Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Goal #1141: Work on a Farm for the Summer

My summer of farm work came in college when I got an internship managing 80 acres of fruit orchards in Hood River, Oregon. The farm was at the base of Mt. Hood, a dormant volcano in the Hood River Valley.

I was hired by a young 28 year old guy named Mike who had a full time job selling chemical sprays to all the other farmers in the valley. Mike hired me, sight unseen to do pretty much everything necessary to run the orchard. We met each morning to go over what needed to be done and then met again at night to review the day.

That summer I worked harder than I had ever worked before. I learned how to use machinery I'd never used before, manage my time and resources, manage a crew of field workers, improvise and work hard. I’d got up at 6am every morning and usually didn’t come in until it was dark. On Saturdays I worked until about 5 pm, after which I had the rest of the day off to shop and do my laundry. Forget movies or other social activities. That stuff didn't exist that summer. Fortunately, my boss was a Mormon so I had Sundays off. 

I can't believe all the things I learned during that summer working on a farm. Sometimes Mike would ask me if I knew how to do this or that and I’d smile and tell him that I did. Then, after Mike left, I’d try and figure it out on my own. If I couldn’t figure it out then I’d stop on the way out to the orchards and talk to one of the Japanese fruit growers and have him explain how to do whatever it was Mike asked me to do.   

I had some pretty sweet perks doing this internship. Mike made sure that all of my tuition for the coming year was paid for. He also gave me a good salary, 100% of which ended up in savings (because I never had time to spend it.) To show his appreciation for the work i was doing he gave me a week off right after the cherry harvest and paid for me to fly home and ask my girl friend to marry me.This internship was  definitely a sweet arrangement. I cannot say that enough.

I earned a 4.0 GPA that summer. I then went and changed my major to something completely different. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the work, because I did. I loved it. But it taught me that unless I had a LOT of money or I could inherit some land, I would most likely have to work for some corporate grower like Dole or Sunkist, and I didn't want to do that. It also taught me that there were simply too many things that were beyond my control (market trends, weather, etc.). I knew myself well enough to know that I need to have more control over my career than what running an orchard could offer me. 

That was a great summer. I'm sold on the value of internships. It showed me early in my college life that I needed to change course. It saves me thousands of dollars and extra years in college. If you get a chance to do an internship, DO IT!


  1. "Sometimes Mike would ask me if I knew how to do this or that and I’d smile and tell him that I did. Then, after Mike left, I’d try and figure it out on my own."

    Fake it 'til you make it, brother! Great story and a fun read.

  2. Just found your list recently, and it's really inspiring! :)

  3. Thanks. I have a great time doing each item. I need to get back to making entries. I keep marking off items from my list almost weekly but don't take the time to comment and post. I've done some cool things this past month that I need to share with others. Glad you enjoy the reads.