2021 Summer Apprentices

As you know, our mission here at EarthDance is to grow food, farmers and community. This year, we’ve been blessed to welcome an incredible crew of young women farmers as our Summer Apprentices: Meet Anna, Mitali, Josephine, and Ana!

Meet Anna Warren

Hometown: Ballwin, MO

Favorite plant on the farm: Beet

How did you first hear about EarthDance?

I first heard about EarthDance through my grandma, who heard about EarthDance through a woman’s organization that looks for grants to give to organizations. She toured the farm back in 2019 or early 2020, and she saw how beautiful this place was and the impact they were making on the community and on the environment, and she knows that I am interested in environmental science and I was also looking potentially at agriculture, so she told me about the fact that they have an apprenticeship and that they accept volunteers and so I looked at the website, found the orientation for volunteering, and then this year, 2021, I applied for the apprenticeship and that was after a couple months of volunteering and seeing just how cool this place is.

How have you been able to be creative here on the farm?

I got one thing I guess, and it came from a mistake. So we were doing this, with the tomatoes, we were doing this technique to train them called Florida weaving, and it’s where you get twine and kind of wrap it around each tomato and also around these posts that have been laid in the ground, and it was our first time trying it out. And when I had done it it was way too loose on the posts but it was way too hot and we were finishing up, and so instead of redoing it, I just like took some sticks that were from the ground and put them between to give it some tautness, but essentially, that’s all I can say I’ve done. Everything else has been through a lot of trial and error with Jena, and Autumn, and Tiffany and Molly, all the people who’ve worked here a long time, they’ve seen probably a lot more problems, especially at the beginning, than I have, but their always trying new things, and there have been a good handful of times where they say, “this is our first time trying it, this is an experiment. We’re doing this half the traditional way and this half a new way.” So, some cool stuff to witness.

Meet Mitali Sharma

Hometown: Clayton, MO

Favorite plant on the farm: Husk Cherry

What made you want to be a farm apprentice this year?

This summer the farm apprenticeship is a little bit different, it’s a 10 week, full time, 40 hours per week AmeriCorps position. I had wanted to do the apprenticeship ever since my first year here in 2019. While I was writing, I wanted to be also in the dirt learning, especially being in school, you get to know a lot of the theorizing about permaculture, and organic farming, and community care, but I wanted to be able to actually practice those things. I wasn’t able to do the apprenticeship those first two years because I was in school and it ran from the start of the growing season into September, and this year, it being a 10-week summer program, it just seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to actually gain these skills so I could stop just theorizing and writing and actually put my hands in the dirt and start contributing to this effort of combining theory with praxis.

Where do you see EarthDance heading in the future?

I think already, EarthDance is truly beginning to embody what it can offer to the St. Louis community, to the Ferguson community, like I said, as a place of reciprocity, but also as a gathering place, as a place for all walks of people to come and connect with the land and to connect with their food, and to really make that food accessible. I think it’s awesome that we have the Pay What You Can Farm Stand now and I just want to see sort of mutual aid and mutual care projects like that continue. I think EarthDance could really be the space that embodies what it means to live for community, for each other and for the land, rather than for profit, you know, or industry, and I think we’re already moving in that direction and I just want to see it grow.

Meet Josephine Phillips

Hometown: St. Charles, MO

Favorite plant on the farm: Elderberry

What made you want to get hands in soil?

My mom is a horticulturalist, so I’ve always had hands in soil. I really like being able to collaborate on projects like at a community space. I applied for a job here last year, because I thought, if I’m going to be here (St. Louis), I want to work for EarthDance. This year’s VISTA apprenticeship seemed like a great opportunity to get acquainted with the land.

Could you tell me more about growing up with a mom who’s a horticulturist?

My mom always tells me I could plant trees before I could walk, and there are pics that I’ve seen. She was always pushing us–she was working on a Masters in botany, so she would also teach us the names of different trees and plants. Flowering dogwood was my favorite plant at age three, I knew it at age three. I always had a garden that I helped my mom with. I was honestly really shocked that some kids at school didn’t have the same opportunity with growing food, with soil, like me, and I was sad. That was one of my core memories. I wanted to figure out why other kids didn’t garden–why they didn’t understand where food came from beside the supermarket.

What are you hoping to learn this summer?

My goal is to fill in all of the gaps of where I don’t have experience at a production farm of this level of production, as opposed to passive farming. I’ve already started to learn about sucker pruning tomatoes, carbon fixation, and other not widely practiced organic methods like companion planting, and various other non-harmful methods of crop production.

Meet Ana Wisa

Hometown: Florissant, MO

Favorite plant on the farm: Plum

How did you get inspired to study horticulture?

One summer, I wasn’t doing anything, and I ended up at Home Depot, probably with my dad. I turned up there and I just saw all these varieties of seeds and stuff that they had, and so I just picked up a couple of packets of sunflower seeds, and a little tray for them, and some potting soil, and I brought it in my backyard, and I kind of just seeded from there, and I ended up putting a lot more effort into it than I had initially planned, and that ended up being a good thing, because everyday I would go outside, and I would kind of put the tray in the shade, and back our into the sun. I watered it everyday, and then I ended up going to another greenhouse that was close to my high school at the time and I grabbed some plants from there–those ended up dying, not because of me, but people around me (smiling)–the sunflowers did really well, I planted those on the side of my house and they ended up having you know like multiple uses as I kind of took care of them.

What are some of the things you’ve learned so far?

That it is a lot of grunt work. Weeding is such, such a big thing, especially when you’re at an organic farm like this, because I know that in bigger productions they have all of the pesticides that they use, all of the herbicides, all that stuff, and then here your like super using your hands, which that aspect I like a lot of it. The harvesting was a big thing, because I had never done that thing, I had never even seen how spinach grew really, or how a head lettuce should actually look when you harvest it, so that was a whole new experience, whole new appreciation for everybody in that field. I learned that I do enjoy the seedling part of it, of planting them and seeing them grow up from a seed, I really enjoy that part of the process.