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Horticulture Interns’ Outreach To Help Others Cultivated Much More
Strawberry Fields Forever
by Louise R. Eliason - 8/27/2012
At the end of the summer each year, the most wonderful garden picnic is hosted at one of the greater Philadelphia region's iconic public gardens for a shared list of their exclusive guests from Bowmans’ Hill Wildflower Preserve, Chanticleer, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, Longwood Gardens, Winterthur, Mt Cuba Center, Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College, and Tyler Arboretum. Planned over the years as a fun party for their high school and college horticulture interns to collectively celebrate their accomplishments at the end of their summer internships, it’s reason enough to sign up for an internship with one of the region's numerous public gardens next Spring! And of course, that’s what organizers want to encourage and to enrich.
In seeking ways to “do more to enrich horticulture interns’ experience this year”, Longwood Gardens’ Brian Trader, Ph.D, Domestic & International Studies Coordinator brainstormed together with regional colleagues Julia Lo Ehrhardt, Director of Visitor Experience, Mt Cuba Center, Linda Erhart, Assistant Director of Horticulture/ Plant Curator, Winterthur, and their respective assistants and interns. These team leaders observed that their interns stuck together rather than mingle and network at their annual picnic, and they wanted to identify better ways to engage them. For many high school and college interns, games might provide the perfect social tool and networking solution. But for this dedicated and responsible group of sixty horticulture interns from around the world, Dr. Trader and his colleagues identified their interns’ collective desire “to work together in diverse teams on a project to help others in need”, and then to enjoy a picnic afterward. Thus the new, regional, community outreach, internship networking opportunity and picnic was hatched.
The perfect community outreach project was then identified, and eight public gardens volunteered their collective sixty horticulture interns for a full day of work at the community garden at Bartram’s Garden, America’s oldest living botanical garden. The community garden, a former, old, baseball field that was cleared last autumn at Bartram’s Garden was cultivated this past spring in partnership with Pennsylvania Horticultural Society(PHS) and Urban Nutrition Initiative(UNI)to serve those who don't otherwise have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Internship leaders programmed the full day of service for their college and high school interns to network together while rotating from weeding the strawberry fields, installing a deer fence around the 1 acre vegetable garden, seeding and transplanting fall vegetable seedlings to over 200 flats for distribution to approximately 100 PHS’ Green Scene gardeners and mentoring UNI’s inner-city students at Bartram’s community garden. The community outreach interns and participants also enjoyed a catered picnic lunch, complements of Longwood Gardens.
Julia Ehrhardt, Director of Visitor’s Experience, Mt Cuba Center remarked, “We are really pleased our participating interns expressed that this was one of their most memorable experiences this summer and they were thrilled to participate.”
Mt. Cuba Center's Propagation Grower, Shelby French, who provided onsite staff support was equally proud of the interns and to be able to participate and represent her employer. “Interns enjoyed working side-by-side with inner city high school interns (part of Urban Nutrition Initiative) in the vegetable garden. These UNI students had no prior knowledge of how to grow plants or food. This was the perfect environment to promote intern interaction from the multitude of different institutions that were represented,“ reported Ms. French
When asked if the program was a success, Linda Erhart Assistant Director of Horticulture/Plant Curator, Winterthur reflected, “The interns all felt and expressed such a great sense of accomplishment. “
There’s no greater measure of satisfaction for these horticulture internship team leaders, except perhaps seeing their interns network outside their respective groups this year, just the way these team leaders planned and provided by example for their future horticulturists.
To help future and returning interns discover the abundance of horticulture and public garden internships in the greater Philadelphia region, look for Greater Philadelphia Gardens’ 2013 Guide to Horticulture Internships. Inspired by the aforementioned participating Greater Philadelphia Garden members, the newly planned seasonal guide is projected to become available free for download from Greater Philadelphia Gardens’ website and Facebook in winter, 2013.
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