Websters Dictionary defines growth as progressive development. Growing as an individual and finding your place and passion develops and changes over time. New experiences enhance your ability to grow in ways you couldn’t imagine before. College is known to be a place to network, develop skills, gain knowledge, and explore various careers. College Internships have allowed students to seek a more individualized hands-on experience to not only build resumes but expand their knowledge in an industry they are excited about.
For ten years Pleasant Valley Farms of Berkshire Vermont, owned and operated by Mark St. Pierre, his wife Amanda, and his two sons, have hosted interns from across the United States, with ambitions to pursue careers in dairy, crop management, or mechanics. These individuals have packed up their belongings and trekked to the Green Mountain State to improve and develop their dairy skills and become a part of our farm family and farm team. I had the pleasure of catching up with two of our stellar interns from 2021 to interview them about their internship experiences with us here at Pleasant Valley Farms.
I’d like to introduce you to Helen Griefer. Helen came to us from the flat plains of western Kansas. She had never been to the Northeast and describes Vermont as beautiful in its own way, with mountains and winding roads. Helen found herself reaching out of her comfort zone, but that didn’t stop her from jumping right into an industry in which she had little experience. Helens family owns a beef operation, although vastly different from PVF’s dairy operation, she said, her cow handling skills came in handy. Here are some of her responses to our interview:
What did you like most about your internship at PVF?
My favorite part of my time at PVF was having the chance to work with a lot of different people. Each was so patient as I learned the ropes, even though I had no idea what I was doing at first, and I would not have blamed them a bit if they had just given up on me altogether. However, I never heard a discouraging word from any of them, and they truly made the experience one of the highlights of my life.
I also enjoyed the huge variety of things I got to do, including milking cows, pulling calves, sorting, breeding, spreading manure on fields, training calves to lead and giving a presentation to kids on several occasions, along with many other things!
What was your favorite thing to do on the farm?
My favorite thing to do was probably simply milking cows. I was only on the farm for two months, so the newness of that never wore off! I also especially loved working at the calving facility. There was always something interesting to learn there and always some good conversations and jokes to be had with the workers!
What did you learn about yourself?
I was happy to learn that I can generally pick up on new things quickly. I also learned that I could work well with a variety of people. I had never worked anywhere except on my own family farm, so I was concerned that I would have trouble working for someone besides my parents and with people other than my family members, but everyone was so good to work with/for, and I so enjoyed my time with each of them.
What did you learn about Dairy Farming?
I learned that dairy farming is a 24/7 job. In the beef industry, depending on the season (calving season, breeding season, etc.) you work directly with the cattle anywhere from none to four hours a day, or more time on a processing day, but those only occur a few times per year. The rest of the time mostly consisted of things like building fence which is practically a never-ending job but only occurs when it’s warm enough that the ground isn’t hard. Scheduling of fence building is on a somewhat flexible schedule; however, the dairy industry never stops, day or night, with cows calving, getting milked, etc., and it’s very hands-on with the cows themselves. The feeding is also completely different, as the goal with dairy cows is to get them to take in as much food as possible to produce more milk, but in the beef industry, at least the cow-calf part of industry that I work in, the goal is to get the cattle to reach their growth potential on as little input as possible.
What would you tell other students about internships on Dairy Farms?
Just do it! Whether you come from a dairy background or not, it is such an amazing experience. There are a huge variety of jobs to do, and every day will bring new experiences and challenges. Besides learning how to work in the industry itself, you’ll learn so many valuable life lessons, such as working with other people, taking responsibility, and being a self-starter. If you haven’t worked in the dairy industry, don’t be afraid to give it a try! It may be a little daunting at first, but you’ll get the hang of it and work with people with endless patience who truly care about your experience and will make sure you get as much out of it as possible.
Helen is currently working on her master’s degree in animal science researching removal methods of invasive plant species. She is expecting to stay in Kansas and work in the Beef Cattle Industry but says she will never forget her time in Vermont, and she supports the dairy industry more than ever now. She is leaving the door open and who knows maybe we will be seeing her in the dairy world again someday. Everyone at Pleasant Valley Farms enjoyed meeting and working with Helen, she brought a positive attitude and always was willing to learn and try something new. Helen will forever be part of our Pleasant Valley Farm Family.
I would also like to introduce Abigail Wratten, another exceptional 2021 summer intern, she came to us from a small tie stall farm located in central New York. Abigail grew up showing cattle through 4-H, participated actively in her college’s dairy cattle clubs, and currently is majoring in Dairy science. These experiences heightened her interest in our internship at PVF. She notes even though she grew up on a farm she learned a lot here at her internship and gained important knowledge and information. Here are some of her thoughts and experiences:
What things did you learn during your internship?
This summer I learned a lot about dairy cattle repro. I AI bred cows and heifers and I got some practice with the ultrasound to confirm pregnancies. I also learned about fresh cow care and gained some great experience working on a larger scale dairy.
What was your favorite part of the internship?
I really enjoyed working with the fresh cows best and getting the hands-on experience with fresh cow care.
Why do you recommend participating in Internships?
I did this internship because it was a great way to gain experience with an industry, I plan on working in. It is also a great opportunity to get hands on experience and understand what I did and did not want to do within the industry in the future.
After college Abigail has hopes to work with dairy cattle reproduction and genetics, she is currently attending Cornell University for a bachelor’s degree in animal science with a concentration in dairy management. This summer she looks forward to interning with ST Genetics as one of the Eastern sales interns. We loved having Abigail as an intern here, she was never afraid to lend a helping hand and we look forward to what she is going to do in the future within the dairy industry. We are so thankful to have been part of her journey and to be a steppingstone to aide her in her future career goals.
The opportunities are endless, personal growth, knowledge, and hands on experience await you at Pleasant Valley Farms. We are excited to be offering internships opportunities again this summer, with flexible start and end dates. Whether you are interested in Crops, Mechanics, or Dairy we invite you to apply. We have opportunities for all. If you are interested in gaining hands on experience on our progressive large-scale dairy, where you too could be apart of our team and farm family, please send your resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject listed as 2022 Internship, please include a cover letter highlighting your interests by April 4th, 2022. We then will conduct phone interviews with our applicants. We look forward to hearing from you.
–Megan St. Pierre