When you hear the word “internship,” you might imagine someone working in an office, or on a campaign, or taking some first step on a professional path. For one freshwoman this summer, an internship was not meant to pursue a future, but her past.
Elizabeth Bennett interned for three weeks at her own birthplace and home for the first three years of her life, a community-oriented organic farm in Rochester, New York called the Rochester Folk Art Guild.
During her internship, Bennett fed baby chickens, helped build a sauna and planted and picked lettuce.
“I enjoyed learning more practical skills instead of the academic stuff I’m used to,” Bennett said.
The bowls and plates they ate on were made in their pottery classes, and the food they ate on that pottery was grown by the community, right there in the farm.
Bennett’s typical day this summer was anything but laid back. Starting with group breakfast at 8 a.m., Bennett and other commune members worked until the day ended at 6 p.m.. Her morning activities included activities like pottery and peach picking. There was no such thing as a store-bought lunch. Bennett helped make lunch every Thursday for the community with a friend. After lunch, work resumed either with more pottery or graphics such as “pressed flower cards.” It most definitely seems like it was a hands-on experience. Six o’clock sharp marked the end of a very productive day.
“It felt satisfying and fulfilling to work with other people as a whole community with one goal in mind,” says Bennett.
“People discover that they love to work. They not only learn well,” said Annie Schliffer, a Guild staff member, “but also experience the wonderful feeling that you put in a hard day’s work and contribute to something bigger than yourself.”
“We have had people come from Brazil, Mexico and many different countries,” says Schliffer.
Bennett’s interest in the arts and organic farming did not fall far from the tree. Her artistic parents were living and working on the farm at the time of her birth and numerous family friends still live there. Bennett says she always dreamed of returning because she thought of it as “some new adventure” and has always been interested in working in gardens, the kitchen and pottery because she “never worked on those in depth.”
Living in a commune was a huge change for Bennett. “You had to be careful with what you said around them. It was a different way of interacting with people you live with on a regular basis because they’re not your friends or family,” she says.
A wide variety of activities piqued Bennett’s interest over the span of her three-week internship. She spent a good amount of time in the garden of neverending fresh produce. She enjoyed making the food and preparing it.
Her internship was not always long days filled with grueling work. There were times when she could hang out with her friends. One evening, fellow interns and she could see lightning surrounded by clouds. They walked up the hill and just sat there watching the lightning. They went swimming right afterwards. The lightning was special to her because it “illuminated all of the clouds and did not look normal.”
Meals represented the community. All of the meals were prepared from scratch and with farm-grown produce. One of the most memorable meals was lasagna with noodles made from scratch. The tomatoes, onions, zucchini and spices all came from the garden. The lettuce they picked was used in a fresh-tossed salad. They made fresh bread. They had to buy organic cheese from the market. She did not shy away from helping prepare the dinner. She helped cook dinner on Fridays with a friend.
The Guild is a place to visit if you are interested in pursuing a career in art. A person may become an apprentice if they are interested in focusing on one area of the Guild. For more information on the Guild, visit www.rfag.org.