My communications and outreach internship with Practical Farmers of Iowa

Maddie Mueller, junior in advertising, interned with Practical Farmers of Iowa during summer 2020.

By Maddie Mueller, junior in advertising

I spent this summer working remotely for Practical Farmers of Iowa as a communications intern. Practical Farmers is a nonprofit organization that equips farmers to build resilient farms and communities. This inclusive organization unites farmers of all operations, management practices and backgrounds with the vision of an Iowa with healthy soil, healthy food, clean air, clean water, resilient farms and vibrant communities.

I started my internship in late April at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, it was difficult to balance my online coursework with my internship duties, but it taught me valuable time management skills. I completed all of my hours by September. I am thankful for the flexibility of this internship.

Thanks to the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication 499A Internship Scholarship, I was able to put full-time effort into the work that I was doing even though it wasn’t a paid opportunity. Because of this scholarship, I was able to move to Ames for the summer so I could meet with my wonderful coworkers that I regularly saw on my computer screen (from a safe distance, of course).

My main duties with PFI included helping manage the website, social media and email newsletters; assisting with graphic design and storytelling; creating and writing copy for ads; and helping with public relations. Every day I was doing something different, which I enjoyed. The communications team made sure I was receiving a well-rounded work experience.

During a “normal” year PFI hosts field day events at farms all across Iowa. At these field days, a farmer demonstrates their area of expertise to those attending. It is usually a day-long event with a lunch break. The purpose of field days are for farmers to learn from their peers and nonfarmers to deepen their connections to local food and farmers. This year, however, they switched their field days to an all-virtual format. It was exciting to help market the 60 virtual field days that PFI hosted this year.

The spirit of cooperation and sharing of knowledge is more important now than ever. Farming is a lonely profession to begin with. The pandemic has drastically impacted farmers’ ability to connect with one another, in addition to making farm work more difficult. Additionally, the derecho in August created millions of dollars in farm damages all across Iowa. It is amazing that PFI is able to continue establishing these connections despite all the obstacles.

I was also given the opportunity to write an article for the summer magazine. I was a little nervous when I was first given this task. I was not a very confident writer, but I had fun putting together the article I wrote. I interviewed a farmer who is passionate about rehabilitating the soil on his farm. The article was focused on how he collaborated with his neighbors who had livestock so that the animals could graze on his land. I am very proud of the finished product. Now I can say that I am a published magazine author!

The best part about working for Practical Farmers of Iowa was the supportive and collaborative work culture. The weekly staff and communications team meetings were always fun to attend because everyone was so friendly. I could tell the staff genuinely cared about me and wanted to see me succeed. I had a great experience with every staff member with whom I got the chance to work. One of my favorite memories was when I was surprised with crab rangoon pizza – one of my favorite foods – during my last communications team meeting!

Overall, I had a great experience as an intern for Practical Farmers of Iowa. I grew up on a farm, but working for PFI gave me a whole new perspective of agriculture. It is really inspiring to see people come together to create a healthy Iowa full of resilient farms and vibrant communities. I am so excited to continue working part-time for PFI in my new role as the Digital Media Assistant.