– by Kira Bursaw
Wow! I can’t believe I’m actually a dietetic intern. It feels like just yesterday I was sitting in a classroom trying to imagine a future where I had reached this goal. Where would I be? Who would I be learning from? What would my classmates be like? So many of my questions are now answered.
My first rotation of the internship covered sustainability and was at the Terp Farm in Upper Marlboro and the Farmers Market on the University of Maryland campus. At the Terp Farm, Guy, Jack, and Melissa led my internship partner, Michelle, and me through the process of harvesting in-season produce and flowers.
The produce we harvested included yellow squash, pattypan squash, peppers, and jalapenos. There was a rhythm to twisting the produce off the vines, trimming the stem, and pulling the basket along the rows that I found relaxing. Guy was incredibly efficient and raced up and down the rows in nearly half the time as us newbies; it was impressive to see. In the afternoons, when the sun in the fields was too hot to stand, we joined Melissa in the barns to wash what we had collected. The round green collection baskets were dumped onto the end of a conveyor belt that pulled the produce down the line to be washed and scrubbed by rows and wheels of bristles. It worked like a mini car wash. At the finishing end was a large round, white table that spun slowly under some very powerful fans to dry the food off. We took the freshly cleaned vegetables from the drying table, sorted them and placed them into large black rectangle bins to be taken to campus.
Working with flowers taught me a very valuable lesson- it is a lot harder than it looks! It is important to take special care when harvesting the flowers because they are very delicate. If you are rough with the stem or careless with the clippers, the flower can easily get damaged and be no good for bouquets. Jack made sure to teach us about the different flowers we were harvesting and what to look for, as well as what to avoid. I thought any sunflower with yellow petals and a brown center was a perfect sunflower. Not so! When harvesting sunflowers for bouquets, you need to inspect the center of each one to look for firmness. If the center is puffy, it won’t be any good in a couple of days and the bouquets that have them will be sub-standard. After harvesting comes bouquet making, and it is an art form! Spending time considering which flower petals and stems look good together is not how I imagined I would be spending an afternoon during the internship, and I love the surprise. Another great thing about this rotation is that we get to see the flowers through to their fate at the Farmers Market on campus. Michelle and I spent the day there helping to run the Terp Farm booth where we sold flower bouquets in a range of sizes- large, medium, small, and (everyone’s favorite) teeny tinies. Sunflowers that weren’t quite pretty enough to make it into bouquets were sold individually, and they were our hottest item.
Aside from the learning done in the field, we have been fortunate to have many guest speakers who have shared their knowledge with us. The lectures have covered subjects ranging from personal experiences in the dietetic internship, communication, and diversity to oncology, diabetes, and health informatics. Looking back at the long list of people and topics that I’ve seen thus far makes me realize just how much has been packed into the last several weeks.
My classmates are all wonderful people and we have a great group dynamic. Seeing them once a week on class days always cheers me up. One of my favorite things about this internship program is that we get paired with a partner and go through rotations together. Phyllis, my internship director, has a real talent for pairing up people who work great together and Michelle and I are no exception. Getting to go through this program with her is really making it the best experience that it could be.
So much has been done in such a short amount of time. This rotation, working hands-on with produce from the field to flowers at the market, has given me a true appreciation for the work of our farmers. I think all dietetic interns could all benefit from seeing where our food comes from and the hard work that goes into food production. Past interns told me that this year will fly by, but I didn’t fully understand how that could be. I can now see what they meant. This past month has flown by. And it feels pretty great to be here!