My final semester of college, two professors pulled me aside after their lectures. “What are your plans after graduation?” They both separately asked. I shared with them my deepest desire; to travel and write. The first professor informed me that the answer I gave and the way I dressed showed that I didn’t take myself or my education seriously. She advised that I should get myself together and go to grad school otherwise, I’d never be successful. The second professor offered these words “Find something you are passionate about, focus all your energy on it, and you WILL be successful”. I guess that’s the difference between psychology and philosophy. Eight months later I was accepted to a farm school on the Big Island of Hawai’i.
HIP Agriculture stands for Hawai’i Institute of Pacific Agriculture. The educational non-profit stands firmly on a foundation of community and sustainability. In the fall and spring seasons the farm hosts a six week permaculture internship. All inclusive: tent living, vegetarian diet, and farm labor. Sound intense? It is. Throughout the six weeks interns study intensive organic farming. More simply referred to as permaculture. Each week of the course focuses on either mycology, bee keeping, Hawaiian culture, nutrition, permaculture design, plant medicine, and activism. The interns vary in age, walks of life, goals, and educational levels. The Fall 2016 Living Farm Internship consisted of 12 interns between the ages of 18 and 26. Hailing from all corners of the United States such as Florida, California, Iowa, and New York. Others traveled from Puerto Rico and Spain to get a taste of the farm life. No one knew what they would really leave the internship with. Some with staph infection but all with a new perspective.
Dash and Ericka Kuhr begun the internship program five years ago and have watched it continuously blossom into what it is today. “It all started with a group of radical activist farmers” Dash recalls one Wednesday morning during class time. Our culture has seen the relationships between their food and their farmer evaporate. Most people no longer buy their food from a near by farm or even question how it’s grown. Instead, it comes from your friendly and underpaid Walmart employee. Grown 1,000s of miles away in fields so large hands may have never work its soils, pluck its weeds…or slap that sticker on. The less hands that help get the fresh food from the farm to the table, the less control the people have over what they digest. Studies are beginning to show us a direct correlation between GMOs/ pesticides in food and issues we face today such as birth defects, Alzheimer’s, Autism, and obesity. HIP Agriculture’s goal is to educate people that good food is good medicine. Dash started by handing out organic apples and playing hip hop beats on college campuses. Now himself, Ericka, and their team equip students with knowledge of their food, how to cook it, and grow it themselves.
The lessons learned from this internship can not be taught in a traditional classroom nor in a trade school. An A+ can not explain a persons expanded awareness of the world around them. “Farming will solve almost all the world’s problems right now. Job security, food security, environmental security and stability…..yeah, I want to be a farmer.” Nor can a grade express how a person chooses to use the lessons they learn. Sarah’s passion for nutrition grew while Osiris wants to plant a food forest. Molly wants to open a natural maternity care center and Mikayla a non-profit. And for myself, I found a way to fuel my passion for travel and writing. All fueled by learning how to farm.
Talking to Duke on the way to the airport, the first intern to depart, I asked him “what was your favorite part of the internship”. “Daaang” he said on an exhale. He pulled his hand to his chin and gazed out the window and paused for a solid 15 seconds. “Like my favorite moment or just like…it’d be the people I’ve met here. From the interns to mentors to the badass permaculture people. It was super inspiring. To see these mentors, what they are doing with agriculture and sustainable and regenerative living..it made me inspired. And confident in what I can do. And what’s possible for the future. And the interns? So happy to make so many new friends…”
Students notice an inner growth that sprouts alongside the seeds they put in the ground. Karli notices a stronger sense of discipline. Other students break out of their shells. “[I’m] More calm in myself, more secure in myself” says Gabby. I learned some of the most supposedly basic skills. Like how to spice my food and create a compost pile. I also learned how to communicate and love on a deeper level. How to slow down and listen to the silence. No matter is my clothing or unshaven legs. I will be successful. Focus your attention on a passion and care for others and the earth along the way.
“Our mission is to practice and teach ecologically conscious agriculture, empowering individuals and communities to cultivate alternative systems of living that restore human and environment health.”
If you are interested in the Living Farm Internship or just want to know more, check out HiP Agriculture at http://www.hipagriculture.org. Spots are filling up fast for their next course.