Sustainable Ag Career Studies Certificate

It is the end of a season. I’ve finished my classes. I’ve done my internship. I’ve earned my certificate (Sustainable Agriculture, if you really want to know). The last year and a half has been really rewarding and, to be perfectly honest, the closing of this chapter is a little bittersweet.

I started taking classes after being introduced to the program by the Whole Farm Planning for Beginners class (it’s complicated, but it’s a relationship between Virginia Tech, the Extension office, and the Virginia Association for Biological Farming).

The first class I took was Bio-Intensive Mini-Farming and we talked about why people might want to grow their own food, how to take care of the soil, and the way everything is interdependent/interrelated. We kept journals (it was great for seeing how much I learned over the course of the semester) and completed projects that were (and are still) incredibly useful. I was hooked. I talked to Tony about doing the rest of Betsy’s classes and we concluded that it made sense, given where I want to go, to complete the career studies certificate.

At the same time, I was convinced that I also wanted practical experience. It was awfully convenient that the school had an organic vegetable garden managed by a woman who’d already taken all the classes I was planning to take. Toni (the manager of the organic vegetable garden) manages the garden using the same principles that are taught in Betsy’s classes. In addition, to get the career studies certificate, I needed a certain number of internship hours – which the organic vegetable garden could provide. How much better does it get?

I continued working in the vegetable garden over the summer. It was a long drive, but only once a week and there were so many things I valued about working out there: the people I worked with were amazing, the fact that the food from the garden went to the food pantry was awesome, and the things I was learning were incredibly useful. Volunteers came and went, but there wasn’t a single person who came who was hard to get along with and everyone had something useful to offer.

Fall came and I took three classes (after having not been in more than one class for over a year, that was kind of crazy). That semester was tough. I had a class I didn’t really care much about and two classes I loved (one about producing food in the “off-season” and one about growing for market). I worked in the garden two days a week and learned to love the things I was doing even more.

Over Christmas break, I didn’t really do much at school – things at home were crazy and we were gone a lot. This past semester, I took only one class to finish out the requirements (farming for your whole diet…not my favorite class, but I learned a lot) and went back to only one day in the garden (that turned out to be a good thing since we also moved).

And now, I’m moving on to new things. I’m sad that the future holds less of the people I’ve come to admire so much, but I’m looking forward to creating in my own space. This is a new chapter with new characters. I just hope that some of the characters from previous chapters show up every once in a while – I like them.


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