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Lisa Forehand
Extension and Outreach Coordinator
Center for Environmental Farming Systems
North Carolina State University
Department of Horticulture
226 Kilgore Hall, Box 7609
Raleigh, NC  27695

Internship Opportunities

Intern taking soil samples

As one of the requirements for the program, interns will work with a CEFS faculty mentor to participate in a hands-on experiential learning or research project. Interns will work under their mentor's supervision to become familiar with different management strategies and/or to collect and analyze data throughout the 8-week program. Upon completion of the internship, each intern will present a paper and PowerPoint presentation on their projects.


A few examples of previous years research topics have included Biointensive Farming, Cover Cropping, Integrated Pest Management, Livestock Management and Nutrition, Creation of a Farmers Market, Soil Ecology, Composting, Community Food Systems and many more. The research topics and projects for 2012 have not been set yet. In the meantime, to learn more about the types of opportunities that were available in previous years please click on the links below view examples of final research projects.

Goat browsing experiment

Because of the nature of agriculture research, there may be job opportunities for interns both before and after the internship (mid-April to mid-August). If you would be interested in a full summer position, please contact Lisa Forehand at 919-513-0954 or



Examples of previous intern research projects:


To view the presentations, please click on the title above project description.


Effect of Legume Cover Cropping on Nitrogen Contributions and Arthropod Populations in Organic Production of Corn

Cover crops are used as a method for restoring nutrients to soil as well as reducing weed populations.  A legume cover crop can restore nitrogen to the soil when used in rotation before a heavy nitrogen consuming crop, such as corn.  In this way, cover crops act as a natural fertilizer and are a powerful alternative to synthetic fertilizer for organic farmers.  Nitrogen from a cover crop is not readily available in the soil until the plant’s above-ground biomass has been killed and begins to decompose.  There are many methods for killing cover crops to integrate nitrogen back into the soil including: disk, roller-crimper, flail mower, and herbicide. 
The soil surface arthropod community is not only esstential to the decompostion of cover crop, but preditors such as ground beetles and spiders, can reduce detrimental insect populations. This experiment will examine key soil surface arthropod populations on different kill methods for the cover crop Vicia villosa (Hairy Vetch).  Hairy Vetch is a legume cover crop that has proven to fix abundant nitrogen and is common in agricultural crop rotations. 

Mapping the Foodscape:
Facilitating Networking and Collaboration Between Food System Organizations in Western North Carolina

Even with its reputation as “the land of plenty,” the United States still contains areas whose populations experience difficulties in consistently obtaining the food they need to live a healthy life. Although a “healthy” diet can be interpreted many ways, the concept of “food security” has emerged as common language to classify the accessibility and affordability of food. The “Community Food Security Assessment Toolkit,” a resource published by the Economic Research Service [ERS] to help measure communities’ abilities to obtain food, defines individual food security as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life” (Cohen 2002). The idea of community food security takes this individualized concept and expands it to a larger population, describing the ability for a community to adequately, consistently, and sustainably provide for its own food needs. In 2010, the ERS found that 14.5 percent of US households, approximately 17.2 million people, were food insecure, having difficulty obtaining enough food for their families at some point throughout the year.

The effects of cover crop and tillage treatments on microbial biomass

Efficient cover crop management is a vital component of organic production systems. Inputs often used by organic growers, such as manures, composts, and commercial products derived from various organic sources, can be difficult to manage as they often have low available nitrogen (N) contents and can provide nutrients in excess of crop needs.  The use of legume cover crops to fix atmospheric nitrogen through biological N fixation (BNF) is an established and highly beneficial farming practice. However, emphasis on reducing tillage and the accompanying negative impacts on soil health has stimulated interest in alternative cover crop management systems and implements. This project will compare N availability after terminating legume cover crops in the spring using 4 different kill techniques.

Monitoring the grazing/browsing behavior of goats on an agroforestry pasture composed of fodder trees and herbaceous species

Documenting the grazing and browsing behavior of goats in a silvopastoral situation is important to being able to effectively manage both goats and trees for optimal performance. Herbaceous species present on the experimental plots will be identified and catalogued. Then, goats will be control- browsed/grazed on the experimental plots and their behavior recorded. The interns working on this project will develop skills in identifying major herbaceous forage and “weedy” species and develop skills in observing goats and in monitoring their grazing and browsing behavior. Interns also will be taught the basics of goat husbandry, and will be able to participate in hands-on learning sessions where hoof trimming, drenching, vaccination, determination of the health status and age of the goats, etc. will be demonstrated.

Worms: Wet, wild and wonderful

From sustainable point of view, livestock manure represents a valuable resource. On the other hand, if not properly managed, manure can adversely impact the environment causing odor, nutrient losses, gases emissions, soil and water pollution, and even health problems in animals and humans. Implementing an adequate manure recycling program to the soil enhances soil nutrients and therefore reduce the needs for chemical fertilizers. Bedding material from the CEFS Alternative Swine Unit is suitable for compost and vermicompost because of the large amount of organic waste available. Combining the composting and vermicomposting processes and the addition of another source of organic material will enhance the quality of the product obtained.

Outdoor swine production and tall fescue grass ground cover vegetation

Pasture-based pork production systems are commended for perceived animal welfare and environmental benefits, but these factors can be negatively expressed outdoors, depending on management systems. Outdoor swine engage in intense exploration of the ground through their rooting behavior. This activity along with compaction caused by their trampling and wallowing often leads to the degradation of vegetative ground cover and to the destruction of soil surface structure. Monitoring of ground cover conditions will help ensure that long term goals for natural resources are fulfilled. In addition to ground cover monitoring, interns will evaluate several rotational systems designed to minimize the negative environmental impacts of pasture-based swine production.  

Biointensive farming

Biointensive farming is an organic method of growing maximum amounts food within a minimum amount of land.  It involves seven main steps: Double digging/raised beds, composting, intensive planting, carbon farming, calorie farming, using open pollinated seeds, and whole gardening method.  This method is not only used for crop production, but for improving soil characteristics.

Assessing soil quality

Soil quality can be improved through adequate soil management. Evaluating soil quality requires study of physical, chemical, and biological soil properties.  These properties are used to reflect the soil’s ability to: 1) promote plant growth; 2) retain and release nutrients; 3) provide a habitat for soil organisms; and 4) retain and transmit water. Soil organic matter is a key indicator of soil quality.  Building the level of organic matter will improve soil physical, chemical and biological properties and therefore soil quality. Soil physical properties such as bulk density, aggregate stability, water holding capacity, and infiltration evaluate how well a soil retains and transmits water to crops and the extent of root growth. Soil chemical properties influence nutrient storage, release and availability in soils. Soil biological activity influences the chemical and physical properties of soil. These properties will be measured on plots from the CEFS Farming Systems Research Unit or from the Small Farms Unit.

Organic grain budgeting

Organic grains can be used to make food grade or feed grade products used in organic livestock production. The organic food industry has grown considerably with a 17.4 billion dollar increase from 1997 to 2008 (USDA ERS 2009). This increased demand for organic products in the stores will increase need for organic grain produced as food grade and a feed grade to supply the retailers with products. Budgets are a useful tool for farms to plan and evaluate their profitability compared to others in their area. The organic budgets will be useful to farmers when planning their crop production, in rating their profitability to the state average, along with providing expected cost and return information to possible newcomers in to the industry and in comparing organic and conventional.

The effects of geraniol in the protection of heifers against horn flies

Mastitis—the infection and inflammation of the mammary glands—poses a serious challenge to organic dairy producers. In addition to causing decreased milk yields, mastitis produces changes to the milk composition, and causes increased somatic cell count (SCC). This causes significant losses to dairy producers, making it a serious economic concern. Because horn flies (Haematobia irritans) are a likely vector of mastitis-causing bacteria, fly control may be a useful management technique for preventing mastitis in pastured dairy cattle, particularly heifers. This study evaluated the efficacy of geraniol as an organic repellent by examining the extent of damage on treated heifers and untreated steers during an eight-week treatment period.

Evaluation of the movement of house flies (Musca domestica) among CEFS livestock Units

The common house fly - a well-known insect pest - is a potential vector of infectious diseases and a serious economic strain for farmers.  In addition to transporting diseases from livestock to humans, flies may also spread disease among livestock animals. The potential for house flies to carry diseases may be an especially grave concern for farmers operating diverse, multi-species farms; if flies move from one area of a farm to another they may spread disease to susceptible animals or even deposit harmful microorganisms on crops destined for human consumption. Because of the relatively close proximity of the CEFS Beef, Dairy and Alternative Swine Units, this experiment measured the movement of flies between the different areas.