GrowinG Internship Program yields a successful second season
After only its second year, the innovative GrowinG Internship Program is already growing in new ways.
The program is designed to prepare a new generation of farmers and ranchers for success. It gives prospective farmers and ranchers valuable on-the-ground experience and offers hosts a chance to shape the future of Western agriculture, as well as receive a little extra help.
Interns are matched with a host farm or ranch, which provides room, board and mentorship for 10 weeks. The GrowinG program provides interns with a $5,000 stipend paid over the course of the internship, and interns can also arrange to receive college credit.
The program has been very successful so far, with 16 graduates and several returning hosts.
When people hear “intern,” they tend to think about academics, but not everyone who participates in a GrowinG internship is a University of Wyoming (UW) student or even a student at all.
To apply, interested parties must be at least 18 and must have fewer than 10 years of agricultural ownership experience. This allows for a huge range of applicants.
John Hewlett, the program’s co-director, says, “We’ve been surprised in nearly every direction you can imagine.”
Interns have included community college students, Veterans and students from as far away as Hawaii and Virginia.
Kendra Faucett, the program coordinator, mentions this diversity of perspective is one of the program’s greatest strengths. Interns come from a variety of backgrounds, and those who have experience in the agricultural industry often learn new approaches.
For example, Josie Sackett, one of this summer’s interns, was familiar with herding cows with four-wheelers or ATVs back on her family farm in Iowa, but found herding on horseback spooked the cows less.
“Honestly, after gathering cattle with horses, I like it a lot better,” she says.
Like its interns, the program is always adapting to changing conditions. This fall, the team is expecting to match two to four interns with host farms or ranches. The fall session will offer interns and hosts a completely different experience than internships during the summer season.
Flexibility doesn’t stop at the timeline, either. Hosts must be able to provide room and board, but otherwise the field is wide open to any kind of farm or ranch.
“We’re not small-minded in what we’re looking to offer in our program,” says Faucett. “We’re open to farms and ranches of any size.”
Olivia Halter, a UW junior, highlights the lessons she learned this summer weren’t just about ranching. Her hosts talked about taking time off when possible and prioritizing health.
“You need to know your limits,” she says. “Take time off when you can.”
The program gave her a more solid five-year plan. Though she’s not planning to run a ranch herself, Halter is passionate about the future of agriculture.
“I want to advocate for making sure people know what is going into their food, and how much work it takes to make food,” she says. “I would feel better leaving a world where people know they can go into ranching and make a profitable living off of it.”
Faucett and Hewlett aim to keep expanding the GrowinG Internship Program. It is currently grant funded, but Hewlett hopes to secure long-term funding in order to support more interns, more lessons, more sessions and a bright future for agriculture in the West.
“I’ve been blown away at the level of support people have expressed for a program like this,” says Hewlett. “It clearly makes a big difference to an individual intern’s understanding and gives a deeper respect for what it requires to be on top of everything in today’s environment.”
Sackett sums it up like this, “If you’re thinking about applying, go for it. It’s nerve wracking, but it pays off. You look back and see all of the new doors that have opened.”
Interested individuals can get involved in the GrowinG Internship Program by donating, submitting an application for next summer as a host or an intern or checking out the resource page for more about how to get started in agriculture.
Maya Kate Gilmore is a writer for UW Ag News. This article was originally published by UW Ag News on Sept. 1.