College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Institute of Applied Agriculture

IAA Internship Stories: Jessica Dumsha

Emily Novak
Jessica Dumsha driving a tractor at Clagett Farm.

Ever been put to work when you thought you were going in for an interview?

That’s exactly what happened to Sustainable Agriculture student Jessica Dumsha when she arrived at Clagett Farm, a working farm located in Upper Marlboro, Md., that is owned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Dumsha first experienced Clagett Farm on a rainy March day when she interviewed for an internship position.

During her “interview,” she raked a hay barn and repaired a wall on the back side of the barn. This may seem like a strange interview, but as a student at the Institute of Applied Agriculture (IAA) at the University of Maryland, Dumsha was ready to get her hands dirty!

Dumsha interviewed with Michael Heller, who was her supervisor over the summer of 2017. Heller hired Dumsha after interviewing her and three different young men for the position. In an email to Dumsha, he stated that the job was hers and that her “skills and…future plans match up well with [Clagett Farm’s] needs and interests.”

Dumsha, who is from Pasadena, Md., had experience working on an organic vegetable farm, but was interested in rotational grazing and may one day start her own pastured beef and sheep operation. At Clagett Farm, Dumsha gained experience in the world of rotational grazing, spending time assisting in managing two herds of Red Devon and Angus beef cattle, and one herd of Katahdin sheep, all the while becoming more comfortable around the animals.

While most days’ work entailed fence maintenance, pasture management, and mechanical work, Dumsha recalls her favorite day at Clagett Farm – the day that she was able to help deworm the lambs. Dumsha learned how to check the color of the lamb’s lower eyelid to see if it is pale or whiteish. If it is, the lamb is given a dose of de-wormer. Dumsha scooped up each lamb with one arm around its chest and the other around its bottom and brought it over to be weighed, wormed, and chalked to indicate it had been dosed. On top of the excitement of deworming, Dumsha spent time bottle-feeding an “adorable baby lamb,” named Blanca, and assisted in rotating the cows between fields. Occasionally, the cows found a way to escape their enclosure, and the fence would then have to be repaired.

^ One of Dumsha's favorite responsibilities on the farm was bottle-feeding Blanca, a baby lamb.

Dumsha developed skills over the summer that allowed her to operate tractors and their various implements, weed whack and mow safely, and build muscle to become a stronger and even more capable worker.

June 1, Dumsha’s birthday, was met with a wonderful surprise - a handsome bull calf named Jay-Jay was born and now shares Dumsha’s birthday!

Dumsha learned some useful insights while interning at Clagett Farm: when operating a weed whacker (or any type of mechanical device on the farm) one should always wear eye protection. She learned this the hard way while finishing a quick weed whacking job. She also learned how valuable air conditioning is, and how difficult it is to spend an entire summer working outdoors in the humid Maryland heat, but she is quick to add that “good hard work is good for the soul.”

All in all, Dumsha’s experience at Clagett Farm has enlightened her and given her the opportunity to see what an owner of a rotational grazing farm must do in order to be successful. Once she graduates, Dumsha hopes to obtain a government job that allows her to continue working in the ag industry while weighing the decision to start her own farm. Her time at the IAA has provided her with the knowledge, experience, and skills she needs to pursue a career in the ag industry, as well as a network through which she can find the perfect career path.

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