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Growing passion for sustainable agriculture

When I first moved to White Violet Center for my internship, I was so nervous. I’ve never been away from home, and never lived with anyone other than my family. I’ve never lived or worked on a farm, never handled chickens or alpacas, and never met a nun. There were a lot of unknowns, but something drew me to the Woods.

My interest in sustainable farming is what brought me here in the first place, but the well-rounded internship program has given me many unique experiences with the garden as well as fiber arts and the animals.

Liv Charlton participates in a tatting workshop for interns at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

I have a cat at home, but that’s the most experience with caring for an animal that I’ve ever had! Working with the chickens and alpacas was a completely new thing for me. Despite being told by a previous intern that “the alpacas can sense your fear,” I’ve grown to be comfortable with the animals and even to love them. I’ve gotten better at dodging kicking legs and knowing when a face full of spit is headed my way. It’s been so interesting to get to know their individual traits and personalities. My knowledge of fiber arts has also grown along with my knowledge of the animals.

I came to White Violet knowing the very basics of knitting, but not much more about fiber arts. Since being here I’ve learned to weave, spin, dye with natural dyes, felt, and more! I never expected to take up so many extra hobbies, but I’ve really enjoyed learning about each one. It’ll be so interesting to see the full circle of fiber production. From shearing, to skirting, to sending the fiber to mill or creating things with it right here on campus! I’ve loved learning about fiber arts, but probably the most unexpected gift I’ve received is the relationships I’ve built.

Liv Charlton shows off the fruits of her labor with this tub of USDA organic peppers.

I knew I’d be living and working closely with other people, but I didn’t expect to make the connections I have. I’ve gotten so close with all of my roommates these past couple months. We’re all so different and it’s great to learn from our various experiences and bond over what we have in common.

The sisters have also broken my expectations I had for them. I was so happy to discover that nuns are, in fact, real people. They are so welcoming and easy to talk to. I’ve loved getting to know a few of them and hearing their amazing stories. I’ve also learned so much from the staff here and have built relationships with them. Even Dave isn’t as scary as he pretends to be!

The five acres of organic garden is what I originally came here to focus on and it has exceeded my expectations. My passion for sustainable agriculture has grown and I know I want to do something in this field for my future career. Being here for a year I will get to see all four seasons on a farm and what each brings. I’ve learned so much about what goes in to making a successful garden and I have access to seemingly unending amounts of knowledge from people and resources around me.

There was a lot of unknowns when I first moved here and I didn’t quite know what to expect. I’ve been challenged and I’ve had struggles but I can tell I’m growing as a person and I’ll leave here being better than when I came. This internship program was a great choice for my next step and I can’t wait to see where it takes me!

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Olivia Charlton

Liv Charlton, of DeMoines, Iowa, began her year-long internship at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice on Aug. 7, 2017. She is a 2017 graduate of Roosevelt High School.

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2 Comments

  1. Dawn Tomaszewski SP on February 20, 2018 at 7:16 am

    Thanks, Liv! The only thing you didn’t say it what a wonderful asset and presence YOU and the other interns are to all of us here at the Woods. You keep us real, you give us energy AND you help us eat healthy!! We’re grateful!!

    • S. Rita Clare on February 20, 2018 at 8:24 am

      Olivia, I’m happy that your internship year is more than meeting your expectations. Yes, you’ve learned a lot and made some wonderful friends and have earned the gratitude of not only the White Violet Staff but all SP’s. We could never continue without the help of our interns. So, it’s a “win-win” situation for all. Thanks for sharing your story. May this year help to prepare you for the next chapter in your life. Blessings!
      S. Rita Clare

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