IAA Internship Stories: Joyce Drake
Joyce Drake, a passionate Sustainable Agriculture student at the Institute of Applied Agriculture, spent her summer guarding compost piles from pests and navigating the streets of Baltimore City in a hot, unairconditioned truck while temperatures regularly reached close to 100 degrees. And yet, she is proud of her internship experience.
Drake’s compassion and drive stem from her background in social work, which motivated her to seek an internship at Real Food Farm in order to provide assistance to struggling communities in her city. Real Food Farm is the largest organic urban farm in Baltimore City; it seeks to provide locally-grown produce and education to areas recognized as “food deserts,” where access to healthful food is restricted both demographically and socioeconomically.
Drake spent most of her internship getting familiar with the farm’s "Mobile Farmer’s Market,” which is a bright green, white, and blue UPS-sized truck with an exhibit tray that pulls out to hold local produce and eggs. According to the farm’s mission statement, the Mobile Farmer’s Market takes fresh fruit and vegetables into low-income neighborhoods. Drake was given the opportunity while making deliveries and setting up at markets to check in with customers and ask how Real Food Farm could better serve them, which she feels should always be a priority.
Throughout her internship, Drake gained skills in market management, nonprofit business efficiency, customer communications, and composting, which was extremely difficult in the urban environment because of pests including rats, deer, and groundhogs, and excessive water from a nearby man-made lake. The most satisfying part of her internship, Drake says, was “encouraging low-income families to try local food, discussing the need to look at food differently, sharing quick and easy recipes with customers, learning about different foods, and helping families stretch their spending ability.”
In an internship blog post, Drake explains her interest in serving the community: Real Food Farm is working to make strides by becoming aware of what types of foods community members want, and what other regions of the city could benefit from this much-needed service. Her experience at Real Food Farm has prepared Drake to pursue her passion of educating and supplying food to individuals in food deserts.