Unexpected opportunity leads to year-long internship

WESTFIELD-Elisa Kosinski is undertaking a one-year internship alongside her grandmother, Susan Kosinski of Kosinski Farms, to understand the intricacies of day-to-day operations on the farm.

“There is much more to sustainable agriculture than simply placing a plant in soil and watering it, and my degree in science has put that into full perspective for me,” said Kosinski, who graduated from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island last May. 

“My love for science stemmed from growing up in a family that has focused on either science or business for their careers,” she said, adding, “Their passion in these careers put the idea of science as a career in the forefront of my mind since I was a young girl.”

Susan Kosinski talks with her granddaughter, Elisa Kosinski, seen on ladder, about the drip irrigation system in regards to the care needed for a Biden’s Gonzales flower at Kosinski Farms. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Working alongside her “Nana” now in a new role will expand her in-depth understanding of the business portion of agriculture and “top off” her knowledge of farm work and life.

“Rather than being on a macroscopic level of agriculture, my major has given me in-depth understanding of the biochemical, anatomical, and molecular aspects of what is needed to have a successful year,” said Kosinski, adding, “A well-rounded education in business and sustainable agriculture and hands-on science is required to operate a successful farm.”

Susan Kosinski said the internship, which began Dec. 1, 2020, will involve the management aspect of the wholesale and retail business, as well as the Raven Hollow Winery.

“Sooner or later, my goal is to retire, but see the family business of agriculture continue with the upcoming generations of Kosinski’s,” said Susan Kosinski, who started the farm with her husband Gene on Russellville Road in 1983.

Kosinski said the idea of an internship stemmed from her granddaughter being a recent university graduate with a science background.

“The internship provides an opportunity to experience the application of hands-on science in everyday business life,” said Kosinski. “With her as the fourth generation of Kosinski’s in farming, she will be adding to the longevity of sustainable agriculture in the family.”

While farm life may seem daunting to some, Elisa Kosinski said her grandmother over the years has “made a point to turn every chore involved with the business into a game for me.”

“I have been by my grandmother’s side since the opening of the Kosinski Farm Stand in 1999,” said Elisa Kosinski, who is now 22. “To the best of my recollection, I never actually disliked any chore in particular. I like the fact that no two days are ever the same in this business, so there is always variety in my workday.”

Workweeks are currently four or five days on the farm and the hours can be “flexible,” however, in the coming weeks that will change to working seven days a week.

Susan Kosinski, on left, discusses the growth stage of the Argyranthemums with her granddaughter, Elisa Kosinski, to determine when the dead blossoms must be removed. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

During a recent morning interview, the women took a few moments out of their busy day that included planting 3,000 vegetable plants (romaine lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower), to talk about the months ahead.

“This is a unique opportunity for us, an unexpected opportunity,” said Susan Kosinski. “I want Elisa to see the farm business as a way of life and a good life and a good place to bring up the next generation. I am hoping that my great-grandchildren get to experience this lifestyle in some way which I think is so important.”

Throughout the duration of the internship, Susan Kosinski said she will focus her attention with her granddaughter on several aspects of farming.

“Our first step would be looking towards the future of the health of the environment through the use of sustainable methods of agriculture,” said Kosinski. “Elisa brings the next generation of ‘know-how’ in technological advances in order to expand the methods of our operations.”

Kosinski added that her granddaughter has “completely changed” the Point of Sales system for the business, and is also overseeing general operations including quality control, food safety regulations, certifications and health protocols.

“At the end of this year of interning, my aim is to be ready to run the business without my grandmother’s assistance, yet still utilizing her guidance as her years of experience are invaluable in the business,” said Elisa Kosinski.

Elisa Kosinski, on left, and Susan Kosinski make decisions on new flowering plant varieties brought in this year at Kosinski Farms. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Looking toward the future, Elisa Kosinski said she also plans to continue her education with a focus on biology.

“My grandmother has impressed upon me that taking several business management courses would benefit me in my agricultural pursuit, so that I am fully prepared for all aspects of farm operations,” she said.

Among lessons already learned, having a detailed plan in place is crucial on the farm, according to Elisa Kosinski.

“I’ve learned how crucial it is to have a very detailed record of what you plan to purchase, everything you purchase, and then where they will go and end up when they arrive,” she added.

While Susan Kosinski is providing more hands-on experience, Gene Kosinski is always checking in to see how his granddaughter is progressing.

“I’ve been planting the plants that will go into the field for him,” said Elisa Kosinski. “I’ve also been handling the work licenses, fees for the farm, and getting all the certifications we need to be a Proven Winners distributor. He always gives me instruction, guidance and encouragement.”

Susan Kosinski and Elisa Kosinski assess whether the Stage 1 Million Bells hangers are ready to be moved over to another greenhouse for Stage 2 in preparation for customer purchasing at Kosinski Farms. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Susan Kosinski shared a similar sentiment.

“The farm is a joint effort with Gene,” she said. “We talk a lot now about our expectations for Elisa. We are giving her the farm experience and business experience right now. There is no better business than farming to teach a good work ethic.”

While Susan and Gene Kosinski have seen the “ups and downs” of farming over the years, they wouldn’t trade their livelihood with anyone.

“You must have a willingness to work seven days a week,” said Susan Kosinski, adding, “know that a farm is a true business. Be willing to put the time in with the books, numbers, calculations, and don’t get discouraged because one out of every seven years there is a disaster.”

As the women returned to the tasks at hand – they also encouraged other women to consider farming as a vocation.

“When I first started farming with Gene almost 50 years ago and we attended growers meetings, people would ask me ‘Why are you here?’,” said Susan Kosinski. “Gene was always insistent that we would make the decisions together and our children and grandchildren have learned they have career options. Farming is for anyone who is willing to put in the effort.”

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