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At the intersection of food, soil, climate, farming and water.

Next generation of farmers in Stella Gardens, by Anna Aragon Suy

Stella Gardens is more than a simple garden. It is a peaceful place where I have gained a lot of knowledge about gardening. I think I haven’t still fully realized it, but I feel ready to take care of my own garden and this will be my personal challenge for next spring. I have had some experience before, because my father owns a garden in my hometown. It’s like Stella, two acres of perennial vegetables and fruits. I helped him grow and harvest some stuff but, honestly, I preferred eating instead of harvesting.

My background is miles away from agriculture. I studied Audiovisual Communication in Barcelona and I worked at different local television stations as a journalist. During the past six years I interviewed many kinds of people: politicians, actors, singers, presidents of companies… and also farmers. I discovered that every time that I went to the countryside to cover some information about farming, that calm and relaxed life made me happy. After that, I started helping my father and I even asked him to run an organic food business but he is now retired and he told me no way. In this context, I contacted Shawn, the Stella Gardens manager, to come to Michael Fields with my luggage full of dreams. One of my goals was to improve my English, but also travel abroad, know another culture and become a bit of an expert about sustainable agriculture. My first day here we transplanted apricots in pots. I remember putting my hands in the soil and trying to be very gentle with the plants. Since that day, I’ve learned so many things in the garden: how to sow, plant, water, make beds, weed, harvest, prune, process food and a huge list of activities that Shawn taught to us with a lot of patient and love.

I arrived here at the end of March. I met Sonia, another intern who is also from Barcelona. The world is really small. We hadn’t met each other before but we had some friends in common. I spent some great times with her and we became really good friends. Two months later, Maureen and Megan arrived. They were interns for summertime and both are from here. Maureen is from the suburbs of Chicago and Megan from Milwaukee. We were five, including Shawn, for three months and we spent very good time together. All of them are very funny and friendly, in different ways, and I’ve enjoyed their company a lot! I remember when Maureen was fighting with bugs. She hates insects and she had to deal with them every single day in the gardens. I also remember the energy and positive behavior of Megan and the happiness and social life of Sonia. Together we were the Stella Gardens’ team of this year. But Stella Gardens doesn’t focus only on gardening. We have had the opportunity to attend a lot of workshops on different farms in the Midwest. Anna beekeepingI think that besides the gardens, this is the aim of this internship: know the daily routines of farmers and the positive and negative aspects that beginners have to take into consideration. I didn’t know before, for example, the importance of cover crops for the soil, I didn’t know about biodynamics, about beekeeping, tractors, cheese making, pollination, rotation crops, compost, orchards, permaculture and more and more activities that I have enjoyed attending at workshops, trips with Shawn and  with daily routines in Stella Gardens. I cannot say that I’m an expert because it’s not true. I can say I’m a beginner who is trying to improve more and more everyday because all of the farmers cannot say that they know enough to stop studying. Farming is a challenge every day and this internship has been a gift for me to keep learning outdoors and improving to become a good gardener. I don’t know if I’ll do it the rest of my life. Probably not, but at least I have now the tools to start my own garden. I think that this is the goal of Stella Gardens in order to teach the next generation of farmers.