On Caitlin's first day, this city girl from Lake in the Hills, Illinois, found herself doing a full day of fieldwork, furiously planting pumpkins during one of the early summer's brief dry spells.
"I thought Kyle was a little crazy for making a city girl plant pumpkins on her very first day, especially because the internship job description didn't say anything about farm work," she says. "But it was fun seeing and being involved in the prep work for fall season."
After that first day, Caitlin kew she would be doing pretty much anything and everything that was needed, something that this UW-Platteville business administration major adapted to very quickly and is totally okay with. She started in our internship program this summer after spending 4 ½ months studying in London and touring Europe (she visited 9 countries during her trip!), and immediately felt at home on the farm.
"I love the people," says Caitlin, who applied to the farm because she had some really fun times here visiting during fall season with her friends. "I felt like family from the first day I came to work and that has grown every day since. Everyone is so welcoming and it's so nice to see a work community all be involved in anything that's needed to do what's best for the company."
"Everyone here pitches in and helps this business succeed," Caitlin added, stating that this is one of the most important things she's learned on the farm so far.
In Caitlin's free time (when she has it), she helps manage the UW-Platteville soccer team (she used to play but now manages due to an injury). She also loves to cook, watch movies, and hang out with friends. And she especially loves being outside and interacting with people, which has made this internship a perfect fit for her.
The very last thing this friendly and bubbly person wants to do in the future is sit in an office all day - which is exactly what she's NOT been doing here! So far, Caitlin has been involved in starting our ice cream business - she's been the primary person at our tastings, serving up ice cream - and has staffed our strawberry tent. She's planted pumpkins, helped with events, worked with Kyle on some social media projects and contests, and has been learning the general ropes of running a small business that has its hands in about fifteen different pots at once. She'll be sticking around throughout the summer and will help us during fall season, which she's really excited about.
One of her favorite things has been interacting with the farm guests. "Everyone has their own unique stories about the farm and it's been so fun to hear why they enjoy the farm," she says. Your feedback and conversation with Caitlin has been a great learning experience for her - "It helps me to learn what people value in a business, which I'll take with me in my future endeavors!"
For life after college, Caitlin has big plans. Her dream job is to work in a non-profit that benefits children, but she would be happy working for a small company that makes a difference in some way within their community. At the farm, she's been learning all about being involved in a small business, gaining leadership skills and developing planning/organizational skills to work projects from their original conception to the final project. She's excited to keep learning skills and gaining experience during this internship that will help her towards her future dreams.
Overall, Caitlin really likes the Platteville/southern Wisconsin area because it is so different from her home, where there is a lot going on all the time. When she came to school, she says she slowed down and felt less rushed. We hope that this city girl loves the country so much she sticks around for awhile, because we love her at the farm and are basically not letting her go!
Thanks so much Caitlin for everything that you're doing!
Kyle may run the farm, but he is not in control. The weather is.
"It's kind of amazing to me how many decisions I make based on what the weather is doing," he says.
Essentially from the time that the ground thaws in the spring to when it freezes in the winter, Kyle has his eyes on the forecast. He's watching for the fieldwork, of course, but weather also influences our weddings/events, our berry season, and our fall season. What Kyle looks for varies from week-to-week but also from type of work-to-type of work!
In the springtime, Kyle is immediately looking for when the snow will melt and when the frost will come out of the ground. A lot of his work is driven by how wet the ground is. When we have springtime weddings, he looks at how wet the ground is to make sure we don't leave ruts when bringing our ceremony benches out of storage. This often means comes in very early in the morning - when the ground is still frozen - to transport the benches without tearing up the lawn. Mowing is also another farm activity that is driven by the weather - the wetness of the ground drives when and where we can mow. Sometimes Kyle or one of our staff can mow all day - other times it's just for a couple hours in the afternoon after working on other projects waiting for things to dry out.
The fieldwork, however, is the most pressing and the most weather-dependent. Strawberries are the first thing on the springtime list, and we usually plant sometime in April. Because we get small berry plants from a company in Massachusetts, Kyle pays close attention to the weekly forecast so he can get the berries shipped to him within the right window. If it's going to rain, he'll hold off on delivery for another week or so to keep the berry plants in cold storage as long as possible.
This year, he went through a shipping issue week after week after week because of all the wet weather. There ended up being no good time to ship the berries, so they ended up in our cooler for about three weeks before we were able to get enough dry weather to get them into the ground. It wasn't the best for the berries, but the sheer determination of the rain necessitated this unique situation. Unfortunately, this was a theme for berries this year: the continual wet weather and absence of heat made it difficult for the berries to ripen evenly, and we experienced problems over and over with our berries because the weather simply didn't do what the berries needed it to do.
In the spring, we also plant pumpkins, which are not nearly as bad because they are seeds (not small plants) and they are generally planted later in the season, in late May. This year, however, it was still delayed because of the wet weather, and we didn't get them in the ground until mid-June. In fact, our business/marketing intern spent her first day on the job planting pumpkins because it was go-time and we needed an extra hand - not something she expected when she signed up for this internship!
Speaking of farm hands, weather even influences how many people Kyle has around to help him out! Most of our employees are in school or work another full-time job, so may of them aren't able ability come in on short notice on a weekday. When it's crunch time to get berries or pumpkins in the ground, Kyle can spend a few hours on the phone trying to find a few people to fill in round-the-clock shifts to get things planted. A lot of times when planting is in full swing, both the weather and our employee's schedules can mean some really wonky days for Kyle and the gang. Early mornings to get paperwork or scheduling done; then off for a full day of fieldwork; and then at night, a few hours of working in other things, like necessary projects (we had a few very late nights during our bridal suite construction) or setting up the barn for an upcoming event.
Once we're fully into summer and berry season is over, Kyle watches the weather to ensure things are done in time for our weddings and events, but also for windows of time to get projects done around the farm. Rain can often delay work on buildings, building new activities, or setting up for outdoor events. Summer is the time that Kyle can prioritize these projects, but if the weather doesn't hold up, they can be significantly delayed or canceled. Oftentimes, it's a matter of fitting these things in around the other daily things that need to be completed...when the weather allows, which again, can mean an abrupt change in Kyle's whole plan for the day based on what the weather throws at him.
During our fall season, Kyle's attention to the weather drives how many supplies he orders week-to-week, how he schedules our staff to cover the shifts, and how he plans picking pumpkins from the field for our retail area. He's constantly asking questions like, "Is the weather going to be hot so I might need more water? Or cooler and nice so I need more cups for hot chocolate? Will the weather exclude many people from coming to the farm so I need a smaller staff?" Every day is a question of what the weather will do and how will it affect fall season attendance and therefore affect Kyle's daily decisions.
Finally, when we close for fall and head into winter, Kyle scrambles to not only keep up with our private events and weddings, but also to get the fall tillage done, work on the berries, and take down and store all the things we use during fall season before winter fully hits and the ground freezes over. He needs a good few weeks of okay weather to get these things done, but last year, winter did not allow that. It froze over so quickly that some things were left out and a lot of the maintenance on the strawberries didn't get done. These things were left undone because of the weather, which can mean problems for the berries in the coming year and, of course, more work in the spring.
From April to November, Kyle's days are fully driven by weather. It affects his fieldwork, his scheduling, his meetings with people for the business end of his farm, and how many people are able to enjoy the things our farm has to offer. Over and over, Kyle asks himself "What is the weather going to allow me to do?" The answer to that question affects not only his day, but his employees, and his guests, so the answer is important for so many reasons and therefore one of the most significant - and stressful - things he does here on the farm.
Fun on the farm...in blog form!