CalCAN Interns: Where Are They Now?

Posted on Thursday, January 13th, 2022 by
Group photo of advocates, including CalCAN former intern Beth Smoker, from CalCAN’s Legislator Education Day in 2016.

We have had the benefit of working with 13 interns over our 13-year history, all of whom have made unique and important contributions and moved on to work in related fields, and in many cases for partner organizations (see here for an older blog featuring the first five interns). We checked in with some of CalCAN’s former interns (2014 – 2021) to see what they are doing now and how their experience with CalCAN informed their current career path. Below are snippets of our conversations.


Benny Corona, greatly informed by his experience as a farmworker, wrote about the need to protect and improve working conditions for farmworkers during wildfires

Benny Corona (Spring 2021)

Benny was an intern with CalCAN while pursuing his Masters in Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley and is now working on rural policy development issues, like broadband access and adoption, for the State’s Public Advocates Office. While an intern, Benny worked on a graduate school project, Driving the Future: Improving Access to Electric Vehicles and Infrastructure in Rural California, and dug into sustainable agriculture policy analysis. Through this, he got experience with the policy development processes and how policy advocates influence and collaborate with state agencies. This experience helped shape his desire to focus on expanding services and resources for rural areas.

“As someone born and raised in rural agricultural communities, the opportunity to work for an organization like CalCAN that is mobilizing the power of sustainable agriculture and its stakeholders was invaluable.”


Grace Perry (Spring 2020)

Grace was an intern while a graduate student at U.C. Davis and now works for the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), a CalCAN coalition member, in their Farmer Services Program, providing food safety technical assistance through field days and one-on-ones with farmers. Grace started as an intern at CalCAN right when statewide shutdowns due to COVID-19 began, so she abruptly shifted to virtual meetings. Grace was key in researching and analyzing data for both the Healthy Soils Program and Sustainable Agriculture Lands Conservation Program and coauthored CalCAN’s two reports on the programs. Interviewing technical assistant providers as part of the report writing process helped inform Grace’s desire to work as a technical assistance provider herself.

This internship was an invaluable learning opportunity at a time when it was okay to explore and ask questions and have trusted advisors answer those questions.


Molly Taylor (Spring 2019)

Molly Taylor of PT Ranch

Molly was an intern while working at her family’s ranch, PT Ranch. As an intern, Molly worked on AB 2377, the bill that created the Technical Assistance Program for the state’s Climate Smart Agriculture programs. She surveyed technical assistance (TA) providers who would have benefitted from the funding. She then went on to become a TA provider herself for Amador Resource Conservation District, helping producers in the area apply for the Healthy Soils Program, among other programs, while continuing to manage PT Ranch. She is now working as the Climate Smart Agriculture Program Manager with the Community Environmental Council in Santa Barbara.

“When I started working at the ranch, I asked how are we going to scale regenerative agriculture – what funding mechanisms are going to work? Through my internship, I understood better how public policy is the number one way to scale up these practices because I saw how that worked from the inside.”


Noah Lakritz (Summer 2018)

Noah was an intern after graduating from U.C. Davis and went on to work for CalCAN coalition member CCOF as an advocacy coordinator and then policy outreach specialist, working with farmer members and advocating for organic policies. His time as an intern at CalCAN directly informed this policy work as he learned firsthand how policy creation works with other advocates. He also spoke with dairies and technical assistant providers about the challenges and successes with the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP), participated in legislative meetings and drafted public comments for the state scoping plan. Just recently Noah has moved away from advocacy work to pursue his other passion of working in hospitality and he looks forward to continuing to advocate for organic and sustainable agriculture as a constituent.

The internship with CalCAN is a very hands-on and rewarding experience because you get not only a crash course on state agriculture policy but you also get to write and work on things right away.
irwin hearing
After a Senate Ag Committee vote with Poojan Thakrar and Noah Lakritz.


Poojan Thakrar (Winter 2018)

Poojan was an intern with CalCAN while a junior at U.C. Berkeley studying environmental economics, bridging sustainability and policy. He has since returned to school, attending law school at the University of Minnesota with an intended concentration in energy and environmental law after working at a solar company in San Francisco. While interning with CalCAN, Poojan learned how to navigate the legislative process and has been able to use that knowledge to this day.

Working with CalCAN was unique because as a relatively small organization, you are able to be in charge of your project as an intern. You’re given the framework and allowed to run with it and that project management is a very valuable skill.


Chelsea Mitchell (Winter 2017)

Chelsea was an intern while also working as a consultant for new food systems development projects. The Healthy Soils Program had just been created when Chelsea started and a lot of her work focused on trying to secure funding for the new program. She also worked on a report about the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP), attended legislator meetings and was involved in field days that included Air Resources Board tour of manure management systems at small dairies. Continuing to focus on climate issues, Chelsea recently finished law school and has started a job at a law firm focused on renewable energy and renewable energy financing.

The thing that struck about CalCAN was the massive amount of farmers involved in the advocacy process who themselves benefit from the policies that CalCAN advances and the focus on building relationship with people who have a hand in implementing the program.


Sharon Soormaghen (Summer 2014)

Sharon was a policy intern while a student at U.C. Berkeley and helped track bills and put together white papers on carbon footprint of CA orchard crop and climate benefits of sustainable agriculture, among other topics. She continued on as an intern and then as a communications consultant through 2015, creating farmer profiles, traveling out in the field and helping plan CalCAN’s biennial summit. Through her internship, Sharon enjoyed speaking with CalCAN farmer advisors and partners most. In 2016 she moved to L.A. and has been working with L.A. Waterkeeper since, building on many of the technical skills she developed at CalCAN, including a desire to focus on environmental policy, science communications and fundraising.

Through my work with CalCAN, I gained a unique and valuable perspective on how state and local governments work –– everything that’s involved in getting policies passed, and the real-world impacts policy changes have on Californians.
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