University of Delaware student Kristen Rauch spent her summer interning with Bright Spot Urban Farm in Wilmington as its mobile market manager, providing fresh food for truck delivery at stops around the city.
Rauch, a senior majoring in natural resource management and agriculture and natural resources in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, arranged for the internship through the University’s Service Learning Scholars program, which is administered by the Office of Service Learning.
She said Bright Spot Urban Farm, which is a part of Bright Spot Ventures – a program designed to give former foster care youth real-world employment experience – is located off Route 13 in the city and includes a half-acre of arable land and a greenhouse.
“We grow and harvest everything that’s in season and because we have about eight markets a week. Whatever we can’t grow, we’ll supplement with things from the Amish auction in Oxford, Pennsylvania, and also from plots up at the community garden at Rodney Reservoir in Wilmington,” said Rauch.
As the mobile market manager, Rauch harvested crops on the farm, washed and banded the items, and then put the harvested products in a refrigeration unit on a truck that was driven around to mobile market stops.
“The mobile market is basically a food truck from which you sell produce. We set up tables, bring the produce out of the truck and set it up on the tables. Then people can come and buy the produce straight from us,” said Rauch. “We have a farmer’s market on Thursday nights and we bring the truck to that.”
Rauch worked along with Alexandra Keith, a CANR junior who worked this summer as the farm manager at Bright Spot, and her internship had a research component to it, as well.
Rauch said she is writing her senior thesis and, while it is still evolving, it started as a study focused on consumer accessibility to fresh food.
“As a mobile market, we were able to go into areas that might not have access to fresh food and we were able to sell and provide cheap produce. It was all about accessibility and comparing the demographics of who comes to the market and what they’re looking for, or whether they’re comfortable preparing the foods,” said Rauch.
Her thesis has now added a food literacy component to it. “There is this huge disconnect with people buying produce and knowing how to grow it or where it comes from, and basically why all those things are important. It’s crazy that we put these things in our bodies and we don’t know where they come from,” said Rauch.
Rauch, who had previous experience working at Valley Road Produce and Flowers in Elkton, Maryland, said she enjoyed the interactions she had with people, both the customers and especially her co-workers at Bright Spot.
“The social service mission of Bright Spot is that it empowers youth transitioning out of foster care and it provides them with basic job skills and employment so that they can find future employment in either agricultural or non-agricultural fields,” said Rauch. “As far as the mobile market goes, we teach them customer service skills and financial skills, maybe counting change at the end of the day and maintaining the books for that. On the farm you learn that you have to be there at a certain time and even when it’s hot you have to work hard, so you gain a valuable work ethic.”
As a natural resource management and agriculture and natural resources double major, Rauch said she is eventually hoping to have a career involved with social equity and sustainability.
“What’s cool about natural resource management is that there’s the economics side to it, and so I think the only way you can convince enough big business and people in the world to actually care about the environment is by appealing to their economic side. You have to consider the human aspect, too, and the benefits across the board,” said Rauch. “I believe in making local natural resource use more sustainable and equitable, and that communities and the world need to be considered when implementing policy or sustainability efforts.”
To learn more about Bright Spot Ventures visit the website.
Article by Adam Thomas
Photos by Wenbo Fan and courtesy of Kristen Rauch
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