Senior Tony Minnick, an environmental science major, had experience in the classroom, but he wanted experience in the field as well. “I wanted to get my hands dirty,” he says.

Nowhere could that desire be more literally fulfilled than at the student-run farm at the Retreat and Ecology Campus, where Minnick completed an internship last summer. As one of a handful of interns, he participated in food production from seed to table. This meant responsibilities ranging from weeding to networking with hungry friends of the farm at a weekly farmer’s market and through a Community Supported Agriculture program.

“I really appreciated learning a great deal of practical skills,” Minnick says. “I value self-reliance and being able to do things for yourself, like producing your own food. I also really enjoyed being given the independence and autonomy to take on my own projects.”

One of Minnick’s projects focused on increasing the productivity of the orchard through sheet mulching and developing plans for plant guilds around the dwarf fruit trees that model the ecology of natural systems. He was also involved in a project that takes the invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle plants being removed by restoration teams and turns them into high-density wood pellets to fuel a wood stove to heat the greenhouse.

“It was transformative for me, learning these skills and realizing I have more to learn,” Minnick says. “This internship not only gave me a great deal of concentration in my major, but it also solidified what I wanted to do with my life. It was a life-changing experience.”

He aims to continue work for sustainable food systems, seeking apprenticeships or assistant manager positions at other farms.