This summer, I was so fortunate to be a part of an extraordinary experience where I learned a great deal about the land, myself, and Hawaiian culture. I spent my summer (10 weeks) as an Organic Agriculture intern for Big Island Farms, an organic farm focused on education on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island in Hawaii. The craziest part about this internship was that we worked where we lived, which was on a beautiful 50-acre farm 5 miles from the Pacific Ocean, where the 29 interns and 5 directors lived in a community where sustainability was on the forefront. The program consisted of four programs with 6-9 interns each: Organic Agriculture, Farm to Table, Outdoor Recreation, and Biology. While the internship was not exactly what I expected, I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world.
On a regular day (which were pretty rare on the farm), I woke up in my 4-bed 8′ x 8′ wooden cabana and looked out the window the see the ocean, usually awoken by the sound of our head chef blowing into a conch shell signalling breakfast. We ate a vegan diet with courses that integrated fresh fruits and vegetables straight out of the farm’s vegetable gardens. After breakfast and getting ready for the day, I would sit down with my Organic Ag (O.A.) team and plan out our day with my director, Jon Trimarco. This usually entailed mapping out and designing a new section of the agroforestry system that we work on implementing all summer. After about a half hour of planning, the 9 O.A. team members would get our work gloves and boots out and be farmers for the morning. It was tough; the UV index was “extreme” on most days and temperatures were usually well above 80 degrees. It was hard work, digging holes and planting trees and hauling soil, but one of the most important skills I learned was simply how to work hard.
At noon, chef Simmy blew the conch again, which signaled both lunch and that the hard work was over for the day. After our delicious farm-to-table lunches, the O.A. team had a 30-minute siesta and then our classwork started. This usually consisted of an hour-long lecture about either farming or environmental issues, and then we followed the lectures up with a corresponding activity until our workday ended at 4 PM. After the day was over, we would shower and have the opportunity to have a relaxing evening at the farm. We would spend our nights playing ukulele and singing, watching movies on our outdoor projector, playing copious amounts of card games, or sitting around a bonfire talking about life. Some days were “field trip” days, and these days sometimes included backpacking trips, visiting the very-active Kilauea volcano, beach trips, and cultural excursions. These days were the days I will never forget.
There were definitely some hiccups throughout my time at the farm. Life wasn’t always harmonious, as you would expect when you put 35 people in a close-living situation. However, my fellow interns and I became a family. We were brought to the island for so many reasons and coming from all different walks of life. The most important things that I gained were the lifelong friendships that I will always cherish and my love for the land that grew exponentially. Yes, the summer was crazy. But yet, I don’t regret a moment of it.