Part of a series about the best and worst internships we’ve ever had.
I decided to intern at an organic goat farm in the Middle of Nowhere during the summer before I started college. I had met a friend of a man who owned a goat farm, chatted with him, and he asked me if I would be interested in interning for his friend. I have since learned that most people think interning on a goat farm is really bizarre, but I was very crunchy in high school, listened to a lot of Phish and Grateful Dead, played ultimate frisbee, and liked to pretend I smoked a lot of pot, so this was right up my alley. I will always admire my mother for being nothing but supportive of my decision while I packed up my psychedelic van and departed for the Middle of Nowhere, having never been there, and having never met the man that was soon to be my boss.
The farm was nestled in beautiful pastures, and surrounded by idyllic woods and creeks. The farmer was laid-back, friendly, and into all sorts of New Age philosophies and ideas. The farm had a commune of a dozen-or-so 20-somethings who liked to go skinny-dipping, and talk about their alternative lifestyles.
“Right on!” I thought. “Living on a communal farm with a bunch of nudists will make me the cool hippie chick I’ve always wanted to be.”
Things were not as dandy as they seemed to be. It became apparent that the farmer didn’t really know what he was doing, and his care for the animals and facilities was disorganized at best, and unintended animal cruelty at worst. The farm was also a financial nightmare, and my boss was sinking deeper and deeper into debt while trying to save his utopian dream of living off the land with his nudie friends. Did I mention the farm didn’t operate under any state-recognized license? It was a totally illegal operation, and I’m positive that any health department inspector would have shut down the entire operation in a second. Then there were the accidents: people injuring themselves, the electricity running out, and so on, that illuminated just how ill-equipped and dangerous the farm really was.
I finally had a very painful discussion with my boss, and essentially told him that his entire life’s work was a liability and health hazard, then got in my car and drove away as fast as I could. My mother wasn’t surprised when I ended the internship early and returned home, dazed and relieved to be back in suburbia, where people drank Starbucks, worked 9-to-5 jobs, went to the movies, and didn’t feel like they had to spend their lives fighting the mainstream. I found out that the farm was shut down by the health department a few weeks after I left, and my former boss had moved on to a new profession.
In many respects, the internship was awful, but it was also very educational. I took on a few more internships throughout college and beyond, but none of them changed my perspective the way the farm did. The 18-year-old version of me would be horrified to know that I would soon outgrow my granola lifestyle and go on to have a boring desk job in a big city.
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Jeanz Holt lives in Jersey City. She was born in Chicago and gets very offended when people suggest it is inferior to New York. She loves yoga and small dogs. Photo: DavityDave