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By Krisy Gashler
  • Department of Global Development
  • Agriculture
  • Organic
  • Animals
  • Environment
  • Food
  • Global Development

Jeremiah Lazo ’22 fell in love with agriculture in the fourth grade. A friend had asked Lazo over to his family’s ranch near Edinburg, Texas, where they raised cotton, cattle, sorghum and corn on 300 acres. Soon, and for the next eight years, he was heading to the farm every weekend and summer to help build barns, fix fences and manage cattle.

“I’d wake up at the crack of dawn to head out to the farm and work way past when the sun went down,” Lazo said. “I had other hobbies, but agriculture, farming and showing animals – that was really where my heart was, and I knew that my career would be in the food system.”

Now an agricultural sciences major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), Lazo was one of the first participants in the new Lund Fellows Program for Regenerative Agriculture, a summer internship that enables undergraduate CALS students to learn about ecological and social approaches to agricultural systems while working at diversified, small-scale farms in New York state.

The program is co-led by Rachel Bezner Kerr, Ph.D. ’06, professor in the Department of Global Development, and Matt Ryan, associate professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science.

“We’re thrilled with how the program came together this year and all of the interest and enthusiasm that it has generated,” Ryan said.

Providing these off-campus experiential learning opportunities and connecting students with these remarkable farmers and host organizations is the ultimate complement to our CALS curriculum, and we are most grateful for the vision and generosity of the donor.”

The fellows program was made possible by a gift from Judith Lund Biggs ’57. The program supports small agroecological, biodynamic, organic, regenerative and sustainable farms, and seeks to include farms owned by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) growers and other underrepresented groups. 

“This program recognizes that BIPOC farmers in particular and small farmers in general who are trying to use regenerative methods have historically been marginalized, with limited state support. This is one opportunity to change that pattern,” Bezner Kerr said.

Shelby Haley ’22, a plant sciences major with a concentration in sustainability, interned this summer at the Bronx River Foodway, a sustainable community garden at Concrete Plant Park.

“My experience exceeded my expectations. I have never been so excited to go to work and be with people before, and I feel so grateful for the time I spent here and who I spent it with,” Haley said. “Urban agriculture is not all glamorous, and a lot of the time it’s fighting for the basic resources needed to maintain these spaces. It takes a lot to steward a space for the community, and the people who put their time into it have been the best people I’ve met.”

The student participants and the farms they worked at received stipends through the program.

Eli Newell ’24 spent the summer learning and working at Dilmun Hill, the Cornell student organic farm. With a major in international agriculture and rural development, Newell found it helpful to learn how to cope with weed, disease and pest pressures using only organic methods.

“Agriculture in many developing countries is more similar to how we’re working at Dilmun than how conventional production in the U.S. functions,” Newell said. “The havoc that pests like flea beetles and cabbage moths can wreak is striking to me. To be at the mercy of these animals we can’t control, and to see the damage and costs they incur, has been eye-opening.”

Carrie Simon, M.S. ’19, Lund fellows program coordinator, said providing those kinds of eye-opening experiences for students – and needed support for small farms – is at the heart of the program.

“For students, when you’re studying food and food systems, it’s important to see what it’s really like to work on a farm, doing physical labor, for eight hours a day,” Simon said. “It changes your perspective.”

Meet the 2021 Lund fellows

Sharla Dart ’24

Hometown: Auburn, New York

Major: International Agriculture & Rural Development

Placement: Rocky Acres Community Farm, Freeville, New York

“I gained a true appreciation for small-scale farmers in all the work they do and their initiatives for creating resilient agricultural systems. The farm I worked on follows the principles of agroecology, which I appreciate because it works with nature rather than against it.”

Meet the 2021 Lund fellows

Shelby Haley ’22

Hometown: Ashburn, Virginia

Major: Plant Sciences

Placement: Bronx River Foodway, the Bronx, New York

“This internship has provided me with a new lens and perspective to view my studies in urban agriculture, and has opened me up to the possibility of being on the ground in this work, and being an active participant in this movement, regardless of my demographics and background.”

Meet the 2021 Lund fellows

William Henderson ’22

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

MajorInternational Agriculture & Rural Development

Placement: Red Hook Farms, Brooklyn, New York

“The internship program was the most immersive farming experience I could have ever asked for in New York City. Working in tandem with communities in need through the Lund fellows program has additionally given me a much deeper appreciation for Cornell’s programmed efforts toward food sustainability.”

Meet the 2021 Lund fellows

Pinny Kreizel ’22

Hometown: Monsey, New York

Major: Agricultural Sciences

Placement: Heritage Haus Farm, Berkshire, New York

“The Lund fellows program did a very good thing by specifically focusing on the kind of farms that need the most help and can offer the best insight into small-scale, community-linked, environmentally friendly agriculture. I am very grateful to the Lund family and the coordinators of the program for their hard work in making this happen.”

Meet the 2021 Lund fellows

Jeremiah Lazo ’22

Hometown: Edinburg, Texas

Major: Agricultural Sciences

Placement: Youth Farm Project, Ithaca, New York

“Youth Farm Project was my first choice because they’re trying to heal our food system using anti-racism. They teach youth land-based skills and knowledge, and also lead workshops on topics like land sovereignty and social justice. It’s incredible to see how much teens enjoy food that they worked hard to help grow – it tastes so much better.”

Meet the 2021 Lund fellows

Eli Newell ’24

Hometown: Lincoln, Massachusetts

MajorInternational Agriculture & Rural Development

Placement: Dilmun Hill, Ithaca, New York

“I’m really interested in the broader role of agriculture not just as a means of producing food but also as a tool for public health, political stability, environmental resilience, economic prosperity and social welfare. I see agriculture, and agricultural development, as essential to all of those things.”

Sharla holding a baby goat outside while standing next to an adult goat.
Shelby Haley ’22 managing the food scrap drop off table
William Henderson working at a farmers market
Pinny squatting with a child and holding baby chicks
Jeremiah standing in a field
Eli standing in a greenhouse

Krisy Gashler is a writer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Header image: Jeremiah Lazo '22 and fellow interns working in a garden. Photo provided

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