College of Human Ecology nutritional sciences major Ainsley Fleming-Wood ’23 shared locally grown peach tomato salsa with Trumansburg fifth grader Cora Anderson Aug. 11 at the Trumansburg Farmers Market. Fleming-Wood spent the summer as a Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Intern studying and interacting with Finger Lakes area farmers markets.

Students recount life-changing CCE internships

For Sammi Lin ’24, who spent her summer in New York City working with urban farmers, including refugees from Burma, immigrants from East Africa and the Caribbean, and seventh-generation Americans reconnecting with agriculture, the lessons went much deeper than the soil.

“I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person beyond just developing my technical farming skills,” said Lin, an international agriculture and rural development major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Lin was among 27 students who participated in the 2021 Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Summer Internship program, engaging in purpose-driven science with communities across New York state.

Sammi Lin ’24, (center) and Kendra Cooper-Smith ’24 (right), international agriculture and rural development majors in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), share a moment with Ben Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS, while attending at the 2021 Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Internship Reception held Sept. 29 in the Biotechnology Building.

From June to August, CCE county associations and Regional Agriculture Programs across the state hosted students from the CALS, the College of Human Ecology and the College of Arts and Sciences as they worked on projects that included enhancing soil management at community farms in New York City, co-locating solar and agricultural land use in the Southern Tier, facilitating and developing curriculum for a teen anti-racism group in the Hudson Valley, and analyzing farmers markets in the Finger Lakes.

“Working collaboratively, the students, Cornell faculty and CCE educators share up close, hands-on personal experiences that are mutually beneficial to each other as well as communities across New York state,” CCE Director Christopher Watkins said at the 2021 CCE Summer Internship Reception, held Sept. 29 in the Biotechnology Building.

At the reception, students, faculty and CCE mentors joined together to celebrate and reflect on what for many students described as life-changing experiences. The event also featured comments from Katherine McComas, vice provost for engagement and land-grant affairs; Rachel Dunifon, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College of Human Ecology; and Ben Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS.

Cornell impacting New York State

In New York City, Lin was joined on urban agriculture project by fellow agriculture and rural development major Kendra Cooper-Smith ’24. Their internship experience included two South Bronx farms located in the poorest congressional district in the United States.

“That’s where Sammi and Kendra tapped into the deep connection that exists between urban agriculture and community empowerment,” said their faculty adviser, Jenny Kao-Kniffin, associate professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science and an associate director of CCE. “They were hooked and have indicated they will be returning to join with these ambitious community partners next summer.”

In the Hudson Valley, Stephanie Jovel ’23, a psychology major in A&S, developed and facilitated curriculum for a teen anti-racism group made up of CCE Ulster County and CCE Orange County 4-H teens. The program was funded through a partnership with the David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement.

“It was my first time working with high schoolers, so I didn’t know what to really expect going in,” said Jovell, “but it was great – we all had the same kind energy and we were able to be get intimate and deep with our conversations.

“I think it really pushed me to be a leader,” she added. “And it helped illuminate a lot of things for me, especially what I’d like to do moving forward with my career.”

R.J. Anderson is a writer, photographer and communications team leader for Cornell Cooperative Extension.