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Reflecting on my time as the Farms and Fish intern

It’s Week 8 of 10 and it is hard to believe that the Henry’s Fork Foundation summer internship program is already wrapping up. It feels like just yesterday the interns were in the main conference room doing our R analysis and hydrology courses as part of orientation.

While time has flown, it certainly has been a jam-packed couple of weeks. The majority of my time is spent in the office calling irrigators, but I have had the opportunity to get out in the field to help Daniel conduct a soil health analysis on a local farm, attend Friends of the Teton River’s tour of Canyon Creek, learn about grazing at Harriman State Park, and I will join the Teton Valley Farm Tour in August!

My independent project entails interviewing farmers in the watershed about their experience with irrigation. I am learning why agricultural producers in different parts of the watershed have converted from flood to sprinkler irrigation, increased their sprinkler mechanization (i.e. hand-line to pivot), or decided not to convert their irrigation practices at all. It has been a wonderfully immersive experience engaging with irrigators in the area and has definitely provided me with a sense of the current state of agriculture in this part of the nation.

Contacting irrigators can be challenging—folks are busy, water is political (especially during drought), and sharing information requires trust. Not everyone I’ve contacted has agreed to participate. But those who have participated have given amazing stories on their personal experiences with irrigation in the watershed and how they view the future of agriculture in southeastern Idaho. As a woman interested in the agriculture sector, it has been especially interesting to converse with other women in the male-dominated industry. Gaining all water use perspectives is integral to this project if I am to attempt to capture the complete story. My favorite part about qualitative research is the individual nuances that come with storytelling that can’t be captured by a number or statistic. I’m excited to put together my final presentation, which will put together my research and the quantitative data from previous interns’ work to tell a holistic narrative of the history of irrigation in the watershed.

Helping out with soil sampling!

An example of pivot irrigation. I will be discussing the widespread conversion to pivots in my final presentation.

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