A Summer Intern's Lessons from Growing Food

As I sit in the kitchen thinking about my goals for the summer, I get a little nostalgic about last summer, the summer of 2014. So far, the two periods in my life are as different as day and night. I love my current job, which I have thanks to last summer’s experience with EAT South. I get to sit in an office and think about gardening and Alabama farmers.  I know I am doing good work, and I get paid for it! I have a ton of down time too, to do basically whatever I want, like write this blog or to volunteer for the Taste of Home Cooking School. I think I need it, considering I am going into senior year with a little more weight on my back, preparing to take on my new position as editor-in-chief of Her Campus Auburn! I am just taking in everything I can while I still can.

But last summer, well, it was a crazy adventure for a twenty year old. I interned at E.A.T. South and worked at the best restaurant in Auburn. I literally got to see food from its very first stage as a seed all the way until it reached the plate [and my stomach]! A few days of the week I drove an hour to the garden, worked 8am to 1pm, then drove an hour back to Auburn, ate lunch, and rushed to a restaurant at 3 to work until close. I’m honestly exhausted just thinking about it, and let me tell you, some of those drives back to Auburn I wondered if what I was doing to myself was worth it. But the days when the Hampstead Montessori students learned something with big smiles on their faces, it was worth it, the days I realized I really can make a difference, it was definitely worth it, and the day I had to say goodbye, I knew E.A.T. South had left a giant scar running from my tired legs and beat up hands and straight to my heart. I think I still haven’t grasped how much Catherine, Denise, Jetson, Mark, Jesse, Sara, Amanda, Kisha, and even the chickens rubbed off on me. I don’t know if they realized all of the lessons they taught me. But I’m going to share a couple of life lessons I learned from the experience, because they truly do mean so much to me.

Slow food as a lifestyle.

I was going to write an entire blog about this one concept because it’s a giant metaphor for my life now, but I decided that I could squeeze it into one section. The funny thing about sustainable food production and the “slow food” movement is everything is slow. And I mean everything. The food grows slow, the work is hard and slow, and the lifestyle is slow. Let me explain. When I worked with Catherine in the garden, she encouraged taking breaks and being stress free, and then when I went to the restaurant it was go go go go go go. It’s the opposite of everything modern day America has taught us to cultivate; think fast food and the interstate. We can’t figure out when to stop and smell the roses [or rosemary], but it’s a gift we can give ourselves that makes life a little better. Find something that is worth taking the time out. I cook almost every single one of my meals now, sit down, and enjoy it. It’s worth missing a few hours of study time or not knowing anything about Game of Thrones.

Children are the real geniuses.

All of the kids I worked with had something different to bring to the table. They had big imaginations, were so curious and smart, and just happy to be on the farm. They challenged me to bring out my most creative and positive self, and that person turned out to be my best, most intelligent self. Never let your inner child die, and never quit learning!

Dreamers can take a breather.

Something I have always had a problem with is deciding how much I should work. Since ninth grade, I let my fears of not becoming successful drive me to become a true workaholic. I do not know how to stop working, and when I do stop working, I immediately panic or feel guilty. I am not being dramatic either. I thought that people who are successful seriously work like 70 hours a week because they want their dreams so bad. I think that my problem had a little to do with the media and a little to do with the concept of the “American Dream.” I actually read a really good example in Cosmopolitan. There is a quote that is used by tons of young women: “You have the same hours in a day as Beyonce.” But no one reminds us that Beyonce probably has a maid, a hair stylist, a chef, and a babysitter. So girls who have a ridiculous amount of drive, take that quote straight to the heart and schedule every hour of everyday, because that is what we have been told it takes to be successful. It’s like peer pressure to keep doing more.

I realized two things:

1) The journey itself is the dream. I try to tell myself every day, even on the most difficult, that I am living my dream. I am on the journey to make people appreciate their health and appreciate the environment. What more could I ask for?

2) Dreamers can take a rest. I realized that Catherine, someone who is doing good things, goes home to rest. To my surprise, almost everyone at EAT South does something fun on the weekend or at least once a week! Crazy right?! I am begging all the young people trying to move up in the world to please just REST without a single ounce of guilt. Your dreams will still be there tomorrow!

Never give up.

I’m not sure what I want to do with my career anymore. I am stuck between journalism, writing public policy, owning a business, and working at a health center. And who knows what I’ll dream up tomorrow! Currently, I want to own an outdoor kitchen where I teach families how to garden and cook, and maybe there will be a little bakery on the side. One thing I do know, after working with such passionate people at E.A.T. South, is that anything I can dream of is possible. All I have to do is find a great support group and wake up every day ready to change the world. Life is a challenge. I can and I will.

Thank you, to everyone at E.A.T South! All of my successes in the past year have happened because of you.

You can follow Lindy on Instagram for more love from the garden and kitchen @linDahlive