As many people will tell you, I love a good pun. This job has provided me with endless opportunities to make “punny” jokes with customers, especially about bees (“Let the bees be-e!”) and bugs (“They do their own thing, as long as you don’t bug them!”). However, the most common puns that I will come up with are always related to growing (“The greenhouse industry is definitely growing quickly!”). Although I make these jokes regularly, and always with a light and playful tone, it is definitely not a joke to say that this summer has been one of positive growth for me, both personally and professionally. My time with NatureFresh™ Farms is still a few months from being complete, but I have already noticed how substantially I have grown as a person since I first started this journey in April.
One of the largest areas of growth for me has been my willingness to try new things and step outside of my comfort zone. On my first day working at NatureFresh™, I tried a TOMZ Red Cherry tomato right off of the vine, and that was a huge step outside of my comfort zone right off the bat (read more about this experience in my first blog, found here: https://www.naturefresh.ca/a-greenhouse-adventure/). Ever since that first bite, I have become more and more comfortable putting myself out there and pushing my inhibitions to the side in order to have new and different experiences. Some of these experiences have included trying new dishes in unfamiliar regions we have visited (like enchiladas in Arkansas), successfully milking a cow at the Ohio State Fair, and going on my first ever helicopter ride over the city of Columbus (even though I am slightly terrified of heights!). But most importantly, I have spoken with hundreds upon thousands of strangers on a daily basis with confidence, which is something that has never been expected of me before. For me, being able to strike up a conversation with absolutely anyone is an invaluable life skill, and it is one that I have been fortunate enough to develop during this experience.
The other major area of growth for me has been my ability to work efficiently as part of a team. The GEC is undoubtedly a program that finds success only when a team works together properly – each team member knows their role, encourages their teammates, and ensures that everyone is putting in the same amount of time and energy on a daily basis. In addition, when you work and live with the same people for months at a time, as we did with the GEC, it can be taxing on teammates’ relationships with one another. I know that we were extremely fortunate to have a team this year that gelled so well, a team that became a close family by the end of the season. However, even though we all got along extremely well, we still had to put in copious amounts of effort in order to consistently motivate one another to excel each and every day. I have grown to love working closely with a team, which is something I never thought I would say after experiencing so many frustrating group projects in university. I am therefore very optimistic that my experience as part of the GEC team will allow me to build equally fun and valuable team dynamics in the future.
Growth is difficult to achieve without encouragement, and encouragement is impossible without support. I would not have seen as much personal or professional growth as I did during these past few months without experiencing the unwavering support of the NatureFresh™ Farms team. From our supervisors in the Marketing department, to our CEO, Peter Quiring, to the hundreds of staff in every department imaginable, there has been endless amounts of support and encouragement sent our way over the course of the summer. It feels amazing for one’s hard work and dedication to be recognized, and for me, the positive acknowledgment that I received from the NatureFresh™ Farms team translated into a growth in energy and positivity, a desire to learn, and a greater passion for sharing the vision of this company. I am so grateful to have received such a high level of support day in and day out, and it is my hope that everyone finds that kind of support in their lives.
To wrap things up, I would like to share one last anecdote about this amazing company. I recently attended a company BBQ where everyone from NatureFresh Farms and South Essex Fabricating, our sister company, came out for a fun day of softball, food, and activities for the kids. At this event, everyone went home with a lawn chair that had an amazing line stitched on the back: “Growing Our Futures Together”. This saying involved some awesome wordplay that I definitely appreciated, but it was also extremely powerful. In those four words is an important message: when you create a supportive environment together, a community, the people within it can flourish and grow. This is precisely what NatureFresh™ Farms consistently promotes, and I hope that every company out there adopts this philosophy. After all, it is undoubtedly a great nugget (or seed, if you will) of wisdom.