by Haitham Al-Abdali
My name is Haitham and I come from Oman! The country is located in one of the harshest climates around the world. Surrounded by deserts and droughts, the agriculture industry is declining and the country imports most of its food needs from elsewhere. Yet, I think there is a huge potential given the advanced technologies of artificial rain and automated agriculture.
I have never worked at a large-scale farm, nor even on one acre. My childhood, though, was accompanied by home gardening, whether it is my home or a relative’s home, I am always there for helping in the garden. Joining the folks at the Student Farm Club brought me the internship opportunity which involved learning more about agricultural management and sustainability practices.
I started working earlier in the fall with basics of planting and harvesting. I discovered that different types of plants need different methods of care and different tools for harvesting. That being said, efficiency also comes into place since we are usually on a schedule and all work needs to be done in a timely manner. Plants are delicate living beings that require a particular act of care; too much water kills the plant just as too little water does!
There were many challenges including harvesting produce on regular basis, reducing our waste footprint, irrigating plants when needed, and transporting produce. The entire system has to be in-order so that it functions properly. I was introduced to the idea of standards and criteria of marketable products. I never thought that the market would reject a fruit because of its ugly shape! But that is the system and hence came up the idea of having seconds or products that are still edible but not marketable. Thus, in order to reduce waste, the club members benefited from receiving seconds almost on a weekly basis!
I believe are many methods the farming industry can utilize to reduce its waste footprint. This topic grabs my attention since I have always been interested in food security and related issues of hunger around the globe. I think working at the Student Farm brought to my attention the difficulties associated with farming, even when it is only one acre, and how to manage them effectively. In addition, during this Fall 2016 semester, I am taking a plant class designed for non-ag majors. The class reviews fundamentals of agriculture from introducing basic plant biology to home gardening and industrial agricultural practices. Having this opportunity while being an intern at the Student Farm provided me with the chance to relate to my studies and apply them in both practical and theoretical approaches.
All in all, the experience has been one of the best. I gained more perspective on sustainability and more first-hand knowledge on farming. At the end, it all comes to people building bridges of understanding. I met new friends to whom I am grateful and looking to keep in touch in the future or maybe even engage in collaborative initiatives. All the best to the Student Farm!
Cover photo via Michelle Bixby, featured here: “Haitham Al-Abdali, an undergraduate in energy engineering, works in a field of greens, making many delicious salads possible for the future.”