Alumni Spotlight: Sharon Perrone ’11

Meet Sharon! She graduated Dickinson with a double major in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Italian Studies in 2011. Sharon was first exposed to the farm through her first-year seminar called “Food: Eating, Growing, and Globalization” – her last choice – and was at first, disappointed. However, a one-day trip to the farm transformed her attitudes towards food, the land, and sparked fervor in the class. Come Spring semester, Sharon began volunteering at the farm every week. Interned full-time over summer 2008, and continued as a student farmer her Sophomore and Senior years.

Though she had planned to become a biomedical researcher following graduation, the call to continue in the field of agriculture was strong. She decided to follow this calling, working as a research associate for a food and agriculture law and policy non-profit in Washington D.C. for three and a half years. After, she pursued a master’s degree at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, studying nitrogen fixation of legume cover crops in horticultural systems.

Sharon is now a PhD candidate at the same university. She’s one month away from defending her dissertation (Good luck, Sharon!!!). Having mustered a love for soil, her work revolves heavily around it, researching the ways agricultural practices affect soil health in Minnesota and seeking innovative ways to analyze soil health. Upon her graduation, Sharon was awarded a Presidential Management Fellowship. As part of this two-year fellowship, she will join the Dynamic Soil Properties Program (the subject of her dissertation work!!!) with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Washington D.C. where she will have the opportunity to do special details and assignments. Ultimately, she hopes to continue a lifelong career of public service.

 

She recounts her experiences at the farm from a place of love and gratitude. For one, it instilled a lifelong love of food, fiber production, and land management which has become her devoted career. She also credits her experience at the farm for building a newfound love and appreciation for herself and her body, and how to honor the amazing work it can perform. The farm also taught her the true value of teamwork and collaboration and gave her friends that will last a lifetime.

Her favorite memories at the farm, in her words – “Mostly feelings. The sun on my skin. The sound of the trains going by at 2pm. Knowing the time by the sun. The annual cleaning of Children’s Lake. Constructing the yurts and the high tunnels. Swimming in the Yellow Breeches in all my work clothes. Potlucks. Printing farm t-shirts at 2am in the print shop two weeks before graduation instead of working on my Italian thesis paper. The Local Foods Dinner, where I finally got to pour my heart out to everyone my senior year about how the farm changed my life. Painting the mural in the lower barn. Painting the signs for Harvest Fest. The dry, sticky feeling and smell of hands turned black after working in the tomatoes for 5 hours.  The perennial dirt under my nails, and in between the cracks of my skin in my hands and feet. Being rained on.  Lighting the burn pile. Watching the clouds roll across the hills. Seeding flats in the high tunnels listening to 97.3, The River, on the old Milwaukee radio. Planting garlic in soft, freshly-tilled soil. Saying goodbye, and leaving a piece of my heart there, forever.”

 

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