Hi! My name is Susanne Parrish though I usually go by Susie or “Tractor Princess”. I love glitter, anything pink, cheetah print, cowboy boots, and camo, along with older muscle cars, lifted trucks, and tractors (especially pink ones). I’m this summer’s On-Farm Sustainability Intern at Organic Valley. I am a senior in college from Morgan Hill, California majoring in agriculture systems management at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.
My passion for agriculture germinated from growing up on two and a half acres in the rural part of the Bay Area’s “Silicon Valley”. This was once deemed the mushroom capital of the world and continues to be the garlic capital of the world. Being the youngest of 5 children and being raised on a relatively large piece of property for the area, I had the opportunity to raise pigs, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, quail, two Labrador Retrievers, fish, a horse, and even plant a garden. Despite my girly nickname, I can be quite rugged and down-to-earth. In fact, I enjoy being outdoors whether it’s duck hunting, fishing, gold prospecting (I mentioned that I was from The Golden State right?), camping, four wheeling, watching truck and tractor pulls, or attending county fairs, rodeos, and car shows.
Being involved in programs such as 4H and The National FFA Organization led to agriculture and leadership experiences throughout elementary to high school. Through FFA, I raised and showed market hogs for the local county fair along with competing in dairy products judging, soil judging, job interview, and public speaking contests. My sophomore year of high school, with the help of an agriculture/environmental science class and an inspirational ag advisor, I discovered my passion for ag sustainability and how the industry was in the process of developing more sustainable approaches. This interest led me to be the first student in my FFA chapter to start the sustainable system of beekeeping.
Working in various jobs in the agricultural and environmental sectors for the last four summers, as well as deepening my education at Cal Poly through classes and clubs such as Future Fuels Club (FFC), Agriculture Engineering Society, and Tractor Pull Club (no, neither of our pulling tractors are pink, unfortunately), I narrowed down my interests. Having a role on the project team with FFC and converting a dirt bike to run on an alternative fuel source confirmed my field of interest. I now strive to gain a career involving hands-on research and outreach with biofuels and alternative energy pertaining to agriculture. So, what better way to explore the topics of choice than to be a part of the On-Farm Sustainability Department at Organic Valley?!
I believe that it is up to my generation, the 20-something-year-olds, to improve the methods of how food, fuel, and fiber is produced, harvested, and distributed in order to help the environment provide for us and future generations. The important thing is not that we gain this information and have it sound good in theory, but actually apply these methods and put them to real use.
After multiple layovers on a five-hour plane ride, a two-hour bus ride, and a two-hour car ride, I finally arrived in La Farge, Wisconsin. I didn’t mind the long trip though. It ended up being memorable and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to see Wisconsin from Milwaukee to La Farge. The initial difference I noticed was that it was raining when I arrived and how green it was here. While I am concerned that there is a severe drought all over the state of California right now, I was excited to arrive in a season of “too much rain” in a new state and in a new part of the United States I’ve never experienced before.
I was soon greeted by numerous Organic Valley employees, introduced to the sustainability staff, led on a tour of Headquarters, and introduced to the research that I will be a part of this summer. I am ecstatic that I have the opportunity for the on-farm sustainability internship and am excited to be involved in agricultural sustainability research projects with North America’s largest organic farmer-owned cooperative!