Marie, Lucas, and Chris, Summer Interns, June-August 2014

Though Chris and Lucas had started researching aquaponics last summer, I had only recently joined the project when I started working at FoodChain. The three of us  have been conducting a self-designed, multi-faceted research project on sustainable food systems this summer, which combined an investigative abroad experience in Australia and New Zealand with applied research at Centre College (through the construction of a barrelponics system). When we were designing the project, we hoped to partner with FoodChain from the beginning as a way to get involved in local, sustainable, innovative food production. Chris and Lucas had already visited FoodChain as part of their food ethics class in the fall, and I visited in this spring once I had signed on to the project. We were so inspired not only by their obvious passion for sustainable food and their technical ability to produce it indoors, but also by their commitment to education and community empowerment. Immediately after my tour, I asked Becca if she would be interested in hosting three unpaid interns for a few months during the summer- I got her contact info, and we’ve been working with them since!

Everyone at FoodChain has been an absolutely pleasure to work with, and have made us feel perfectly at home since day one- so much so that the three of us plan on continuing to volunteer throughout the year when we can. Becca, Leandra, and Reena are clearly passionate about seeing the FoodChain mission to completion, and are so enthusiastic about getting others involved. Right away, the three of us were thrown into the daily routine of system maintenance, harvesting and transplanting, grant writing, project planning…the list goes on. It is clear that FoodChain (though only a small nonprofit) is continually evolving, innovating, and working to expand their operations. Consequently, we had so much opportunity for immersive learning in different realms of the processes-both scientific and bureaucratic- involved in keeping the organization running effectively.

As a biology major, I have been especially fascinated by the extent to which aquaponics is able to replicate natural symbiotic relationships indoors. It truly is remarkable how much fish and greens FoodChain’s system is able to produce in the allotted space, especially with such minimal waste and inputs- Leandra was able to teach us a lot about the fish, the different plants, and how the system all fits together chemically to make this work. This information in particular  has been crucial to us as we’ve been trying to establish our own barrelponics system back on campus. Conjointly, we’ve been learning a lot about the world of non-profits through Becca and Reena, whom have become experts in the areas of grant writing, fundraising, and community outreach. Especially for Chris and Lucas, who are environmental science majors interested in careers in the non-profit sector or in academia, this sort of knowledge is highly applicable.

The three of us had a preexisting interest in producing food sustainably in our own homes, and will be walking away from this internship experience with a solid understanding of how to do so using aquaponics; thus, FoodChain has provided us with invaluable life skills beyond just fostering an insightful academic experience. Furthermore, the internship and subsequent affiliation with FoodChain has only reinforced our commitment towards supporting local agriculture and business as consumers- all for the betterment of the individual, the earth, and the community. Thank you, FoodChain crew, for allowing us to be a part of your community this summer, and for helping us to grow through aquaponics alongside the lettuces!