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Harvard Community Garden Offers Summer Sharecropper Internship

New interns are excited to learn about gardening, endless cycles of debt.

CAMBRIDGE, MA -- As summer approaches, the Harvard Community Garden has decided to offer its Summer Sharecropper Internship for the 140th year in a row. The internship, which includes on-campus housing (in the garden shacks) and “unlimited” credit in the Community Garden General Store, is a summer favorite, according to program director James Dubois.

 “Students love the opportunity to give back to the agricultural community that we have fostered here, even if the internship lasts a little longer than expected.”

 Dubois is referring to what some have called “alarming” rates of intern sharecroppers who have fallen into debt to the Community Garden and are then forced to work the land until they can pay off their ever expanding debts.

Gregory Fletcher, ’72, has been working as a sharecropper for the Community Garden for the past 45 years.  His hobbies include growing tobacco and cotton for the marketplace, and a little corn on the side for the chickens.  He also whittles, weather permitting.

“The garden overseers were very accommodating, letting my children live in the next shack over and all,” mused Fletcher, “but I do wish they’d let me keep a little more of the corn seed for the next year, so I wouldn’t have to sell my chickens each spring. And the medicine in the general store is awfully expensive, ‘specially since cotton prices bottomed out fifteen years ago.”

Watchdog groups such as CambridgeCroppers (CC) and BostonBucolic (BoBu) have voiced concerns that, while the Community Garden sharecroppers may seem happy with their cycle of debt, they are, in fact, not. 

Dubois, with a puff of his pipe, countered, “The Harvard Community Garden is committed to sustainable food development, and if an endless cycle of debt and labor isn’t sustainable, I don’t know what is!”

Fletcher added, “I may be an intern of 45 years, but I’m no tenant-farmer / Harvard graduate! I can leave whenever I want! As soon as this year’s crop comes in, I’m sure I’ll have enough money to get a few acres of my own.  Plant some sorghum or winter rye, maybe.”

 If, however, most of his bumper crop is confiscated yet again, Fletcher plans to secure an internship with HEI Hotels.




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