The NCAT Gulf States team has been working hard to establish the demonstration farm this year, so we added another member to our team for the season. NCAT intern Lashayda Sandifer, senior at Tougaloo College in Jackson, MS, has been helping farm manager Sam Humphrey keep up with the many summer tasks that need to be done.
Lashayda first got her hands in the soil when she was a child at her granddad’s farm in Collins, MS. She weeded his garden for him and helped out with little tasks here and there. She didn’t have any larger-scale vegetable farming experience until she stepped foot onto the NCAT demonstration farm at Piney Woods School this summer. Sam has taught her all kinds of skills required on an organic diversified farm. Going straight to work in the hoop house where the tomatoes and peppers were already growing, she hand-weeded, applied organic sprays, and watered.
Lashayda soon got to experience the rewarding work of harvesting the first crops in the hoop house, picking the tomatoes and peppers when they got ripe. She also bested her fears of the flame weeder, an effective if somewhat intimidating tool for weed management. But it wouldn’t be farming if there weren’t some setbacks, and Lashayda also got to experience the trials that come with farming too—storms, flooding, insect pests, and the ever-present Mississippi summer heat.
While not working in the fields, Lashayda was learning some other aspects of farming, including entering farm data into spreadsheets and creating presentations on different sustainable agriculture topics. Her plan going forward is to pursue a career advocating for agriculture in the public policy sphere to make sure Mississippi farmers are supported in every possible way. Her hands-on experience on NCAT’s demonstration farm has given her a much deeper understanding of the challenges farmers face and the rewards of farming as well—the beautiful sunrises, the full harvest bins, and the feeling of success when providing fresh vegetables to local customers.