5 Career Lessons From This McGill Student’s Internship On A Kosher Farm


Fourth-year McGill University student Naomi Cerny is pursuing a Bachelor of Agro-Environmental Science with a specialization in Animal Production.

Her passion for animal production first began when she worked on a farm after her first year of studies. The McGill student believes that more people should aware of where their food is coming from.

“It’s a real problem in our society – people don’t know if their meat is being fed right or how it’s being raised.” —Naomi Cerny, fourth-year Agro-Environmental Science student, McGill University

“It’s a real problem in our society – people don’t know if their meat is being fed right or how it’s being raised,” she says.

Last summer, Naomi had a unique opportunity to gain experience on a Kosher farm – an aspect of animal production that she is very interested in.

She worked on a 415-acre farm and ranch in Colorado that operates under the practices of eco-Judaism – a combination of sustainable agriculture and the Jewish teachings about sustainability – learning about Kosher slaughter and raising meat sustainably. Although she won’t necessarily work on a similar farm after she graduates, Naomi gained some priceless experience and insight into the world of farming

Here Naomi shares the top 5 takeaways from her experience:

1. Have a positive attitude

Naomi at The Centre for Eco-Judaism in Pueblo, Colorado
Naomi at The Centre for Eco-Judaism in Pueblo, Colorado

Working on a farm as a student sometimes requires strenuous physical exertion in the elements. “I started at 6 a.m. and worked until noon, then I had to continue at 5 p.m. because it was so hot,” shares Naomi.

At times, the temperature on the farm, which is located in the Colorado desert, was as high as 42˚C. However, the opportunity to learn from Reconstructionist rabbis – who describe themselves as the Foodie Rabbi and the Cowboy Rabbi – about kosher farming was worth the demanding working conditions for Naomi. She was able to focus on what’s important by maintaining a positive attitude throughout her internship.

2. Go above and beyond your job description

There are certain things that Naomi wanted to learn that were not formally included in her job description. For example, she noticed a shed on the farm that needed some work. She took it upon herself to reorganize the shed, and then built shelves and new doors for it. “We used whatever materials we could find on the farm,” she says.

Naomi considers this one of her most valuable accomplishments during her internship because she had to be resourceful and try something she’d never done before.

3. Look for opportunities that will help you tell stories

If you’re not enjoying every aspect of your internship, keep in mind that your situation is not permanent. The short-term summer job or internship will be over in a few months or weeks. Instead of worrying about what you don’t like, focus your energy on finding creative solutions to challenges you’re experience on the job. The goal is to equip yourself with stories and experiences that will help you in your future endeavours. Ask yourself: Could I tell this story in a behavioural job interview situation?

4. Use internship opportunities to figure out what motivates you

One of the most challenging aspects of being a student – and a young person in general – is trying to determine where your interests truly lie. Contract work, such as internships, allow you to explore opportunities that may not have initially seemed appealing.

Often, this is the only way to discover what really motivates you. And you may not have this kind of flexibility later in your career, so take advantage of it as a student.

5. Don’t discount unpaid work

One of the best ways to explore unique openings is to work for free. In Naomi’s case, she was able take advantage of a travel assistance program offered at McGill’s Macdonald Campus to help fund her internship. In order to really explore your field, working unpaid is one of the best ways to get distinct experience that will help differentiate you from the competition.

What are some of the most valuable lessons you have learned through your internship experiences?

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Photo credit: Sheltie Boy