Capitol Corridor
Capitol Corridor
Capitol Corridor
University of California
Capitol Corridor

UCCE intern reflects on her summer experiences

There is a mysterious sort of feeling that comes with being in a vineyard very early in the morning. It's tranquil and cool; it deceives you into thinking the temperatures won't be sweltering in a mere few hours. Surrounding alfalfa fields sweeten the air, and the sunlight that soon envelops the valley is soft. Though it's early, there is an industrious hum beneath the serenity. Birds are chirping, bugs are crawling, plants are growing, and already, workers are beginning their day.

Maybe it's the elusive feeling of belonging to something bigger than yourself, of being a part of the community whose work is rarely seen up close and even less frequently understood by the majority of society. It's a feeling of being connected to the past - part of an ageless industry, something essential and concrete.

It was this feeling that began the summer in which I learned more about agriculture than any book has yet to teach me, became even more enamored with the industry that is the heartbeat of our valley, and became involved with the community that works endlessly to keep that heartbeat steady and strong.

I was fortunate enough to be chosen for the University of California Cooperative Extension of Kern County's DiGiorgio Internship, a summer position that gives one student studying agriculture at the college level the opportunity to work with all of the farm advisors, thereby getting broad-based and hands-on work experience.

From cattle auctions and range evaluations to variety trials and almond harvests, I worked alongside the dedicated UCCE staff, helping with projects and experiments, attending lectures, going along on farm calls, and everything in between. Working with all of the advisors gave me a very realistic sense of the full cycle of farming and everything involved, from pest management and soil health to irrigation techniques and all of the extensive equipment and technology.

This summer was packed full of new experiences for me. As someone who does not come from an agricultural background, every day was a new adventure. I saw more varieties of potatoes than I knew existed at potato field day. I helped plant a field of pumpkins and then climbed onto a tractor for the first time a few weeks later, unsteady at first but soon confidently cultivating the rows, proud of a morning's work. I harvested tomatoes and admired the bright red fruit produced in the California sunshine.

Maddie Herndon, 19, an agri-business major at Bakersfield Community College, was selected for the UC ANR Cooperative Extension DiGiorgio Internship for summer 2015.
I toured cattle ranches and searched for vine mealybugs everywhere they could possibly be. I spent many mornings in the shade of almond orchards and afternoons looking at leaves in the lab. I attended Grape Day and listened in on a nutrition class being taught to 20 energetic 9-year-olds. I went all over the county, from the cotton fields of Buttonwillow to the back roads and hills of Tulare and ate many happy lunches on the tailgate of a truck with some of the nicest people I've ever met. I listened to people trying to come up with solutions to the devastation of the drought and comprehended what a risky business depending on the land can be.

I learned about the spirit of generosity that is so prevalent in the agricultural community. I received countless words of advice and wisdom from farmers, ranchers, writers, and teachers and met people ranging from 80-year-old cattlemen to fresh-out-of-college farm advisors, all equally enthusiastic about preserving the traditions of our valley while improving the industry and way of life. I came home many days hot and tired, but satisfied and feeling like I did something truly worthwhile.

This internship showed me the significance of UC Cooperative Extension's work. Behind the scenes, the advisors are constantly solving problems and doing the research to prevent them before they happen. They work towards achieving the best results possible because they know that their results do not just affect one grower, crop or sale; eventually, they affect us all. The advisors' generosity in sharing their knowledge with me was invaluable, and it was an honor to work for an organization that is constantly improving our most important industry.

That first early morning in that vineyard, only one thought ran through my mind: it's going to be a long, hot summer. Now, I'm looking my last week of work in the eye, with a pair of worn out boots in my hand and a lot more knowledge in my head. I started the summer only knowing that I had a passion for agriculture. I'm still drawn to it for the same reasons: being a part of something tangible, essential, historical, grounded and evolving. But I'm ending it with a much more realistic and extensive view of the industry, excited about the endless possibilities and confident in the years ahead. 

Posted on Friday, August 21, 2015 at 7:22 AM
  • Author: Maddie Herndon, UC ANR Cooperative Extension intern, Kern County
Tags: intern (1), Kern County (2)


Excellent read, Maddie. It was a distinct pleasure working with you this summer. I wish you the best of luck and success in your studies and future career.

Posted by Gordon B Riggs on August 21, 2015 at 9:25 AM

Great read Maddie! Even though we did not work long together, the time we did chat and discuss your goals, your excitement and overall joy of everything you were learning about Ag was delightful. I know you will succeed in anything you put your mind to because of this excitement. Your article reminded me why I also choose Agriculture for my own career 15 years ago. Good luck in all your future endeavors.

Posted by Stephanie M Rill on August 22, 2015 at 2:28 AM

Good story - but I think you were on a tractor once before 😊E

Posted by Jerry Poncetta on September 29, 2015 at 5:24 PM

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