mr. Adolph Warren had definitely embodied this statement. From his influence as an educator on Dr. Stewart and many other students, to the young students now that are able to be a part of the Warren Leadership Program. To be able to have an experience to develop paramount leadership skills and qualities from interacting with many top leaders of our state is definitely a way to inspire future generations to be more educated and involved on the issues affecting our state and our nation. The benefit this program has had on myself and other students preparing for a career post-graduation is truly not quantifiable, and I do not believe there can be a statistic for how important this program has been for each of us. I want to extend my deepest thanks, this program has already had a profound impact on my outlook of life. The internal fire for success has been ignited, and it is sure to expand and translate into my career after graduation.