My time at NOFA-VT furthered my passion for food system activism and left me incredibly excited to continue to fight for food system change. I now feel confident and prepared to embark on my journey toward a graduate degree and career in food and agricultural policy.
The Social Science Scholars program allowed me to spend summer 2017 in beautiful Burlington, Vermont, where I worked as a marketing and outreach intern for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT). NOFA-VT is a nonprofit association of farmers, gardeners, and consumers working to promote an economically viable and ecologically sound Vermont food system. The main activities of the organization include: assisting farmers who are making the transition to organic farming, helping farmers obtain their official organic certification, and coordinating a number of farm-to-consumer/school/institution programs and events. During my time as an intern, I learned a great deal about Vermont’s incredibly innovative food system. I am excited to take my enhanced understanding of how to better connect individuals with the hand that feeds them back to the Tallahassee community.
My internship entailed assisting NOFA-VT’s communications coordinator with marketing and outreach efforts. I drafted daily posts on social media outlets relevant to upcoming events, policy updates, action alerts, and general organic farming news. Additionally, I wrote blog posts with more detailed information on NOFA news and events. I helped NOFA-VT staff write blurbs for weekly E-news blasts and contributed and edited content for NOFA Notes, their quarterly newsletter. My final task entailed writing a script for NOFA-VT’s YouTube channel, which works to debunk common myths about organic products and educate consumers about why organic is better for the environment, our communities, and our health.
Helping NOFA-VT staff to organize and coordinate events was another major component of my day-to-day activities. Events I attended include, the Mother Earth News Fair, Farm-to-Fork Fondo, the Strolling of Heifers Parade, and the Northeast Farm to School Institute (this links to my blog post). One of my favorite experiences while working for NOFA-VT was attending their annual Celebrate your Farmer Pizza Socials, which nurtures a connection between farmers and consumers. Community members have the opportunity to tour local farms and to enjoy free wood-fired pizza with organic toppings that are fresh from the host farmer’s field. This experience allowed me to see firsthand how meaningful building relationships between communities and farmers can be, especially in regard to shifting consumption patterns away from the big, corporate agri-farms and toward local and sustainable food sources.
The diversity of knowledge possessed by NOFA-VT staff, from food policy analysis to organic dairy expertise and more, assisted me in learning about the broad career opportunities within the field of food systems. NOFA-VT’s executive director Enid Wonnacott, who contributed to the original standards set for the USDA organic label, was an inspiration. Under her direction I got an inside perspective on the triumphs and struggles of organic food and farming over the years, as well as an amazing example of how to lead by example and bring positive energy into the office. My supervisor Kim Mercer, who previously handled web development for Bernie Sanders, also provided me with great insight. She skillfully balanced all of the marketing and development needs of an organization. Working alongside her improved my writing and editing skills, enhanced my ability to create engaging online content, and taught me that even in a digital age a friendly face and good attitude go a long way when it comes to marketing.
My summer in Vermont provided me with countless unforgettable experiences: I climbed my first mountain, swam (and almost got carried away) in the White River, held a piglet, and connected with farmers and food system innovators from across the state. NOFA-VT provided me with an office experience like no other with ergonomic standing desks, office dogs roaming freely, co-workers clad in Birkenstocks and cotton garments, and a backyard garden to enjoy on lunch breaks. My time at NOFA-VT furthered my passion for food system activism and left me incredibly excited to continue to fight for food system change. I now feel confident and prepared to embark on my journey toward a graduate degree and career in food and agricultural policy.
About the author: Serena Baldwin is part of the Social Science Scholars class of 2018, double majoring in Political Science and Sociology