News from the Farm | April 10, 2023

Hi everyone!

My name is Marie and I’ve been an intern at Full Belly for the past 11 months. As my year of internship and my time in the magical Capay Valley is coming to a close, I thought it was high time to say hello to you all and share a bit about my experiences here at the farm.

My entry into the world of sustainable agriculture began about four years ago when I started working in the produce department at my local food co-op in Burlington, Vermont. This job sparked my interest in learning where our food comes from and I began to build an intimate relationship with the food I was eating, from the politics of international banana imports, to the growing methods of small organic farmers in Vermont, and everything in between. I loved my home at the co-op, but I was itching to be outside, get my hands in the dirt, and start producing the food I was so keen on learning about. 

I had heard of Full Belly from their participation in the Real Organic Project, and after a lifetime of long, snowy New England winters, I was eager to see the sunny skies of California. Which is how I ended up driving 3,000 miles away from home, to a new community, with a new climate, absolutely no farm work experience, a language barrier to navigate, and the adventure of a lifetime ahead of me. 

One of the benefits of being an intern is the variety of work; we get familiar with many different roles on the farm. I’ve gotten to do it all: harvesting flowers and vegetables, washing and packing orders in the shop, working our CSA box assembly line, transplanting, weeding, and going to the farmer’s market. Another vital job for the interns is loading the delivery trucks at the end of the day which I can only describe as a mix between CrossFit and a game of Tetris: it keeps your brain sharp and your muscles strong. 

Here at the farm we learn by doing. The first time I drove a tractor I was shown the mechanics and safety of using a tractor, given a driving lesson, and then left to cultivate a field of sunflowers. I was extremely intimidated driving that big piece of machinery, worried I would make a mistake and crush the poor plants. But I had a job to do, so my anxieties had to be left behind and my can-do attitude began to grow.

Last fall I began working with the animals which has quickly become some of my favorite work. Every animal day starts the same: we feed the chickens first because they are most susceptible to stress if their schedule is disrupted. Then there are pigs and guard dogs to feed, grazing animals to check on, eggs to collect, sheep to move, and chicken coops to clean. I collect the eggs every Sunday and Monday, and then work our Berkeley farmer’s market on Tuesday. Whenever customers ask how fresh the eggs are, I can proudly guarantee freshness because I collected them myself!


The first time I had to move the sheep on my own I was once again quite intimidated (even though they were very pregnant and slow at the time). Here at Full Belly, rotational grazing is an important part of our commitment to farming sustainably, meaning our animals are moved to a new section of fresh pasture as soon as they finish munching down their current location. This method creates many environmental benefits including fertilizing the soil, feeding the animals the healthiest food possible, and helping the plants grow deeper root systems which in turn fights soil erosion and improves water quality.  After lots of practice and many sheep moves later it brings me so much joy that I have the knowledge and ability to set up the necessary fencing and safely move an entire flock of sheep and their lambs. 

As I’ve taken on more challenges and new projects, I’ve become more confident tackling the unknown. The most rewarding work for me is always when I can say “Wow I’ve never done that before.” Some other notable work days were spent harvesting olives, using a hydraulic press to juice apples, processing meat birds, cranking out 400 pizzas on pizza night, learning to make a dried flower wreath, corralling escaped chickens, harvesting pickling cucumbers all morning and making pickles all afternoon, holding a just-born lamb, building and hanging a floral installation in the walnut orchard for a wedding ceremony, setting up drip irrigation systems, cooking lunch once a week (every week) for the other interns, picking a fresh melon to enjoy during mid-morning break time, and countless other experiences that I won’t soon forget. 


I’d never experienced country living and living on the farm, in a very rural area, was a big lifestyle adjustment. My bosses are also my neighbors, I share living spaces with my co-workers, and everyone who makes a home here has begun to feel like family. Rural living puts me in daily encounters with all sorts of wildlife. I’m now familiar with the different calls and body language of a bobcat. I can tell the difference between deer, raccoons, and squirrels rustling in the woods just by sound alone. I’ve had skunks, turtles, and baby bunnies all right outside my front door, and I’ve begun to learn the names of all the weeds and wildflowers I come across. I never thought I would spend so much time observing the exact time of day after sunset when the bats are most active (or have a bat fly into my room).

I have fallen in love with working and living most of my life outside and I now can’t imagine a life where I’m not working outside every day and sharing good food with good people. This past year has been the biggest challenge of my life, full of personal losses and life changes. But I am so eternally grateful to have been welcomed into this community. I have been surrounded by both the healing energy of mother nature, and endless opportunities to learn new things from some of the most knowledgeable farmers I’ve ever met. I would like to say a big thank you to Full Belly for hiring me, and a big thank you to our CSA members and our wider community for supporting the wonderful work that happens on this farm!

-Marie McDonald