This week at Somerset, I finally got to get my hands dirty! After assessing most of the properties in my first week, I started to clean up some of the gardens to prep for gardening programs with the residents. Some gardens are well cared for, while some are underutilized, and I am working to find out why and how I can improve these gardens.
I haven’t been alone in my efforts at every property to become engaged in the gardens. Here at Urban Village, there is an excited group of residents who want to keep their garden beautiful and vibrant. They want to continue to plant more herbs, tomatoes, kale, and peppers. This group of residents is exciting to work with because they already a desire to supplement their diet with healthy, homegrown vegetables. If this attitude can be spread to other residents at other properties, to spread a knowledge and aptitude of growing vegetables, I will feel accomplished in my efforts.
Gardening hasn’t been my only focus this week, however. After visiting all the properties in my first week, I began to construct an interactive map that outlines the closest amenities to each property throughout D.C. I included the closest farmers market, grocery store, metro station, while also showing the convenience stores within the vicinity. This has been an interesting and enlightening way to learn about not only the properties, but also the city and area of D.C. and some of the issues its residents face.
Throughout the summer I hope to add more and more content to the map, while consistently improving the resources they have most readily available; their community gardens!
Wow, after one week at Somerset, I’ve never felt more like a real person in the real world. Waking up for work, taking the metro, walking around D.C. not as a tourist but as a member of the workforce (sort-of), has been a great experience. The people I work with at the Somerset office have made me feel right at home. Working for a real-estate development company has given me a unique perspective into life in D.C. I would not have received if I were just visiting. Just this week, I traveled across the city to seven separate properties that have shed a light on the life many face in urban areas.
Somerset Development is a company that specializes in developing affordable housing through programs that subsidize residents to pay sub-market rent prices. This allows people who are facing unemployment, food insecurity, and even homelessness to have the security of having reliable and safe housing. Somerset also fosters strong communities through supplemental education programs, summer programs for kids, job training, and food and nutrition programs. My specific tasks while working at Somerset this summer, fall under the food and nutrition programs.
This summer I will be assessing the community gardens at each Somerset property in D.C. and provide feedback and assistance to improve resident relationships with gardens and provide them agency through the potential to grow their own food.
This first week has been a basic week of introductions, both with people and the sites I’ll be working with. So far, everyone has been incredibly excited about connecting residents to urban gardens. Some gardens at some properties are doing incredibly well and are thriving, while others need more work. I want to find out what may work at one place and why it isn’t at other properties. By the time I report back next week, I will have begun my work on each garden, and will be ready to start to meet residents and get them excited about gardening!
Surviving in Week One
I loved my first week, and overall it went pretty smoothly, so I decided to lay out some advice and tips to show how I went about my first week.
Plot out your commute to work: If you’re in a new area for the summer, don’t let your first day at work be the first time you figure out how to get to work. Familiarize yourself with the area, the public transit, whatever will help, that way your first day, and week, can be that much less stressful.
Talk to people at work: There’s no point in being a stranger at work, get to know people! Chances are they’ll be super nice, and want to help you fit in.
Meet with your supervisor: Make sure you know what is expected of you, and try to make yourself useful. There’s nothing worse than being confused about what to do, so make yourself know, and show your skills.
Learn about yourcompany and co-workers: Understand what the company your working for does, and why it does it. Talk to your co-workers and find out why they work there too. This will give you a great picture into the values of your workplace.
Don’t be afraid to speak up and share: You’re an intern, but your purpose is to help! If you have good ideas or experiences, share them, sometimes it will be really valued, and what better way to get off on the right foot than to share good ideas?