Environmental Studies Internship at AGT. By Gabi Wolfe & Mia Bowles
This internship consisted of an eleven week program at Alella Green Tech focusing on how to create more sustainable agriculture and farming practices. One major focus of this internship involved the importance of water and water usage, as there are droughts all over the world causing imminent threats to our supply of water.
Our first takeaway from this program involved the works of Sepp Holzer and a book he wrote titled Desert or Paradise. Holzer discusses taking deserted landscapes and restoring them in order to create a thriving ecosystem and make sure they are sustainable for the surrounding environments for years to come. This directly relates to Alella Green Tech because this property is in its beginning stages of becoming more sustainable and using his ideologies will allow for a healthier environment that will last. He explains the importance of implementing small reservoirs of water in these deserted landscapes and using the terrain in order to allow for a natural flow of water throughout the property. Having several ponds in a landscape rather than one large pond allows water to flow throughout instead of being pooled into one area. In addition, water reflects heat so creating more surface area of water will help with rising temperatures and droughts. Holzer points out how crucial it is to understand the landscape you are trying to restore. For example, Alella Green Tech is situated on a steep hill so implementing water retention strategies to collect rainfall and surface runoff is an important factor.
Another major part of this internship was calculating the amount of water used on the farm over a specific time period (day, week, month, etc.), so that we could adjust our water usage and possibly reduce the amount of irrigation occurring where it is less necessary. We were given a spreadsheet with data regarding the water usage from the RACHIO irrigation system; however, when our numbers seemed highly skewed, we realized the data may have contained errors. This prompted us to work with Pietro and determine the water flow of each sprinkler hooked up to the RACHIO system. Once we gathered our data, we recalculated our data and obtained an extremely accurate result that was similar to the certified water meter. This is a prime example of why doing fieldwork and physically checking your data instead of relying on prior information will give a more precise reading.
If we were allotted more time for the internship, our next goal was to work in other parts of the property in order to create a functional forest area. As of right now, that land is mostly untouched and restoring the landscape by implementing ponds, creating water retention techniques, and understanding the soil types would all be beneficial for the area. For example, terracing could be used for the functional forest to create proper water flow and equal absorption for the plants. Moreover, swales, or small channels created to direct rainwater can be added to the landscape. Determining the soil types will be essential because depending on the soil, it has different absorption rates which determines which plant will thrive in the specific soil. Having native plants in the restoration area won’t require as much watering since they are adapted to the warmer climate. Knowing which type is soil type is also necessary when considering plant restoration.
Overall, this internship provided great insight to the ins and outs of working with a landscape that prioritizes sustainability. Farming and agriculture in the past and practiced today can be detrimental to the environment if proper measures aren’t taken to be resourceful and improve the soil via restorative agriculture techniques. We cannot create more water on this earth and, with our ever changing climate, places such as Alella Green Tech are crucial. We are grateful for this experience and hope future interns will continue growing a database that will provide new ideas/insight on how to change the agricultural landscape as well as conserve water usage.