My Internship Experience, Joelyn Ong

PDC Class Photo April 2010

Growing up and living in cities, I could hardly imagine life on a farm and having to grow my own food. However, doing a 10-week permaculture internship at Zaytuna Farm, The Channon in NSW, Australia, changed my perception totally of what real sustainable living means and more….

I continued into the internship straight after going through a 2-week PDC in April. My course mates from the PDC were 24 others from different parts of the world. The magic of this is that we were able to interact and share experience such as the problems we faced in the part of our world and the creative ideas that were implemented there. The PDC did help to create a meaningful circle of network and friendship on top of imparting valuable knowledge that would help us take permaculture beyond our imagination.

Posing with my young hosts in a local school

Tending to my vegetables

After the PDC ended, and one by one my classmates left the farm, I was among the eight interns who were to continue the highly anticipated internship. Besides being taught and closely mentored by renowned permaculture teacher Geoff Lawton, we also undertook four other short courses in Earthworks, Soil Biology, Project Aid Worker and PDC Teacher’s Training. One of the highlights during the internship took us to the Sunshine Coast on a field trip, including a homestay in Janet Millington’s fabulous property.

We witnessed permaculture in action in the very interactive community of Noosa when we attended a local meeting held for over a hundred members. Geoff was also the guest speaker at the meeting. In the next days we visited schools who adopted permaculture as part of their educational activities. The children sparkled in the gardens when they went around explaining what they planted and how they set up the worm tower and so on. I do believe that the young ones will continue to the pillars of a sustainable culture as they spread the goodness of permaculture.

Posing with Bluey and my
freshly harvested veggies

Personally for me, the most exciting part of the internship was in fact what seemed to be the simplest of all…. a vegetable plot to call my own. Learning to start a plot from scratch using the cardboard method, applying compost and carefully transplanting the seedlings and so on, gave me precious hands on lessons on gardening. And of course, the worm juice which I diligently collected from the worm farm was a great booster to my plot.

Putting my labour to the soil also taught me other intangible values such as patience and persistence while I absorbed the wisdom of clever gardening techniques like beneficial planting.

The real fun came when harvest time was due. I remembered how proud I was when I announced to Aure, our chef, that my vegetables were ready and he could use my home grown produce for his preparations. Among the list were Pak Choi, Lettuces, Spinaches and Turnips. (Heaps!!!)

Each day, I would harvest the vegetables just within the next hour before preparation, when the nutrient density was at its peak. I was beaming when everyone was enjoying the fruits of my labour. I finally understood how rewarding it is to grow both soil and food in a sustainable way, without chemical fertilisers.

Our graduation night and
a special cake just for us

During the last few weeks, I also had the opportunities of working on the Asian Garden in Zaytuna. My work was simply to rescue the fruit trees struggling to outgrow the surrounding cover crops and weeds. Lots of hard work in chopping and dropping were done, but all of it was worth it when the happy trees were finally revealed on the garden plains. I
hope they remembered that there was once an Asian girl who worked in the Asian Garden.

All in all, the ten week internship spent on Zaytuna farm was a priceless experience that I would never trade anything else for. I bought a ticket to Australia and in return, I gain knowledge, friends, a vision for a sustainable future and memories that will continue to bring a smile to my face.


  1. Joelyn, it was great to meet you and share in learning at Zaytuna for the PDC and Earthworks. Your article takes me back to the wonderful learning environment and experiences we had. Miss you tons and good luck in the future.
    Your Canadian friends,
    Gord and Jana

  2. Congratulations for your internship Joelyn :-)
    I remember you milking the freezer and Leila too :-)

    Cheers from Mexico !
    Claudia & Stefan

  3. Awesome article!! I think we can still remember who won the veg contest right. Thx for all the watering of mine you didnt do ;)
    Hope you making it happen out there. Miss you Grasshopper.

  4. My dear friends from Zaytuna and all around the world, my experience would not be complete without any of you and the world will be a better place with more of you out there. Cheerios to you, wherever you are. :)

    PS : Christian, your “do not water too much” theory did work (only on days when it’s raining). Hahah!

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