When I received the news that I’d be interning at Polyface this summer, I was ecstatic! This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. But I also knew leaving home would be hard…really hard. As the big day approached, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel pulling out of the driveway and leaving Minnesota behind for five whole months.
Basically, the past week has been a roller coaster of thoughts and emotions. Saying goodbye to friends, family, the animals and the farm wasn’t easy. I’ll miss everyone so much! But then there’s the excitement of making new friends, exploring a new state (Virginia is so beautiful!) and getting started on a new adventure.
So, what has the past week looked like? Well, I arrived at Polyface last Sunday afternoon and didn’t have to start work until Wednesday, so I had a couple days to get settled, get to know the layout of the farm and make a couple of trips to Staunton (the nearest town) to get a few essentials.
By the time Wednesday morning rolled around, I was ready to jump in and work. First thing on Wednesday morning I helped catch the broiler chickens we were going to process that day. I am super excited to get better at my processing skills, so I was really looking forward to seeing the Polyface set-up and learning how they do things. I was on QC (quality control), so I was in charge of making sure the chicken is clean and featherless before it heads to the water tanks. After processing, I learned all about packaging. I bagged feet and vacuum packed a bunch of chicken heart and livers. The highlight of Wednesday was learning how to cut-up a chicken into parts and pieces (breasts, legs and thighs, wings and tenders). This is something I’ve wanted to learn for a long time, so I was so excited to jump in. It’s hard, but Daniel is a great teacher and I got a little better and smoother as the day went on. I can’t wait to continue to improve throughout the summer!
Thursday, I learned how to move the broiler shelters. The broilers (meat birds) are kept in pasture shelters and are moved to a fresh patch of grass every day. Moving the shelters smoothly is an art that will take me a while to master. As Daniel showed us interns how to take care of the birds, one thing really stood out to me. Every single movement is purposeful and thought out. How you use the dolly, lift the shelter, walk around the shelter, pick up the feeder, pull the shelter – all of it has a purposeful sequence as to not waste steps, strength or time. I spent the rest of the day getting new broiler shelters ready, moving 3-week-old chickens out to pasture and prepping the brooder for new chicks.
On Friday we learned how to build the broiler shelters. They are pretty easy to construct, and I plan on building a few when I get home. They are 10’x12’x2’ and are sturdy enough to stay put, but light enough to move by hand every day. I’ve built shelters at home before, but they’ve fallen apart after just a few seasons, so I’m excited to build using this tried and true design. In the afternoon I helped package the parts and pieces that we cut up on Wednesday. I ran the vac-pac machine again and helped sort everything.
There’s so much more I could say, but since time is limited, I’ll leave you with a couple other thoughts:
The people here are amazing. I’ve loved getting to know the other interns, the two apprentices and the Polyface staff. Everyone is so kind, and it’s been fantastic being surrounded by a group of people who are so passionate about regenerative farming.
I know I’ll learn a ton. After just a couple of days, it’s become very evident that the entire Polyface team is wonderful at teaching. They are very invested in helping us interns learn and become proficient and they are so patient as we make mistakes and struggle through various tasks for the first time.
Well, that’s all for now. We shall see what the next week brings!