Thursday, January 03, 2013

Farm Aid's New Co-op, Toni Tiemann

ToniAs a second-year journalism student at Northeastern University who was raised on a farm with a love of all things music, I couldn’t be more excited to begin my position as the new co-op intern at Farm Aid.

I lived in Westborough, Mass., until I was 6 before moving to Upstate New York to be surrounded by family when my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer. We moved to the old farmhouse that belonged to my great grandparents before us, nestled in a plot of land bordered by grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, which my elementary school bus driver referred to as "Tiemannville." With a chicken coop as my playhouse and haystacks as my after school daycare, I was suddenly immersed into a rural lifestyle for the first time on the farmland that belonged to my family for generations.

Given her medical condition, my mom was told by the government that she was unable to work, but as a single parent she was still determined to provide for my sister and I, which led her to work with my uncle on his dairy farm. Going there everyday after school showed me the extreme hard work and dedication that goes into farming, often for little financial return. I have always been struck by the strength, both physical and emotional, that a person must have to commit to a farming lifestyle.

While it is a difficult career path for someone to choose, a farm makes for arguably the most adventurous of childhoods. I remember riding a cow, playing hide-and-go-seek in the cornfields, drinking incomparably fresh unpasteurized milk and even being spit on by the alpacas that two of my uncles later invested in. When friends from the suburbs of Massachusetts came to visit, I remember how astounded they were when I asked, "Want to milk a cow with me today?"

It certainly did not take long before I was hooked on farm life. When I was 16, I began a job at Karen’s Ice Cream and Produce. Though I was just an ice cream girl, the small, family-owned company was based around a vegetable stand that went to various local farmer's markets. It was there that I first truly understood the hardships that a farm must go through after the crops were plagued by a sequence of flooding from Hurricane Irene and a lack of rain the following year. As a result of watching this trouble my boss's family went through, I have a profound appreciation for the Farm Aid mission.

Around the same time that I began working at Karen's, my passion for music began to develop. The first concert I can remember going to happens to be the Dave Matthews Band, headed by one of Farm Aid's Board Artists, at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. I will never forget that show because it was then that I first saw the power music has. There are few other entities in the world that can pack in thousands of strangers happily like sardines for a common purpose. In a world of growing corruption, it is amazing that there is still something out there that can harness raw talent, influence emotions and, as displayed by Farm Aid, spread a message like no other.

Since then I have continually delved deeper into the world of music, deciding to minor in it at school. I have contributed music reviews for the student organization Tastemakers Magazine as well as the multi-media website Gaining Ground Media.

I could not have been more enthusiastic at the idea when my co-op advisor proposed I apply to Farm Aid for my first internship, now being able to combine two of the most prominent variables of my life thus far. So far I have only been exposed to the traditional ways of those in the tiny Town of Florida community, so I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about some of the forward, innovative thinking about agriculture that Farm Aid supports. Having first enrolled at Northeastern University as an environmental engineering major before switching to journalism, I care very much about sustainability and am particularly eager to speak with farmers that utilize environmentally friendly practices as many of Farm Aid's "Farmer Heroes" do.

We live in a changing world, one where chemicals run rampant in the majority of what is consumed and large corporations dominate the little guy. One thing I think we can all agree on: food is great. So why not support great food from great people? That is just what I am here to do. Through the power of music and the dedication of a wonderful team, I cannot wait to begin this six-month journey to gain experience, knowledge and help people very similar to my family or old boss that might just need a little bit of Farm Aid.

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