College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Institute of Applied Agriculture

IAA Internship Stories: Emily Novak

Jessica Dumsha

As a bright and excited Emily Novak entered the quaint, yet busy, Calleva Farm of Dickerson, MD, she quickly realized that the days ahead of her would be full of unforgettable experiences that would be the foundation on which she’d build her future. Hailing from Germantown, Md., Novak is a second-year, Sustainable Agriculture student at the Institute of Applied Agriculture (IAA) at the University of Maryland with a passion for teaching children the art of growing their own food.

Calleva Farm was a perfect match for Novak, although, when she went for her interview in January there was not much to be seen in the garden. Once February came, however, the greenhouse was bursting with beautiful greens and early spring vegetables. She realized that Calleva was going to be a life-changing experience for her. Novak’s goal was to gain farming experience while seeking confirmation of pursuing her dream to teach children about where their food comes from – and that’s exactly what Calleva offered her.

While interning, Novak learned the ins and outs of vegetable production, including greenhouse and container planting. She also learned to care for chickens, rabbits, sheep, goats, cows, and pigs and even worked in Calleva’s on-farm kitchen. Novak wanted to share her agriculture knowledge with the children as much as possible: allowing them to pull the carrots from the ground themselves and plant cabbage in a raised bed. She spent most of her days in what Calleva calls their “Kitchen Garden” which consists of an herb garden, a greenhouse, several raised beds, a few small garden plots, a chicken run, a sheep/goat enclosure, a rabbit enclosure, and a pasture where the cows, chickens, sheep and goats graze. Novak reflects, “Interning at Calleva allowed me to experience how eager kids can be to learn about agriculture, and how much some already know.”

Although not every day was a day spent with kids, Novak wore a lot of hats while interning at Calleva. Each day was just a bit different than the one before it. A few weekends during the summer, Calleva hosts what they call “Dirty Dinners,” which are events where the public can attend a farm-fresh dinner made with ingredients that were grown right there on Calleva or at nearby farms. Novak recalls one of her favorite duties at a recent Dirty Dinner, during which she was responsible for preparing and serving a refreshing watermelon and rose cocktail.

Overall, Novak’s experience at Calleva was positive and indulging. As a bonus, she even adopted a new addition to her family: an adorable kitten whom she named Cali. After Novak’s completion of 320 work hours as an intern, she now has a better understanding of managing a working farm and has gained the confirmation she was seeking in order to start her own farm business.

“I think the most valuable take-away for her was that she realized that she wants to be involved in a farm that is geared toward food production but also engages an educational mission,” declared her advisor, Meredith Epstein of the IAA. After graduation in May 2018, Novak plans to find work at a business or non-profit, gaining experience in gardening and cooking with kids, and may even start her own small-scale, educational farm at which youth can immerse themselves in the rich soil that feeds their ever-growing minds and bodies. 

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