If you have recently been to the Bartlett’s Farm Garden Center, then there is a good chance you were assisted by Simon Malunguja or Anina Ryser, two international interns who are spending their summer on the island.
Malunguja is from Tanzania and Ryser is from Switzerland. Each of their journeys brought them to Bartlett’s through a program called CAEP (Communicating for Agriculture Exchange Programs). The farm staff is joined each year by interns on J-1 visas who are given an opportunity to learn more about the farm’s agricultural practices during their time with the farm.
Malunguja said he hopes to one day start his own garden center and vegetable farm. During his time at Bartlett’s, he said he hopes to widen his knowledge and skills in garden operations.
Before coming to Nantucket, Malunguja spent two years in Israel where he trained in agriculture and livestock keeping under an Agrostudies program. While his passion for gardening has brought him to foreign countries, he still has a deep affection for his homeland.
“Tanzania is a very good place, blessed with a lot of tourism attractions like Mount Kilimanjaro,” he said. “We have beautiful National Parks such as Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara, and Mikumi.”
Malunguja speaks three languages including Kiswahili, English, and Hebrew. He said he has enjoyed his time on Nantucket and working at the farm.
“I do like Bartlett’s Farm since all the workers really love and respect each other and we live like a family,” he said. “Nantucket is a wonderful place for me so far. What has surprised me is that people love this island unconditionally. They really love their island. You can see that when you go to different shops in town. You will see products with a Nantucket map and that’s amazing. I really like that.”
Ryser’s background and journey, though different from Malunguja’s in many ways, has also brought her to Nantucket for a six-month internship. She grew up in the mountains of Switzerland and she explained that Switzerland has a three year long apprenticeship for its young adults. She completed her training program as a florist however, her family owns a café that she dedicated much of her time to following the completion of the program.
“I never wanted anything to do with it,” Ryser joked. “But then I thought, I might just give it a try to see if I like it and I ended up really liking it so I worked in my cafe with my whole family. So I came here because I just needed a change of scenery.”
Initially, Ryser had wanted to work as a florist and had been offered a florist internship in North Dakota through CAEP. She thought she was going to take it, but then decided to check to see if they had anything else to offer her. They replied that they did have another option in a garden center, but not as a florist.
“I’d never heard of Nantucket before,” she said. “I googled it and I was like ‘it’s so beautiful.’ From the moment that I heard that it was an option, I was drawn to it. Everyone keeps telling me I made the right decision. I like Nantucket a lot. It has that small town feeling to it. Everyone is always greeting each other, which is nice.”
Ryser talked about the differences between being a florist and working with live plants. She explained that she hasn’t seen some of the plants at Bartlett’s before.
“That’s pretty cool because I get to learn about new plants,” she said. “Some I recognize from my training as a florist, although (in Switzerland) I was working more with cut flowers. But it’s cool to see them as plants, in pots. That’s something I really like. I’m like, ‘oh I recognize the texture of the leaves or whatever. That definitely helps me.’”
Ryser has been enjoying her internship at the Bartlett’s Farm Garden Center.
“I love it,” she said. “Seriously, it’s really cool because I didn’t have any expectations which was nice. It allowed me to come here freely. I hadn’t been working in the field for some time. I’ve never worked in a garden center, I’ve worked in flower shops but not garden centers. It’s nice because I like working with my hands and doing something productive. In the evening, you’re tired but it’s a good tired because you know what you’ve done all day.”
Ryser added that the Bartlett’s team is a good group to work with.
“Everyone is so nice here and it’s very easy to feel welcome, which is the best thing ever because when you go abroad, you don’t know what’s going to happen and if you’ll like it, if you’ll feel comfortable,” she said. “But that was never a question here. The moment I got here, I felt welcome.”