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Internships are Rewarding for Students and Farms

by Nancy Glazier

Jessica Pfiel

SUNY Cobleskill student Jessica Pfiel wanted to learn about calving on a beef operation, she got that and more on her recent internship.

SUNY Cobleskill student Jessica Pfiel wanted to learn about calving on a beef operation. She has a few cattle at home, but wanted more hands-on experience with that part of the enterprise. She got that and more at her internship at Just Serendipity Farms, the home of Jim and Mary Fravil in Lodi, NY. While Jessica was at the farm, 167 of the 170 cows calved. At the April meeting of the Seneca County Beef Producers, Jessica shared her internship experiences. The meeting room was packed with nearly 50 producers and seventeen of Jessica’s classmates and 2 professors who were touring area farms that day. The evening began the way all their meetings do, with a dish-to-pass supper.
Jessica started on the farm with Jim and Mary in mid-January and worked for 15 weeks. As part of her Bachelor’s degree she was required to work a 600-hour internship in order to graduate. Jessica made the connection with the farm through an online posting for internships. During this time, she was still considered a student and had to pay tuition. Jim and Mary required her to visit before they hired her. On the positive side, the Fravils see the value of an intern and paid Jessica, plus provided her with room and board. She became a member of the family.
Jim and Mary form a special bond with their interns. Anna Brothman, their first intern and former SUNY Cobleskill student, has worked for them either full or part-time for 10 years. Amanda Larrabee, another former SUNY Cobleskill intern, stays in touch with the farm. Both Anna and Amanda returned for Jessica’s presentation.
The farm calves their 170 cows starting in mid-January to eventually take advantage of the market for their finished cattle. Calving at that time of year is more labor intensive so for the past ten years they have relied on part-time help, an intern, or ‘extern’ (what Cornell University calls them) to work with them during the calving season. They sometimes utilize interns during the cropping season, too. They host field trips for Cornell students as well.
Jim Fravil praises the internship programs. “Cobleskill’s and Cornell’s programs are constant reminders to us there are lots of good young people out there. We need them replace us.  The more young people that want to enter farming the better it is for those who want to retire, they will support the value of our assets.”
Jessica helped with all aspects of calving, from easy to difficult births, health, and sickness issues. She put her ‘book’ knowledge to work and gained much experience. “Jessica was an excellent employee and we hope for her success and will keep in touch.  She left with four calves (2 freemartin twins, steer and a heifer – all orphans) to add to her herd.  We have been participating in the Cobleskill intern program for many years.  We try to get our interns out into the community and make them part of it and encourage them to do the same when they return home.  We make all interns promise to some day in the future take in an intern, payback.”
I asked Jessica what the best part of the internship was. Her response, “The best was when all of the work was done at the end of the day and I could look up the hill and watch all of the calves running around. I went there for calving so it was an accomplishment to see live healthy calves running around.”
Nancy Glazier is Small Farms Specialist for the Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Team of Cornell Cooperative Extension. Her office is in Penn Yan. You can reach her at 585-315-7746 or nig3@cornell.edu.

Violet Stone

Violet is the coordinator of the Reconnecting with Purpose project, which offers farm and food system educators and change makers a retreat space to explore challenges and renew a sense of inspiration and purpose in their work and lives. She is also a collaborator on the Be Well Farming Project. This project creates reflective spaces for farmers and food producers to connect meaningfully and explore strategies that can ameliorate challenges and bolster quality of life. Violet serves as the NY SARE Coordinator and can help farmers and educators navigate NESARE grant opportunities.

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