2018-05-10 / News

Summer farm internships available

BY TIM RIEL

Although the population of the United States has increased by 160 percent since the Great Depression, the number of farms has declined by nearly two-thirds. Today, less than 1 percent of Americans consider themselves farmers.

While this is troubling news for the agricultural community, there are advocates preaching the popular slogan, “No farmers, no food,” which has become a familiar slogan on bumper stickers. Even more inspiring are the organizations taking that catchphrase a step further, including one group of philanthropists that have Jamestown in their field of view.

A private organization, which is keeping its indemnity confidential, approached Bob Sutton, manager of the Jamestown Community Farm, about his operation. Situated on 17 acres of privately owned land at the corner of Eldred Avenue and East Shore Road, Sutton uses about one-third of that property to cultivate food.

Using strictly volunteer labor, along with rainwater for irrigation and solar power for electricity, the farm harvests about 20,000 pounds of vegetables annually, 75 percent of which is donated to food pantries in Providence and Newport. The farm also produces dozens of jars of honey, hundreds of heads of garlics and thousands of eggs.

Leaders at the organization must have liked what they heard, because Sutton was offered about $20,000 to hire two interns for the next two seasons.

“This grant will give us young, strong help,” said Sutton, who is entering his 18th year at the helm of the operation. “It also will give us a chance to provide an opportunity to test out their interest in agriculture. Hopefully they’ll develop a passion for this work.”

Sutton is soliciting an intern from Newport and another from Jamestown. Anyone interested can apply at the farm. They will get paid minimum wage throughout the 10-week growing season, working about 40 hours weekly. He is targeting high school seniors and college students, at least 17 years old with a driver’s license, and they must not have allergies relating to working outdoors.

“It makes it difficult to work when you have hay fever,” he said.

Sutton is thrilled for the internships because his last mentee, Jamestown native Riley Greene, has been a smashing success. Sutton has invited his right-hand man to sit alongside during the interviews.

The interns, Sutton expects, will be responsible for all aspects of the operation, from pulling weeds to harvesting beans to driving tractors to delivering vegetables to repairing beehives.

The ultimate goal, he said, is to find two young, motivated Rhode Islanders who will complete their internships with a lifelong passion for working in the fields.

While Sutton would not say which organization is granting the money, he did say they have a vested interest in the program’s success.

“The agency is concerned with food security,” he said.

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