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Harvesting Knowledge: A Farm Intern’s Adventure at the Marbleseed Conference

George P. talks about his great experience at the Marbleseed Conference with the support of the Sustainability Office!

George P. talks about his great experience at the Marbleseed Conference with the support of the Sustainability Office!

Recently, I was given the opportunity to work as a Farm Intern and run the Organic Farm on campus through next Fall. Each year, three students are selected for this internship where we will stay on campus through the summer to plant, harvest, and maintain the farm. Before we get started for the next planting season, our first stop is the Marbleseed Sustainable Agriculture Conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin. In this blog, I’ll walk through my experience attending this unique conference and learning outside the classroom!

Getting to Marbleseed

Last weekend, our advisor (Biology Professor David Hougen-Eitzmann), another intern (Aley), and I journeyed across the border to Wisconsin for the Marbleseed Conference. Marbleseed is the largest organic farming conference in the United States, with supporters of Sustainable Agriculture coming together from all across the Midwest to share ideas and connect with each other. The Sustainability Office graciously funded our entrance fees and hotel room, providing us with an unforgettable weekend of learning and exploring. Carleton is so great at providing every student these great opportunities to follow our passions.

Open Field
Stopping by David’s farm on the way to Marbleseed!

Attending Talks and Workshops

Most of our learning happened through the expert-led sessions which ranged between 45 minutes to 2 hours. Aley and I started our Friday morning with a keynote speech on fighting food waste. We heard from a few different entrepreneurs and small farmers who discussed how their battle to combat waste had benefited their business. My favorite speaker was a small farmer who left his job in education to farm and found success with a simplistic zero-waste system. Throughout the weekend, Aley and I attended many more fascinating talks, including soil health across Minnesota (way too much Potassium and Phosphorus!), agroforestry, different styles of tarping, and a super fascinating talk about Heirloom beans. We learned so much and will definitely be incorporating our new knowledge as we head into the 2024 season.

Pros and Cons of Heirloom Beans
Pros and Cons for all my loyal readers interested in Heirloom Beans

Other Marbleseed Fun

Marbleseed was much more than just talks! Marbleseed had some great activities to break up the talks including graduate research projects, my favorite was one by a South Dakota State University student on utilizing clover to enhance broccolini crops. There was also a great exhibit hall where we were able to connect with representatives from bigger companies and organizations, ranging from policy workers to farming equipment innovators. My personal highlight was a workshop on grafting apple trees by connecting rootstock with scion wood.

Attempted Apple Tree graft
Unfortunately turns out I don’t have a future in grafting apple trees

Exploring La Crosse

La Crosse is a beautiful city placed right on the Mississippi River! During breaks in the conference, Aley and I took the time to get . We were able to see many cool local businesses including a glass-blowing shop operated by a super nice woman who had been glass-blowing for over 50 years. Though, my favorite part of the city was definitely the incredible river. On Friday night, Aley and I went up on the La Crosse bridge to overlook the river, and the view did not disappoint! Two years ago I would have never imagined that I’d be overlooking the Mississippi as a farm intern operating a 1.5 acre farm with one of my best friends but Carleton provides us so many unique opportunities!

Aley in front of Mississippi River
Aley in front of the Mississippi River at sunset

George P. (he/him) is a first-year student interested in studying Geology, Religion, and Physics. George is a native of Western Massachusetts and can’t wait to explore everything Minnesota has to offer! George’s passions include Karls frisbee, flannels, CANOE trips, and root vegetables. George also serves as a Class of 2027 Representative and next summer he will be staying at Carleton to work as an intern on the Student Organic Farm.