In 1994, a small circle of leaders in sustainable agriculture came together with a single vision: to create a center for the study of environmentally sustainable farming practices in North Carolina, and thus the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) was created. CEFS is a collaboration between North Carolina’s 2 land grant universities; North Carolina State University and North Carolina Agriculture and Technology, as well as the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services(NCDACS). The three work well together, with the schools providing the students, who desire to further knowledge about sustainable agriculture, and the NCDACS providing the a physical base for research and demonstration projects at Cherry Research Farm in Goldsboro, North Carolina: two thousand acres of land, along with personnel and equipment.
The picture above is the entire group of interns, as well as our Internship Coordinator (first row right side), as well as our Internship Assistant (back row right side)
The curriculum for the internship covered a wide swath of information from bee keeping to organic tillage practices, to understanding how local agricultural food systems operate, and even aspects of international agriculture. With the other 9 interns that participated in the internship with myself, we did have a focus on 3 specific aspects of sustainable agriculture:
This area focused on some of the challenges of raising livestock without the use of chemicals as a means of pesticide. The main experiment we constructed was to test the viability of vegetative barriers, as a means of limiting the movement of horn flies which can cause billions of dollars in economic damage to dairy producers across the nation. We also looked at the affect dung beetles have on the environment, specifically their role in the nutrient cycle, and whether they are more attracted manure of cattle that are largely fed a grain diet, or if they prefer the manure of cattle that are fed mostly forages.
For this experiment, we were looking the total number of insects per control area in a conventional corn field versus a corn field that was under organic management. This was definitely one of the more tedious projects that I participated in. This was because the project consisted of using sweep nets to collect insects along the edges of the field, and then counting the insects, under microscopes if need be. While none of the projects went exactly as planned, this one was not entirely representative of the information gathered. We knew this because we used the sweep nets only on the edges of the field, and not inside of the field, so we felt that the numbers were a bit skewed in that respect.
The goal of this part of the internship was to gather information in an effort to write a grant, that would allow the Department of Parks and Recreation in Goldsboro, NC to advertise the local farmer’s market more, as well as increase funding to build and actual structure to house the farmer’s market, instead of producers having to bring their own tents to cover their produce. We attained the information we needed for the grant by making two surveys; one for the vendors at the farmer’s market, and one for the customers there. The group in charge of applying for the grant, completed and submitted their application, but the grant funds will not be released until March 2016, if they choose to accept their proposal.
All in all, my time with CEFS, in Goldsboro, and with my fellow interns was cut far too short. Curriculum, as thoroughly educational as it was aside, the staff at CEFS, as well as my fellow interns, and apprentices, were the true highlight of my summer in Goldsboro, NC. Never did I think that such a diverse group of people could become such a close group of friends.
On a final side note, Western Illinois University’s very own Dr. Joel Gruver, was the original CEFS Internship Coordinator, and anyone with a genuine interest can talk to him, or myself, for more information, as well as reference their website (http://www.cefs.ncsu.edu/index.htm). Unfortunately, CEFS will not be offering internships during the summer of 2016, due some restructuring of the internship, but hope to offer internships, again, in 2017.
My name is Kord Lewey, I am a Senior here at Western Illinois University, graduating in December 2015, majoring in Agricultural Sciences, with a minor in Agricultural Technology Management. I grew up on a family farm outside of Hillsboro, Illinois.