From bees to bridge-building: one graduate student's co-op story

Mar 28th, 2023

Rebecca Newhook

Last summer, master’s student Jenit Thomas completed a work term with Greensmith in Freshwater, Placentia Bay.

Greensmith is a regenerative farm following a sustainable philosophy of farming and land management that aims to address climate change, maintain ecosystem health and build soil strength through practices like composting, minimal soil disturbance and sustainable farming strategies without the use of chemical pesticides.

With a background in engineering, construction, surveying and wastewater management, Mr. Thomas came to Memorial from India to study environmental science, an interdisciplinary graduate program offered by the Faculty of Science.

“Farm work is so varied, one day is never the same as the next.”— Jenit Thomas

During the three months he spent in Freshwater, Mr. Thomas says he was able to leverage his expertise and skills while working with Greensmith’s regenerative farming practices and planning.

“Farm work is so varied, one day is never the same as the next,” he said. “One day I’d be working with bees and the next day I’d be designing a steel bridge.”

A field of leafy green vegetables with a long distance view to ocean and hills. The bright blue sky is filled with clouds
One of the vegetable fields at Greensmith farm in Placentia Bay.

More examples of the variety of projects Mr. Thomas worked on alongside his colleagues are a passive composting system, the design of a duck pond, modifications to pre-fabricated barns and setting up chicken coops with nesting boxes.

He also created a scaled map of the entire farm site based on drone photographs and a plan to access and farm a plot of land that is yet to be developed.

Greensmith is currently expanding its operation.

A number of green wooden boxes with stones on top sit on a wooden structure with grass in the foreground and woods in the background.
Bee hives at Greensmith farm

‘Creative and innovative’

Mr. Thomas played “a big part” in advancing the farm operators’ vision for long-term self-sufficiency and their ability to cultivate high-quality products, says Maria Del Vecchio.

“Thanks to Jenit’s passion, hard work and dedication to our projects, our business will be able to move forward with our farm expansion sooner and more efficiently,” said Ms. Del Vecchio, from Greensmith. “Jenit has provided creative and innovative recommendations for future sustainable development.”

In addition to drawing on his previous work experiences, Mr. Thomas applied principles from his academic program to the farm’s regenerative practices.

He says he is proud that his contributions helped Greensmith move toward better and more environmentally sustainable practices, and he credits the experience as valuable to his career development.

Jenit Thomas stands with his arms crossed in front of a wooden fence with an orange lone-story building behind him
The operators of Greensmith farm say that Jenit Thomas contributed to numerous projects plus an expansion of the farm during his work term there.

He also says that he believes his co-operative education work term has boosted his experience and knowledge in environmental management and made him more confident when establishing effective professional relationships and when confronted with stressful situations or challenges.

“Getting accepted into the master of environmental science co-op program was a huge stepping stone for my career in Canada. I highly recommend the program to students because of the support and important connections it provides.”