How do you connect a passion for farming with a desire to take on meaningful volunteer work? Volunteer to take on a project for New Entry! Abby Jensen approached the folks at New Entry last year with a desire to reconnect to farming after her interest was sparked through participation in a college study abroad program.
Abby has volunteered with New Entry since February 2014. She is tackling the important task of determining the current status of New Entry Farm Business Planning Course graduates. A total of 197 individuals have graduated from the Farm Business Planning Course since the first course in 2003. The New Entry Farm Business Planning Course provides farmers with the tools they need in order to develop business plans necessary to begin their farm business enterprises. New Entry works closely with about 35 graduates either offering marketing service through World PEAS, or through one-on-one assistance with production needs and farmland matching. But what about the remaining 162 graduates? Many have started their own farms in other areas, work for nonprofits, or have postponed the start of their farm business due to other obligations. Some immigrants have returned to their homelands. In any case, it takes a concerted effort to track alumni farmers and determine their current status.
Why is this work important? One of the measures that New Entry uses to calibrate its “success” is the percentage of graduates that are currently farming. Based on the results that Abby has obtained so far, we estimate that over 50% of New Entry graduates are still farming today.
Abby went to the College of Wooster, in Ohio, to study biology and environmental science. During college, she lived in Tanzania for a study abroad program. While in Tanzania, Abby contributed to a study regarding long-term land use in an area with small tea plant production plots, in order to determine land use changes over a 20 year-period. Through this research, Abby became interested in nutrition and economic development around cash crops.
After graduation, Abby took a position in the Nutrition Department at the Harvard School of Public Health, where she worked for 1.5 years. She currently works at the epigenetics lab at Harvard's Environmental Health program, where she assists with financial management and grants logistics.
In addition to her volunteer work at New Entry, in her free time, Abby attends graduate school classes at Harvard Extension School (a great perk of her position!). Over the last two years, she has taken one class per semester in Sustainability and Environmental Management. Abby loves to hike and camp and enjoys everything the city has to offer.
And thanks to Abby, New Entry has better data to report, and a more concrete picture of our measure of “success.”