February 8, 2024

Hello again!

This is Isaac bringing you all the final blog from my internship here at the Grain Place. Over the past 5 weeks, I have been able to serve as the first participant in the TOPP internship program here at the farm. Given that I had never been to Nebraska before or worked on a grain / row crop farm, this experience was full of firsts. In this last blog, I want to take some time to describe the activities from this last week on the farm as well as reflect on my time here as a whole. Without further ado, let’s get into my final week on the farm.

This last week was split between long days working out on the farm and a few days for reflection and completion of my writing assignments for this internship. Monday through Thursday, I worked full days everyday and was able to help complete a few different projects. Since Friday, I have continued doing the basic chores for the animals, but have spent the rest of the time working on finishing off my writing assignments, reflecting on this experience, and continuing to work through my online course.

In terms of the farm work this week, on Monday, I was able to help grind food for the hogs. Their feed recipe for this batch was composed of: 1930 lbs. of popcorn screenings, 2250 lbs. of bird food flour, 884 lbs. of barley and wheat aspirations, as well as a small amount of minerals (salt, kelp, feeding clay, and zinc sulfate). In addition to making food for the hogs, Robert was able to fix their waterer this week and we provided them with fresh, new bedding. When putting down the bedding, we spread grain underneath it in order to utilize pigs’ natural rooting behavior to aerate and mix this material before composting it – which is shown below.

Speaking of compost, I was able to do some more work with the compost last Tuesday. I spent some time turning one pile to aerate it and to incorporate the carbonaceous hay material that I had added a few weeks ago. Further, I spent the afternoon that day scooping out the livestock trailers and adding this bedding material to the compost pile. The combination of hay bedding and manure is a perfect and balanced feedstock for composting, as is shown below.

Moving onto Wednesday, Robert and I spent a good portion of the morning moving the cattle onto a sectioned off area of cornstalks, and ensuring that the electric fencing was working properly in this new paddock. The cattle were very excited to get out after being in the corral for a few days, and I was able to get some beautiful pictures of them out in the corn stalks. After this project, I was able to help with the loading and transportation of three pigs to the butcher. While we transported pigs to the butcher Wednesday, on Sunday, the butcher came to us, and I was able to see the processing of three pigs on the farm. Robert’s brother is a local butcher who specializes in hogs, and he came out to the farm in order to process pigs that had been purchased by his family. I had never seen this process before and it was a very informative and memorable experience.

Now, to reflect on my time here as a whole. In the short time that I was able to work and stay at the farm, I have gained numerous new skills and a new appreciation for a different scale of agriculture. I was able to learn new skills including operating a tractor with different implements, which was one of my goals for this experience. Further, I feel as though I was able to greatly improve my understanding of livestock care, behavior, and processing, as well as row cropping, grain processing, and much more. This internship also allowed me to make new connections through my time on the farm, attendance of the NSAS conference, and meetings with members of the Grain Place Foundation board. Lastly, this internship has given me an opportunity to hone my scientific writing skills with the production of scientific reports about the farm, and embark on a completely new style of writing through this blog. I am grateful for all of these different experiences, and am very happy with the amount of experience I was able to gain in this short time.

With my departure from the farm approaching quickly, I am equally saddened and excited to leave. I am sad to leave this place, the people, and animals that have made themselves my home for the last few weeks. But, I am extremely excited to continue my own journey and carry on the lessons and perspective from my time here. Following my departure from the Grain Place, I will be spending a few weeks at home before moving up to Boston, Massachusetts to begin a job at a company that constructs and maintains urban farms throughout the city and wider region. It will certainly be a different landscape than the farm here, but I am excited to face a new place with different challenges. I want to thank everyone at the Grain Place for making this a wonderful experience and share my appreciation for anyone who has taken the time to read these blogs and follow along on my journey.

Our Pilot Internship Program is supported through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP). TOPP is a program of the USDA Organic Transition Initiative and is administered by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP)