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Mallory Shipe

Organization: La Ferme de Boisy
Dates: 8/1/2016 to 8/28/2016
Web site:

In Mallory's own words

How I contributed: Ferme de Boisy is a vertically integrated dairy and meat production operation. The goal of the organization is to produce quality meats, cheeses, and other dairy products to sell directly at the on-site farm store and at various supermarkets in the Roanne area.

What I felt most challenged by: The language barrier - I arrived with no French ability. At first there was a lot of pointing and gesturing, but in time, I have acquired the language.

What I enjoyed most: Learning something entirely new (cheesemaking); the variety of tasks that there were to complete each day; the welcoming spirit of my host family

Would I recommend this experience? Yes, this was a fantastic experience. If you are interested in really knowing France and the culture, work on a dairy farm. Cheese is life in France.

Abbey Doyno

Organization: Claude Monet Museum and Gardens
Dates: 1-Jun-2013 to 15-August-2013

In Abbey's own words

How I contributed: I contributed to the program because I worked very hard and listened well to the requests of my boss. I followed instructions well and was very efficient with my tasks.

What I felt most challenged by: I was most challenged by learning the new vocabulary for a garden in French.

What I enjoyed most: I enjoyed everything about my experience. I loved working hands on in a garden and making new friends.

Would I recommend this experience? Yes, I would recommend the program, but only to French speakers. The gardens are beautiful and the student will learn very much.

Alan Marcus

Organization: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF)
Dates: 25-May-2014 to 17-Aug-2014

In Alan's own words

How I contributed: The point of the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) organization is to get people connected with farms and families in a personal way to experience and explore the world of organic agriculture. WWOOFers go to live with host families and experience daily life exactly how the family has it. For my stay, this meant participating in work that needed to get done, sharing in struggles when appropriate, and exchanging ideas about the world and organic agriculture. The WWOOF organization wants to expose and educate everyone, regardless of experience or knowledge, about the benefits and ideologies behind sustainable agriculture. I would argue it's even a goal for WWOOFers to take the experiences they have and share it with others. /  / I lived with three families during my summer experience and I believe the goals of the WWOOF organization were met. During my stay in France, I helped on a vineyard, a sheep farm, and at a bed and breakfast and experienced life as mentioned above.

What I felt most challenged by: Engaging in conversations with my host families and other volunteers about differences in beliefs and opinions was sometimes hard when being the only one representing a view point. However uncomfortable I may have felt during these times, they also proved to simultaneously be some of the most rewarding and reflective interactions as I begin to better understand my own beliefs and opinions and clearly articulate them to others. Also, it challenged me to realize that talking and sharing wasn't my only role, but listening and questioning others was equally, if not more, important.

What I enjoyed most: Working alongside families was incredible. I never felt like the WWOOF program was taken for grant it, as every family appeared genuine and really grateful to have me and other volunteers come stay and work alongside them. The families were very open about why they did what they did, whether it was a lifestyle choice or an agricultural choice. Working with them also better helped me to understand agriculture with respect to niche operations as they were open to any question I asked.

Would I recommend this experience? Absolutely. Especially having traveled to a particularly touristy country, staying and working on these farms was a very humbling experience to observe the opposite side of the coin. My experience was about getting right into the heart of the country and culture by becoming a part of these families, and it's something that I would want everyone to experience as well. Every day was filled with surprises and you can be sure to learn more than you thought possible by taking the time to be open and get to know these families. The program is also extremely flexible, you can work out the length of your stay with your host families, and the opportunities are worldwide. I went to France, but there are opportunities to WWOOF in over 100 countries.

Connie Potter

Organization: CALS Exchange 
18-Jul-14 - 27-Aug-14

In Connie's Own Words

How I contributed: I worked on the Mandaroux farm for one month. During that time I assisted in all farm activities including but not limited to: vaccinating the sheep, trimming the hooves of the sheep, preparing feilds for seed planting, cleaning and maintaining barn and feeding areas, and preparing finished products and delivering them to market. The goal of the farm is to provide healthy and sustainably produced food to local customers. I feel that I sufficiently helped them work towards this goal during the time that I was there.

What I felt most challenged by: There were two people around me that spoke enough English to explain some situations to me, but mostly I stumbled along and tried to communicate as best I could.

What I enjoyed most: Being able to have engaged conversations that were both fulfilling and enlightening with people from very different backgrounds and with very different ideas about the agricultural complex than myself. And I must add it was very enjoyable that these conversations took place completely in Spanish.

Would I recommend this experience: I would recommend this program to other Cornell Ag students. I think in some practical ways it is better than many of the programs available as I was the only non-spanish student in the entire school and no one ever spoke to me in English which is cardinal in becoming proficient in the language. Also the school has extensive experimental grounds with greenhouses,  pastures,  vineyards and orchards that students may use for experiments or study. The professors too were very well qualified, very helpful and keen to engage in conversation with students. 

Henrietta Conrad

Organization: Florent Sigmund Goat Farm --
Dates: 14-Jul-14 - 22-Aug-14

In Henrietta's own words

How I contributed: Florent Sigmund is the owner of a small goat dairy farm. I contributed to this dairy farm by preparing both the goats and the machines for milking, shepherding the goats, and helping with the process of making Picodon cheese, a Geographical Indication. I also participated in other farm related activities such as harvesting, bailing, and selling cheese. I worked efficiently and often asked many questions about how to run the farm and French agricultural laws. During my stay Florent signed an agreement for an organic label. We had many discussions about organic agriculture and shared knowledge about different agricultural systems.

What I felt most challenged by: More than the hard work, long days, and language barrier, I was most challenged by the cultural differences of living with my host family during my internship. Small things such as two hour long lunches or being served each entree one at a time instead of at the same time. Or taking time during work to chat with other people when I felt compelled to work efficiently. My biggest challenge was stepping back and relaxing.

What I enjoyed most: Never having worked with animals in an agricultural setting, I was surprised to learn how much I enjoyed being around the goats and cared for them. Everyday I would take the goats on long hikes through the woods and watch over them as they foraged. Many of the goats were kind and affectionate. Even though there were 140 goats I could recognize most of them and associate their faces and dispositions with their udder shape. I often felt protective of them and even was sad to leave.

Would I recommend this experience: Yes, I would recommend this experience to other students. While there wasn't the noble sentiment of 'feeding or helping the poor', I was so touched by how proud the French farmers are of their craft. To them agriculture is not only about production, it is also very much about quality. They are willing to give up some of their production capability in order to be responsible citizens of the land, which I admire because farming isn't very lucrative in the first place. Work days were long and there never seemed to be enough time in the day to do all the chores that needed to be done but this made me realize just how much labor goes into a piece of cheese on a small organic farm, which was accompanied by the realization that supermarkets are who earn the biggest cut from our  labor on the farm.

Shelby McClelland

Organization: CALS Exchange
Dates: 15-Jul-13 - 4-Sep-13

In Shelby's own words

How I contributed: I contributed to the goals and mission of this program by primarily having an engaging and meaningful international experience. This is one of the key goals of the CALS Exchange program and I feel like I accomplished that. I took on a challenging internship and lived with a French host family for around 8 weeks. I was able to share my own agricultural experience with my co-workers and boss, and, likewise, they were able to impart to me their own French experience and perspective.

What I felt most challenged by: I was most challenged by the isolation and long work hours. I was the only native English speaker on site and it was difficult for me at times to adjust to speaking completely French while doing physical, hard labor. The work hours were often long and physically demanding. I had few breaks and was expected to be flexible when problems arose even if I had time off.

What I enjoyed most: The aspect of my internship that I enjoyed the most was probably the ability to engage and immerse myself in French culture and agriculture. Dairy goat operations are an essential part of French agriculture and participating in this aspect of the agricultural industry was enlightening. It was also interesting to be apart of such a large operation when other goat herds are often smaller. The family I lived with also helped to vastly improve my French and give me the opportunity to learn more about the French way of life.

Would I recommend this experience: Yes, I would recommend this program to other students. However, I do have reservations on this particular internship. For future students, exchange or otherwise, it is important to be aware of the extremely busy hours on the farm and the hard, physical labor required. Normal workdays run from 10 to 12 hours and it is necessary to be flexible when it comes to breaks because they vary. Jean-Philippe, the owner and overseer of the farm, does give his interns a one week vacation in the middle of the internship to make up for the lost breaks on the weekends, which I found to be a restful time. It is possible to do this internship without any prior French knowledge, but I found that knowing French was extremely helpful and made an already overwhelming and, at times, stressful job less so. 

Erika Hooker

Organization: FESIA Viticulture Program
Dates: 1-Jul-11 - 16-Dec-11

In Erika's own words

How I contributed: I worked side by side in the vineyard with full time employees. I helped them to harvest the grapes and stayed until midnight in the cellar some nights in order to finish pump overs and filling the cuvees. We became good friends and they taught me so much about the viticulture business and why they have dedicated much of their lives to it. They inspired me to care about my work and find a career field where I could be innovative.

What I felt most challenged by: Learning the language was frustrating at times. I wanted so badly to communicate with the people I worked with on a daily basis but it didn't happen overnight. By the time I left I was conversational, but it was a lot of trial and error.

What I enjoyed most: I loved immersing myself in French culture. It was nice to put aside cultural stereotypes, on both sides, and live as they lived. I ate anything they put in front of me, tried to adjust my schedule to theirs, and copied their mannerisms. I was able to look at our differences positively and learn from them as much as they learned from me.

Would I recommend this experience: By going abroad, you refresh your outlook and appreciation of Cornell. My program especially allowed me to live and work with French people daily and they inspired me in so many ways. I came back to the US knowing what was important to me and confident I could get rid of things that had crowded my life before.