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My goal for my experience was to independently investigate the feasibility of an at-home gardening service in State College. This service is modeled after a Portland, Oregon small business: Your Backyard Farmer. Your Backyard Farmer farms clients’ backyards based on their family’s eating habits, provides urban farming expertise, as well as tending and harvesting of the garden. In order to investigate the feasibility and possible benefits for a business such as Your Backyard Farmer in State College, I mapped the farmable parcels of residential land, surveyed to evaluate interest of target State College residents, and researched the health benefits and charitable opportunities of this initiative. I made a prototype home garden in my own backyard in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, which has a similar climate to State College due to proximity. This prototype allowed me to estimate cost, time, labor, and challenges associated with building a raised bed garden.

The experience allowed me to explore a project I’m passionate about independently. It also allowed me to expand my research skillset beyond wet lab skills. I needed to educate myself and others about social issues such as food insecurity and food deserts, as well as public health initiatives to combat them to properly conduct research on this initiative. This business has the potential for charitable donations to local foodbanks with the extra fresh produce grown. This importance of fresh produce within a healthy diet cannot be underestimated and I hope I can move this farming initiative forward this year now that I have several areas to target as a customer base within State College as well as knowledge of the limitations involved with this business model.

This experience was quite different from my normal academic studies. As a biochemistry and molecular biology major, I’m used to working in research labs and studying molecular cellular operations. Expanding my research experience to humanitarian projects was very fulfilling. I felt that my research work ethic translated into my research with this farming initiative, but allowed me to explore a new field.

This experience has made me more proactive, and more independent with my projects. The independence has been fostered through this remote experience because I did not always have access to the software or people I needed for this project. I had to find ways to accomplish my goals differently, or work around a different time frame to meet with people on their schedules. I had to learn how to reach out to professionals for advice and find people with the resources and knowledge to help my research. I feel that this experience has made me work more efficiently, independently, and learn important problem-solving skills. This experience also expanded my view of what my post-graduation career could look like. I found this experience to be very valuable to my professional and personal growth.