Our summer intern program has been renamed the Polyface Farm Boot Camp. The last two weeks we had nearly 40 candidates in, for 2 days apiece, for the check-out part of the process. No longer called interns, these folks will be called Stewards.
I'm always amazed at the folks who come and the different journeys that make them end up here. One has been working as a Hotshot firefighter in California for two years. Another is at a major land grant university overseeing research projects where they purposely play around with genetics and he said the weird calves being born are like something out of science fiction. All sorts of deformities and crazy immune deficiencies.
Another is a catastrophic insurance adjuster living in her van. She works on commission and gets dispatched to where a tornado, flood or something creates a regional problem. Another is managing 1,200 head of cattle in a feedlot. He told stories about pulling cattle stuck in manure out of the slime with front end loaders.
We had stone counter top builders, elder care givers and culinary students. The winding path to Polyface often involves either a personal or acquaintance health crisis. Everyone needs an epiphany. For others, it's a dawning awareness that we need to take care of soil and do something practical with our lives.
Overall it was a wonderful group. When our Polyface team gets together to do our picks, we each must bring 10 names to the pot. Normally only 20 names get at least one mention, out of 40 who come for checkouts. This year we had an unprecedented 29 names, which speaks to the overall quality of this group.
Not everything is finalized yet, but it's close and we look forward with great anticipation to next year. Yesterday I met with two veterinarians from the University of Pennsylvania who are spearheading two demonstration farm opportunities and wanting to showcase systems that stimulate health without pharmaceuticals. Kudos to them.
They asked what our biggest challenges were with the Stewardship program. Since these two professors deal with college age young people all the time, they understood my response: managing expectations. Everyone comes to a situation with perceptions and expectations, most of which are not voiced.. Therein lies the conundrum.
Anyone who thinks this program simply provides free labor has not done a formal mentoring program. It was gratifying to hear numerous of these candidates, as they left, express surprise about our professionalism. Each one received a packet containing a written vision statement, mission statement, and clear expression of what we expected of our stewards.
Planning and being formal pay big dividends in managing expectations. Our leadership team often can't know all the nuanced expectations of these varied Stewards coming to us, but we sure can be ultra clear in our expectations for them. At least one side of the equation can be clear.
The bottom line for me is this: I only have so much bandwidth in emotional equity. I can either spend it on handling whining and relational snits, or I can invest it in education and information. I can't do both. So it is up to the Steward team to figure out which one they're going to have.
By the way, we also calculated the actual dollar value of this 5 month Stewardship boot camp: $30,000. You can pay us or work for it. That's what you call a clear expectation.
Have you ever had an expectation snafu?