Paula Mugnani '13

Mount Holyoke Student Garden - South Hadley, MA
Major: Environmental Studies

My experience in the Mount Holyoke Garden Internship gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in agriculture and gardening in a variety of contexts. The main focus was designing and managing the Student Garden, which focused on growing several varieties of crops in comparative experimentation as part of a curricular tie-in with the Ecology course during the fall semester. However, I had the freedom to incorporate other projects into the summer as well as reach out to the local community. Outside of the garden, Ingrid and I went on farm visits and volunteered at the South Hadley Farmers’ Market to integrate ourselves into the agricultural community. Many of the farms we visited belonged to farmers from the Market that we met while selling our produce and volunteering, which allowed us to go full circle with these farms—viewing and helping in their operations and then seeing their produce sold at the Market. I came into this internship with prior experience in other agriculture programs, but in the Mount Holyoke Garden I was able to be my own leader, pushing myself to make decisions and involve myself in multiple projects. I attended workshops in the Summer NOFA Conference, which introduced me to permaculture, a subject I knew little about. Cooking with garden produce, selling our produce to Dining Services and at the Farmers’ Market allowed us to promote the garden and local eating, which was also shared on the blog.  It was especially rewarding to be able to give back to my college community by selling food to Dining Services, which they used in summer conferences and will use in the student dining halls during the first semester of the school year.
 As an Environmental Studies major I was grateful to be able to complete a research project in the garden, which was a comparison of Wampanoag Three Sister Circle Horticulture in comparison to the conventional methods of cultivating squash, legumes and corn. Through my research, I obtained skills in data collection, experimentation, and analysis, in addition to presentation skills when I presented in the Summer Science Symposium and Fall LEAP Symposium. Most of all, interning at the Student Garden has given me the confidence to work in a team and independent environment and extend myself out to the community for positive outreach.