Reflections from a Known & Grown Intern During Covid
From our 2019-2020 Farm to Table Intern, Jenny Fang:
For my last semester in college, I wanted to do something to contribute to the local sustainability initiatives. I wasn’t sure what or how in the little time I had left at WashU. I stumbled upon this internship opportunity in an email and was given the position.
I came to this internship simply wanting to help forward the local sustainably-grown food movement. Seeing the stark difference between the fresh foods my parents cooked at home and the sad lifeless pre-packaged heat-and-serve meals in grade school, I’ve always been interested in initiatives related to making nutrition-dense fresh locally and organically grown produce more accessible for everybody.
I was originally tasked with figuring out how to streamline our efforts to connect more Known & Grown farmers to chefs in the St. Louis region to build a stronger local foodshed. That changed pretty substantially due to COVID-19, with my responsibilities shifting to whatever I can to support the Known & Grown team to uplift our farmers.
Although COVID-19 put a pause on my original internship mission, I’m still meeting my personal goal of helping the local food movement.
I was able to set the groundwork for future Farm-to-Table Interns to expand the demand for and distribution of our farmers’ goods in St. Louis. For example, I visited a few farms and connected with several Known & Grown farmers to understand the challenges they face in distributing their product to restaurants. I wish I could have interacted with more chefs, but I was able to meet two and learn about their needs for local produce.
After the pandemic hit, the Known & Grown team has been working from home – including me. While staying at home, I’ve worked to develop and update a resource to make it super easy for consumers to know how to support our Known & Grown farmers during this time. (It’s been viewed more than 11,300 times!)
On Service and Community:
When I reflect upon my experience, the theme of service consistently comes to mind. The whole Known & Grown team is filled with a genuine desire to build a strong resilient local food system for everybody’s benefit. I work closely with Jenn and Rae, and they’re always asking, “How can we support our farmers more? How can we get their food into more hands?”
Being an engineering student,”how can I help you” isn’t the typical question I hear regularly. Questions about homework problems, what to do after homework, and what to eat are way more common.
The Known & Grown team’s dedication to the farmers also extends to me. They check in on my well-being regularly and ask and whether I’m still getting what I want from this experience. They welcome my ideas and questions with no judgment, making it comfortable for me to share my thoughts without reservation. Jenn (Known & Grown Manager), Rae (Local Food Coordinator), and Chris (Known & Grown Farmer Specialist) share the mission to build a thriving, equitable, and sustainable local food system. Their words and actions reflect this through and through, every single day.
Interacting with the Known & Grown community was an energy boost that always uplifted me. I think this is due in large part to feeling cared for and actively caring for others.
Throughout this experience, I felt valued. The Known & Grown staff placed their trust in me and let me own my responsibilities. They gave me honest feedback, acknowledging and cheering me on when they liked what they saw. If they didn’t agree with or weren’t comfortable with something, they were quick to explain why, in a way that made me want to do better for them and our farmers.
I felt like I was always contributing value to Known & Grown and our farmers through my work, which heightened my dedication to everything I did big and small; communicating with farmers and chefs about their needs, strategizing how to tackle goals, documenting observations, compiling information, and tracking our farmers progress via their social media.
We have the ability to choose where we want to go in life. We also have the power to shape our experiences the way we want them. Life post-graduation has been on my mind, as the last day of classes approaches. These reflections have helped me clarify what I want for my future: a community of people who watch out for and genuinely care for one another. I know these communities aren’t something that’s handed to you – they have to be built and maintained.
I am immensely grateful to have connected with Rae, Jenn, and Chris. They’ve shown me how to stay close to what really matters and the power of caring deeply. Now, I know what it feels like to be in and what it takes to build this kind of community up so I can do the same wherever I go.
I want to acknowledge the Known & Grown farmers because they’re the real MVPs for our local food system. They’re doing the hard, important work of tending the land and soil. They’re the reason we’re able to nourish ourselves with and enjoy delicious, nutrient-dense food. We need them to build food security, especially during these uncertain times.
So, thank you to our Known & Grown farmers a billion times and billions more! And thank you for sharing all the pictures of your beautiful crops, adorable animals, and smiling children. Every time I check your social media pages, you’ve put a smile on my face.
-Jenny Fang, Farm to Table Intern