Embarking into Autumn: the 2016 Fall Semester Begins at VYCC

September 20, 2016 | 

Left to right: Mara Pulgram, Thomas Cunningham, Jack Eddy

From seed to plate, from calf to milk, Venture Semester allows young adults to discover every aspect of food. Corps Members live and learn together as a crew of eight guided by Crew Leaders. They camp out together on the Farm at VYCC in yurts nestled between trees and surrounded by open pastureland. This year, participants are enjoying the experience from September 12 through November 4.

These bright students come from Vermont and places around the United States. They are eagerly on track to learn from farmers, expert teachers, and agricultural leaders what it really takes to grow food. The best part is, no prior farming experience is needed.

Participants learn as much about themselves and their place in the world as they do about food systems and agriculture. They improve critical thinking, advanced writing and technical skills, and have the opportunity to explore Vermont colleges.

Three of these participants give us insight into their decision to venture eastward.

Thomas Cunningham,18, resides in Manhattan Beach, California. The welcoming atmosphere of Vermonters struck him initially. As a recent high school graduate, he intends to use these weeks for recuperation and starting to know what he wants to pursue in the classroom. This gap year is centered on the environment, and figuring out how his career goals fit into his interests in science and engineering. Learning directly from farmers and experts will help him stay informed on environmental policy. “Growing up in LA, I felt disconnect from food,” he says. “I’ve worked on a farm in the past and it gave me appreciation for agriculture. Farming makes me feel connected to what we regularly eat.”

Mara Pulgram, 18, comes from Marin County, California, outside San Francisco. Like Thomas, Mara wants a change from the pace of life out West. “Vermont is different and the sunset is beautiful,” she says. Being outside will help her focus on sustainable agriculture and she can clear her mind. Her decision to participate in the program was met with some hesitation back home. “My family was skeptical [of my decision] at first,” she says. “I come from a family of lawyers, so naturally they questioned me.” But her desire to learn and be more independent swayed her family. Mara participated in the Food and Farm Program this summer, and understands what time away from home offers. “Being here, you’re given a task and it needs to be done,” she says. “I gained a lot of confidence over the summer, especially around new people.” Mara believes this confidence and work ethic will guide her career.

Jack Eddy comes from Lakewood, Colorado. “Everything back home is very dry,” he says. “I live in an area back home called Green Mountain, but it’s not as green as Vermont.”  Jack is in the Venture Semester for a sense of focus. The small Vermont communities contrast with those back home, and he’s here to discover the outdoors. Jack’s passion is mining engineering, and, like his peers, wishes to seek more independence. “Back home my parents do things for me. Here, we have a structure but are responsible for problem solving,” he says.

Vermont offers a new perspective to engage in experiential learning. This batch of West-coasters likens Vermont to an undiscovered land. “Being here makes me see a different culture,” says Thomas. All three yearn to see new things during their time here, especially as it pertains to small-scale agriculture. “There is something special about the harvest in Vermont,” Mara says. “It’s so different from in California. It’s a beautiful, personal event here.”