When people eat better, they feel better,” says Natalie Munderville ’16. “When we feel better, we interact better.”
Interested in uncovering how food plays a role in the social sphere, Munderville, who is studying gender, chose to apply for a farming internship through the Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) after getting an email from Food Systems Program Manager and Community Outreach Coordinator Sarah Meyer calling for applicants. Having been selected, Munderville gladly accepted the position, seeing it as a destined opportunity.
“I’ve been wanting experience on a farm since high school. When this opportunity came my way and I knew I had to apply,” she says.
Midway through July, Munderville arrived in Geneva to begin her work on Fribolin Farm. Prior to her arrival, Liam Brooks ’17 was finishing up his internship on the farm which focused on planting seeds and designing garden plots for optimal growth.
“His work influenced me in a huge way,” Munderville says. “The crops are doing really well, and it has been a very organic transition, literally.”
Munderville has been phasing into the responsibilities of the role with guidance from Meyer, who oversees the internships. At the start, to-do lists were assigned, outlining tasks and goals for each day. Having become more familiar with the nature of the working environment, Munderville garnered further independence in caring for the two organic gardens and high tunnel. Responsibilities include weeding, watering, tending to pest damage, harvesting garlic, kale and herbs; keeping an inventory of tools and supplies in the carriage house, and assisting with the FLI Food System Program through involvement in various activities and events that promote visitation and exposure to the HWS Fribolin Farm.
Over the past month, Munderville has witnessed many community outreach projects gain successful participation. The Boys and Girls Club of Geneva collaborated in making a scarecrow to watch over what is called, “the big garden,” attempting to scare away any small animals that might disrupt crop growth in the unfenced area. Additionally, the recent “Yoga on the Farm” event gained campus and community interest, combining inward focus with an outwardly pure backdrop. Facilitating the session was Jacoby Ballard, a campus yoga instructor. Participants enjoyed kale strawberry smoothies afterward, which were made from hand-picked ingredients.
“The farm is a place which I hope more people will visit,” Munderville says. “Whether it is for an event, to volunteer, or just enjoying the serene atmosphere, I hope that more people realize how beautiful it is.”
As community engagement efforts continue to pick up, Munderville, Meyer and volunteers plan to continue improving and practicing sustainability and organic growing practices. Old wooden pallets have been recycled to make signs for crop locations in the “big garden,” organic pest protection sprays made out of an environmentally-safe combination of neem oil and water, large Red Jacket Orchards apple crates were converted to a three-bin compost system, and more than 5 pounds of harvested kale has been donated to the community lunch program this summer.
As for campus involvement, various sustainably driven groups have been collaborating in “small ways.” Real Food Challenge (RFC) intern Stacey Davis ’15 comes to the farm to weed, professors plan to conduct first-year seminars and classes on site in the fall, community-service learning opportunities are being offered for Orientation, and specific programs such as yoga on the farm will continue. In addition, the “Jammin’ with Jam at the Farm” event offered an evening with music and homemade jam on the property.
“I’ve already felt much more involved in local food just by working here a few weeks,” Munderville says.
Finding peace and comfort in the serenity of nature, Munderville is certain she will continue to grow and harvest her own fresh food in the future, whether for an entire community or simply her family. She encourages Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which allows community members’ direct access to locally grown produce through purchasing a “share” of crops from a local farmer.
She recently had the opportunity to shadow CSA farmer Jarrett Winum at Maplestone Farm in Stanley, N.Y. Winum’s family-run farm offers CSA subscriptions with convenient pick-up locations on campus. Later in August, Munderville will spend a day working for the White Corn Project in Victor, N.Y., to learn more about Three Sisters gardening.
“Natalie has excelled and found her green thumb,” Meyer says. “I think her confidence and self-discipline is growing alongside the plants!”
This fall, Munderville hopes to continue her work on the farm, seeking to increase student and community involvement.
“The food that we put in our bodies is important in a way that goes far beyond physical health,” she says. “Having the opportunity to influence change in this community has been incredibly rewarding and nothing but positive.”