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Sara Hendershot

Experiential Learning

Agroecology On-Farm Internship 2003

Community is a key aspect of Sonnewald Natural Foods. It takes a team of dedicated diligent workers to fulfill the mission set forth by Tim and Grace LeFever – to help people achieve overall well-being through healthy living. No, this is not a radical cult trying to sway the world into following some fanatical diet. This is a service that supports “good health from the farm…not the pharmacy.”

There are many branches that together strengthen the structure of the structure of the community. The farm team is comprised of Steve, the chief, Elaine, farmhand, and interns. The store team consists of Bill and Willa, owners, along with over twenty employees for each division: Charles in the bulk room; Carol in the bookstore; Kim, Kimberly & Sherry in supplements; Rich in produce; Josh in inventory, and many more. The delivery folks and sales representatives are also part of the community. They are always greeted by name and made welcome. Ty, aka Gandolf, aka Steve’s repairman, has made his presence known on various occasions to fix the tractors. His handiwork can also be viewed around the farm through his ability to create rock sculptures. and then there’s Grace, the 80 year old matriarch of the farm, who is constantly coming and going, organizing weed walks and volleyball games, taking in local cultural events, staying active in her church, and checking in with everyone to see how things are going.

Customers are welcomed and many are known by name. They really aren’t viewed as customers, but rather as another part of the community. All the employees stay extremely busy, but they always make time to greet all who walk through the doors. Coming to the grocery store is a family event, as parents often bring the whole family. If one employee cannot answer a customer’s question, they will find someone who can. Customers are also welcome and encouraged to walk down to the farm and see what’s growing.

Once every month there are employee meetings to check in with everyone as a unit, address concerns and inform everyone of upcoming events. Each branch reports on how things are progressing and can hear what’s new in other areas.

While most of my time was spent outdoors on the farm, I was always warmly welcomed when I would venture into the store. I learned the importance of teamwork and how everything works like a well-oiled machine when each individual performs to the best of their ability to serve the whole. Sonnewald is a testimony to this as their business continues to grow exponentially. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such a caring group of individuals who made me feel at home in their community.