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.”
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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