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Summer Learning Had Us a Blast! Reflections From Our Summer 2022 Interns

Nico Christians: Aquaponics / Hydroponics Intern:

My experience as the Aquaponics and Hydroponics Intern has been deeply educational and impactful. Spending my summer learning how different types of systems function, how to grow successful crops, and building entire aquaponic systems from scratch has been such an amazing experience. To me, aquaponics is more than just a method to grow food; it's the creation of an ecosystem. This ecosystem has the potential to provide healthy, accessible food to people and communities that need it. I believe that aquaponics can be an integral part of how we approach feeding a world that, due to the climate crisis, is becoming more and more difficult to grow food in. I believe that it can protect our soil from further degradation, reduce starvation and malnutrition in communities impacted by poverty and climate change, and be a cornerstone of establishing food sovereignty. What I’ve learned this summer I’ll take with me into whatever field of environmentalism I go into. I can’t express how much of an impactful and fun learning experience this summer has been.

DaLin Lao, Farmers Market Operations Intern:

First, I want to say my experience here was just supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. There isn’t a better word to describe it. I had so much fun working here and overall I learned a lot of new things. I learned many new skills like setting up a tent, data tracking, how to handle worms, making juice, and even how to make my own aquaponic system. Besides all the skills I learned, I made many new acquaintances and friends. I also fulfilled my goal of making an impact in my work, as I made Mandarin translations for different documents for the Farmers Market. This will definitely help get more people coming, especially other ethnicities. I will miss working at Plant Chicago. So I hope the team will do well even if I’m not there to help out. I wish the best for everyone.

Nylah Neff, Waste Diversion Intern:

During my internship, I spent my time working on many different projects. I did a lot of ad hoc research on best practices surrounding community outreach for Link users, densifying driving routes for compost haulers, CSA food programs, recycling, and more. I performed weekly waste audits and sent out funny emails to the team (my favorite part >:) ), recapping my findings and providing feedback on how we can reduce waste. I researched and prepared many food samples to promote our local food box program, planted and harvested produce, attended meetings and workshops for Plant Chicago's Circular Economy Leaders Network, and assisted in running Plant Chicago's weekly farmers markets. Since my tasks were so spread out in different areas and I was one of the older interns at PC, I joked about being “Mother Intern.” Though it was a fun made-up title, I still felt the implications of responsibility and leadership that came with it.

One of the biggest takeaways from my experience at Plant Chicago is how many intricate parts and moving pieces it takes to make meaningful change in a community. I felt a lot of internal pressure and responsibility to make a lasting change during my 10-week internship, and sometimes I wasn’t sure if my efforts to expand the food box program with the weekly recipes and research were actually reaching the community. After expressing this sentiment to a couple team members, they told me that more people were coming in to buy our food boxes and some were even asking about the recipes I made. This feedback encouraged me. I also realized I was part of a group effort and was not expected to make a change alone. Even if I can't see the change at first, that doesn't mean it isn't happening. Seeing my coworkers always working so hard and being so committed to creating positive change in the community also inspires me to persevere. I will carry these important realizations with me throughout life.


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