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Community Community Partners Our Vision Summer 2020 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Finding My Way in Nature’s Chain: Carrying The Farm’s Nourishment Into My Post-Grad Life

Guest post by Celia Dolan, Class of 2019

Inch by inch, row by row

Gonna make this garden grow

I hear the opening lyrics to The Garden song as I head out for work.  On my way, I pass by The Farm at Stonehill and am reminded of the tremendous growth abundant in those fields.  In my first year at Stonehill, I volunteered at The Farm essentially on a whim and it transformed what I studied, what my career goals are, and who I am.  I grew a thirst for knowledge about sustainable agriculture and food justice.  I grew an interest in learning about how my food choices and consumerism impact other people and the environment.  I grew new friendships and mentorships.  The Farm allowed me to grow the garden of my life, especially this year.

Three students stand in the field with trays and plants for first time volunteer hours
Brett Smith (’19), me, and Marissa Beachell (’19)
at one of my first volunteer hours.

In an effort to avoid bringing up the oft-discussed challenging circumstances of 2020, which we all recognize and understand, I will simply say that this season at The Farm was different.  The crew was small, but beautiful.  The crops planted were fewer, but abundant and delicious.  This summer was the end of the familiar and the start of adapting, embarking on a new journey, finding a new strategy for survival.  Such a sentiment felt especially real to me as I acknowledged that my time at The Farm was winding down and I’d have to seek out new ventures.

Man is made of dreams and bones
Feel the need to grow my own
‘Cause the time is close at hand

That seeking led me to my current position as direct service associate at My Brother’s Keeper (MBK).  Truly, I have The Farm to thank for this opportunity; had I not gone to MBK to deliver Farm produce and talked with their manager of the food assistance program, I wouldn’t have known about the opening.  I have the privilege of serving others each day and bringing food to those in the surrounding community – an effort to mitigate food insecurity similar to my work at The Farm.

Five people stand, arms around each other, in front of the Mobile Market van parked in a lot
Farm Director Bridget Lawrence-Meigs, Tim Watts, me, Cassie Pavain (’21), and Natalie McDonough (’20)
standing in front of our Mobile Market van during a market at 63 Main Street in Brockton.

 

The growth that I experienced at The Farm, first as a student, then as the assistant farm manager, continues today despite not being at The Farm on a regular basis.  Now, I work each day at MBK, but constantly feel my roots deeply planted down the street at The Farm.  Thanks to the amazing power of The Farm to feed my soul and my curiosities and passions, I have taken what I learned in the fields and classroom into my everyday life.  I continue to grow relationships and connections to The Farm in my new position.  Just last week, I spoke with Dennis, a volunteer at MBK, who was in the warehouse when Bridget stopped by with a donation of produce.  He chatted with me after, asking how long The Farm had been at Stonehill and how I got involved there.  He is a Stonehill alum, but never knew Stonehill’s farm existed and was moved by the mission and impact it had on me.  Another volunteer and alum, Bob, has exchanged gardening tips and sourdough baking methods with me on a regular basis.

A man and woman carry boxes of freshly harvested produce from the Farm through a parking lot to donate to MBK
Bob Grenier (’86) and me at MBK receiving freshly harvested and donated produce from The Farm.

A student volunteer from Bridgewater State University has had deep conversations with me about food justice, nutrition, the industrial food system on a regular basis.  She is full of excitement and enthusiasm that reminds me of the magical ways that food connects all people and all things.  One coworker of mine was previously involved in the restaurant business and loves talking about cooking, heirloom varieties, and various foodie topics that have exposed me to entirely new ways of seeing food.  Clearly, the growth and nourishment that started for me at The Farm continues to shape my life.

 Find my way in Nature’s chain
Tune my body and my brain
To the music from the land

The Farm’s music is like a background melody for me as I load vans with food for deliveries.  And as I encourage our volunteers to compost spoiled food while making food boxes, rather than throw it in the trash.  And as I learn about people’s traditional foods, like cachupa and cus-cus from Cape Verde.  And when I spy urban beekeepers perched on the roof of a house near where we deliver.

An urban beekeeper spotted on a rooftop in Brockton with boxes of bees during a food delivery
Urban beekeeper spotted on a rooftop in Brockton during one of my food deliveries.

I miss The Farm dearly, but it is never truly gone from me, nor I from it.  It is a part of me, and a part that I carry unwaveringly.  Just as I, hopefully, will always be part of The Farm.

 

“I want to love the land before I’m gone

And can only hope it will remember me fondly

My worn paths and retraced steps and froglet offerings

My songs whistled, hummed, and sung”

-Excerpt from a poem I wrote in August

 

Thank you, 2020 crew, for a wonderful, beautiful, roller coaster ride of a season!  I wish you all the best and pray that The Farm will continue to shower blessings on you and everyone who steps foot on that beautiful ground.

Four students rest on a small wooden porch among yellow buckets of a varied harvested produce from the Farm
Owen de Graaf (’21), Bridget Lawrence-Meigs, Olivia Reed (’21), Joe Weber (’22), the 2020 crew,
basking in a beautiful harvest at The Farm.

 

Categories
Community Community Partners Spring 2019 summer 2019 The Farm at Stonehill

A Summer Farmer’s Experience – Alex Smoolca

The Farm's summer crew, consisting of five women and a man all standing together by the hoophouse with veggies in hand
Our summer crew: Assistant Farm Manager Celia Dolan, Louisa Rossel, Alex Smoolca, Olivia Reed, Natalie McDonough and Cassie Pavain.

Hello readers, my name is Alex Smoolca and I am a senior at Stonehill College studying psychology with a sociology minor. I spent this past summer working at The Farm at Stonehill. Upon getting hired I had good expectations for the job because one of my best friends, Natalie, has been working there for years and she always gives the farm high praise. My first couple of weeks I worked with Bridget (my boss the farm manager and now director) and Celia (the assistant farm manager). We spent the first few weeks seeding, planting, and laying down irrigation. I enjoyed my first few weeks.

Little lettuce seedlings growing along in trays in the greenhouse
Little lettuce seedlings growing along in the greenhouse!

Bonding with Celia over hard rock and metal music because, at least to me, Celia (at the time) did not seem like the type of girl who would like that type of music. She is just such a sweet, gentle, kind, and caring soul. She knows a lot about a lot, especially when it comes to farming and the environment, and she’s a lot of fun to work with. She’s very easygoing and one of the hardest workers I’ve met my age. After those couple of weeks, I met my other coworkers Natalie (who I already knew), Cassie, Liv, and Louisa. We worked hard all summer growing, nurturing and harvesting a variety of plants/vegetables: lettuce, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, peas, green beans, a variety of flowers, and more.

Nine small buckets of sweet strawberries from the hoop house and permaculture garden gathered in a yellow bucket
Beautiful and sweet strawberries from the hoop house and permaculture garden!
One of the 3 varieties of open pollinated heirloom corn grown at the farm this year, Glass Gem (from Fruition Seeds), a variety of many reds and yellows
One of the 3 varieties of open pollinated heirloom corn we grew at the farm this year – this one is called Glass Gem and is from Fruition Seeds.
A collection of red, yellow, orange, and pink blooms from the field as summer leans towards fall
Beautiful blooms from the field as summer leans towards fall.

I’m not going to lie being an employee at the farm is hard work. There’s a lot of squatting up and down, digging through dirt, and other physically exhausting activities. Not only that we had to worry about the power of the sun. I would come home some days drenched in sweat and caked in dirt just feeling gross.

Two people sit in the dirt fields to plant delicate squash on a sunny day
Natt and Celia taking care to plant the delicate squash.

However, it was more than worth it. The farm has probably been the most positive work environment I’ve been a part of. My coworkers and boss are always supportive, thoughtful, generous, and relaxed. Some days I would come into work exhausted because of my shenanigans the night before and my coworkers would always help pick me up and brought the best out of me even when I didn’t think I had it in me. Plus, on rough days, Bridget would buy us coffee or let us take breaks when she knew we were struggling. My coworkers, boss, and I had such great banter as well. I’ll never forget the amount of wacky conversations and just weirdness that we all displayed on the farm (especially after losing our minds weeding the watermelons and harvesting potatoes for weeks). Throughout the summer all of us got pretty close and honestly it feels weird to call them coworkers or my boss, not to sound too cheesy, but to an extent I consider us a family.

Five women stand joyously in the dirt fields, arms in the air, as they plant winter squash
Louisa, Elaina, Cassie, Natalie and Celia love planting winter squash!

So, the question remains what did we do with all of our crops? Well the whole point of the farm surrounds the idea of food justice. In the neighboring small city of Brockton there is a serious lack of access to organic/healthy food. Brockton is a they say a food desert. So, to help make this situation better we donate most of our produce to organizations like My Brother’s Keeper, Easton Food Pantry, The Evelyn House, and others that deliver and serve fresh food to those in Brockton who desperately need it. The rest of our produce goes to our mobile markets on Wednesdays. During these days we take our harvest to two separate locations in Brockton and hold a market. The residents of the surrounding area get vouchers to purchase food, so they do not have to use their own money.

Four people sit in the bed of a pickup truck next to five yellow buckets of various veggies, ready to deliver to the Easton Food Pantry
Smoolca, Beth Cronin, Celia and Natt prep a delivery to the Easton Food Pantry in August.
Five people stand, arms around each other, in front of the Mobile Market van parked in a lot
Some of the folks who help make the markets great!
A colorful blackboard menu in front of a market table advertises Farm Fresh veggies for sale, from cucumbers to kale, parsley to cilantro, and more
A nice blend of summer and fall veggies at a market in early September.

The markets can be a lot of fun, but very hectic at times. We can run out of favorite vegetables (like watermelons and corn) and if customers do not get in line early enough the vegetables that they were hoping to buy may be gone by the time it’s their turn in line. Sometimes the customers get impatient if they are waiting in line for a long time, think they are paying too much for their vegetables, or a translator is helping another customer so they have to wait. It’s also a struggle because many residents of Brockton are from other parts of the world and English is a second language so we have to rely on our good friends from the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center to help boost communication. At first, their impatience bothered me, but then I thought about it from their perspective. These people deal with a constant struggle to take care of themselves and their families due to a number of stresses that might include some level of poverty. Every day could be a fight to survive due to lack of food security, and if they can’t seize opportunities like the market to the fullest extent it may be difficult or even impossible to find organic, local, nutritious, seasonal produce that week. However, overall, I’d say the market is very successful and helps every customer that comes to our tent.

The summer Farm crew of six enjoy some delicious vegetarian dishes at the end of season farm potluck, sitting at a wooden picnic table underneath the shade of the trees
Our summer crew enjoy some delicious vegetarian dishes at the end of season farm potluck.

I am grateful that I had this opportunity to work at the farm. I’ve made some great friends and learned a lot. I am sad summer has come to an end and my last year in college has started. However, Bridget has rehired me to work on the farm during the year so I will continue to be working throughout the school year. Not going to lie it’s going to be tough to balance applying to grad school, playing rugby, doing schoolwork, and working a job on top of that. However, I think that my job at the farm will help me get into a good routine and a nice way to take a break from the stressors in my life. I’m excited to see what else I’m going to learn and experience in my coming months on the farm.

 

 

Categories
Community Greenhouse Reflections Spring 2019 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Brimming With Hope as the Supermoon Rises

The first day of Spring arrives, and I find myself brimming with hope for another amazing season at The Farm.

My early morning walks with Zuri around the fields are filled with soft, warm light dancing on the frost covered grasses. It is hard to believe that in a few short months the morning dew will offer a welcome coolness compared the blazing midday heat.

A purple crocus flower blooms and peeks out of dead leaves covering the ground, a sign of Spring coming soon
We find a crocus on an early morning walk – a sure sign that Spring is arriving soon.

This is the time of year when we pause to drink in the sun – lifting our chins towards the sky like turtles sunbathing on boulders in a stream – thankful for the warmth the rays bring to our faces and to our sleepy spirits.

A bright circle - the supermoon - shines high above the treeline at the Farm
The full moon in March is also known as the Worm Moon and is a supermoon! Here it is rising above the trees that line the eastern edge of the field and Rt. 138.

Perhaps it is the power of the full moon on the solstice, but there is something intoxicating about the start of this season.  Highs and lows from the previous season are already fading as the fields start to green, the garlic starts to sprout and the seedlings start to grow.

The seeds are the focus this time of year – when will be planting the onions? the kale? the snapdragons? What will thrive and what will bend despite or due to the challenge of drought or disease?  We create our seeding charts and dutifully fill trays with nutrient rich soil.  We provide water and sunlight.

It is then that the magic happens – we watch as the seedlings emerge. Some of them, like onions and leeks are gangly, lean and angular, while others like snapdragons and Matricaria (a member of the Chamomile tribe) are symmetrical and almost glamorous as they dance in their morning or afternoon shower.

Thin, stringy onion sprouts grow up and out from a series of plastic trays
Unruly onions burst from their seeds – the greens grow a bit taller and straighter each day.
A close up on a matricaria flower sprout slowly beginning to sprout in one of the trays, its small green leaves revealing their complex symmetry
A new flower for us this year – Matricaria – has intricate and symmetrical seedlings right from the first days they appear.

I am reminded of the essential living and nonliving components that help our farm thrive: the students and community members who arrive early and stay as long as they can to plant the seeds, the nutrients in the soil, the water that transports the nutrients into the roots of the seedlings, and the sun which beckons our young plants to grow.

A woman works with over a dozen students in the greenhouse to plant thousands of seeds during on crowded tables for volunteer hours
Celia (center in purple t-shirt) and 13 volunteers help to plant thousands of seeds during volunteer hours on Friday, March 15th.

 

It will not be long before the fields are filled with flowers and veggies bending and swaying with the elements as they produce glorious blooms and fruits that fill our hearts and bellies with joy.

These are the magical days of early spring where we dream and hope for a season filled with growth, beauty and joy – I can feel it – can you?

~Bridget

Categories
Spring 2019 The Farm at Stonehill

A Snowy, Sleepy Farm

At this time of year, with snow layered over cover crop and around the hoop houses, The Farm looks as sleepy as ever.

A circle of benches with snow sitting on top and a snow-surrounded hoop house in the background. Grey snow clouds in the sky give a foreboding appearance.
Although this area may not seem warm and welcoming right now, we anxiously await the time when volunteers will gather here in the spring to learn about The Farm.
Snow has been shoveled aside to clear a path to The Farm shed and hoop houses. A blue clear sky promises spring weather soon.
These snow-surrounded hoop houses will soon be a home for seedlings and sprouts!

The two hoop houses are surrounded by a layer of snow as they are slowly but surely shoveled out

The white Mobile Market Van with deep snow on its roof
The Mobile Market Van waits out the winter until our first Market in June!
Large orange tractor resting in the hoop house for storage.
It’s quite possible that our tractor may be the warmest thing on The Farm right now! Nestled in one hoop house to stay out of the snow, it sleeps until the first field is plowed in the spring.

And Zuri is just as sleepy as the rest of The Farm!

White dog yawning in The Farmhouse
Yawning Zuri, The Farm’s happy (but sleepy) hound.

Despite the deep snow settled like a blanket on The Farm, we are anticipating spring and the new growing season that will come with it!  We’ve begun preparing for our ninth (!!) season, hosting our first “Farm Friday” volunteer hours last week.  Seven volunteers joined us in the greenhouse behind Shields Science Center before leaving campus for spring break and helped to plant onion and snapdragon seeds.

A group of six smiling volunteers pose in the greenhouse after helping to plant seedlings
(Left to Right) Marissa Beachell, Daniel Farnworth, Natalie McDonough, Brett Smith, Jillian Tavares, and Celia Dolan.

In addition to the first planting of the season, we have been keeping busy in other ways at The Farm.  At the end of February, we visited Caffrey Towers in Brockton and had lots of fun with our partners at Brockton Neighborhood Health Center and UMASS Nutrition Education Program.  Keryn from UMASS NEP cooked a delicious Haitian soup with a wide array of vegetables, including potatoes and onions from Langwater Farm.  Participants enjoyed the soup and took home a bag of ingredients to make their own bowls of this yummy dish!

A pile of Campus Farmer Summit bags holding the soup ingredients.
Soup ingredients were gathered in bags for participants to recreate the soup they’d tasted.

We welcomed Celia Dolan in mid-February as the new Assistant Farm Manager.  She graduated in December with an environmental studies degree, business minor, and a passion for sustainable agriculture.  After volunteering and working at The Farm since her freshman year, she was honored to accept this position upon graduating a semester early.  She is excited to work with Bridget and the volunteers who make The Farm the inspirational place that it is!  While keeping up with the usual winter farm duties, Celia and Bridget are planning a seed saving garden to nurture heirloom seeds and the stories that they hold.  Celia spoke on a panel at SEMAP’s Annual Agriculture and Food Conference about The Farm’s efforts to Grow for the Greater Good and described plans for the seed saving garden.  Just as she was a voice for The Farm on the panel, Celia is happy be the voice of The Farm on this blog post and more posts to come!

Assistant Farm Manager, Celia Dolan, holding a heart-shaped potato in the dirt fields
Celia hopes to share her love of farming and food justice with volunteers. Apparently this potato has similar aspirations!

Bridget and Celia look forward to a new season at The Farm.  We hope to work with you soon in the spring weather, when the snow has melted and The Farm begins to awaken.  Until then, we remain ever-hopeful that sunshine and warmth are around the corner.  Stay happy and healthy, friends!  ~Celia

Categories
Community Summer 2018 The Farm at Stonehill

Hatching “Stanley” – Gianna Desrochers

Hatching “Stanley”

Guest Post by, Gianna Desrochers

 

A handful of bright yellow sunflowers get visits from a few bees as gray clouds shroud the skies above
Flowers, bees and wild skies – some of the benefits of having an outdoor office!

Working at the Farm at Stonehill gets you really in-tune with the crops. I started to notice the little things- the little nibbles or brown spots that pop up on the plant’s leaves. I then started to notice bugs on the crops, and began to differentiate between which insects are good, and which are harmful. I would catch a bug in the act of munching on the produce or the plant itself, and would ask myself “how badly is this bug to the plants?” I frequently found myself delving through the Farm’s insect encyclopedia, seeing which insects I should squish and which ones I should leave be.

A large, long-legged spider crawls across a big green leaf on one of the Farm crops
One of the 8 legged creatures I found among the crops at the farm this summer.

One of the good bugs I noticed immediately was while weeding in the black plastic beds. I occasionally would see wolf spiders peeking out of the dark holes, now cleanly pulled of any weeds. The spiders are looking out for their prey of harmful earwigs, grasshoppers, crickets, and any other insects that want to take a nibble on the fresh produce or even the plant itself. I leave them be because I know that they are helping the plant from being possibly hurt from some other insects. Some insects I come across aren’t too bad, they just like to take little nibbles and then move on. I leave these guys be, unless they become a complete nuisance to the plants.

A small caterpillar, Stanley, enjoys a meal on a green leaf atop a wooden table
Stanley enjoying a meal.

One day, I was doing a thorough weeding around our parsley plants when I came across this fat, yet beautiful caterpillar. I looked him up in an insect guide and found him to be a Black Swallowtail caterpillar. These caterpillars love to munch on parsley and dill to ready themselves for their pupae stage. His home made of our parsley plants was now completely exposed thanks to my thorough weeding, and so I thought that I would try to keep him as a pet as an apology for ruining the camouflage that hid his home from possible predators.

Stanley the caterpillar creates a new home for herself in her chrysalis
And then, suddenly, Stanley had disappeared inside HER very own chrysalis.

I decided to name him Stanley and I made him a little habitat, fitted with a nice bed of fresh parsley, and sticks for interactive purposes. Having him as a pet was a great idea because I got to see him grow fatter and create a chrysalis, and then turn into a beautiful butterfly. I did an analysis on the wing pattern of Stanley once he exited his chrysalis, and actually found out that he is actually a female. Stanley has a more prominent blue pattern on her wings, which differs from the less blue-colored wings of the males.

A large black butterfly sits among colorful flowers in the permaculture garden at the Farm
You may see Stanley in the permaculture garden if you come to visit us at the farm.

Stanley’s new home is the permaculture garden at Commonwealth Court, and so if you see a black swallowtail in that area, that may be in fact Stanley. It was sad to see her go, but I know that she will love the permaculture garden and I hope she has many children and grandchildren to outlive her.

Two people stand side by side and hold yellow baskets of orange produce on the path in the Farm
Gianna (right) pictured here with Elaina, has worked at the farm for 2 seasons. We are so grateful for her hard work and dedication to the health of the plants!
Categories
Summer 2018

New Equipment on the Farm! – by Dalton Griggs

New Equipment on the Farm! 

Guest post by, Dalton Griggs

From the beginning of agriculture, equipment has been used to preform jobs more efficiently. As time has evolved, equipment has as well. New equipment can make a job 10 times more efficient and improve many aspects of a farm as well. The one issue with equipment is emissions. This factor must be considered when choosing to use a machine over a hand tool. This season at The Farm at Stonehill, a Husqvarna mower, with a Honda engine, was purchased to use on the farm and has been a great success.

A man happily pushes a lawnmower across the grassy fields between beds of the Farm
Dalton enjoying his time mowing at the farm!

My History with equipment…

As soon as I was old enough, I have always enjoyed using equipment that has made one’s job easier. In Connecticut, my family owns about 3 acres, and has numerous pieces of equipment to help maintain it. From lawnmowers ranging to brush cutters, I have had numerous experiences with equipment. The new lawn mower at The Farm at Stonehill this season has brought great results, such as weed control, and improving associability between potato and flower rows.

One of a few workers pushes a wheel hoe through the rows of the Farm to keep the winter squash weed free
Dalton’s other great skill this summer was wheel hoeing. This tool and his hard work kept our winter squash very happy – and weed free up through harvest time.

Chainsaw…

For years in Connecticut, we used a light duty chainsaw to cut firewood for our fireplace. The home light chainsaw would struggle to cut maple and oak trees. Once we purchased a medium duty, Stihl Ms 391 Chainsaw, the job was done quick and simple. This showed the job improvement a new piece of equipment can do.

Cost… price vs productivity

When one is purchasing a piece of equipment, one must weigh the price of the equipment and the physical gain. For instance, with the new chainsaw, the amount of gas used is much less, because the new Stihl is quicker and more fuel efficient than the old chainsaw. Despite to cost of the new chainsaw, the benefits of using less gas counteract the expense.

With the Husqvarna lawn mower, grass could be mowed between rows, aiding to reduce weeds and make harvesting produce, especially the potatoes much easier. Numerous daily farm tasks, such as removing potatoes beetles, picking flower bouquets, weeding, and various other tasks are made easier due to the cut weeds and grass from the lawn mower. It appears to be a worth while investment. I currently have a cub cadet push mower, however formerly had a troy built with a Honda engine lawn mower. The Honda engine does seem to hold up very well. The one we had lasted roughly eight years, mowing a good 6 hours every week.

One of a few workers pushes a wheel hoe through the rows of the Farm to keep the winter squash weed free
Dalton’s other great skill this summer was wheel hoeing. This tool and his hard work kept our winter squash very happy – and weed free up through harvest time.

Lawn mowing tricks…

I have many years of experience with power equipment, from maintaining to operating, I have developed many methods to help get the job done. I never really thought about my mowing methods, until this year at The Farm at Stonehill.

Pertaining to push mowers, I tend to pop the front wheels off the ground when raising the deck quickly, very helpful when avoiding rocks, and drip tape (at the farm). If one shifts their weight to the back of the machine, it is helpful to turn around. Is also great to add fuel additives prior to mowing. This helps to reduce ethanol residue in the fuel lines. This helps to extend the life of the equipment. Corns leads to the issue of Food Justice, should corn be used to be added to gasoline or used to provide food. Unfortunately, almost all corn is modified some bit, GMO’s have been proved to be unhealthy. This leads to why I want to work at The Farm at Stonehill.

A man in a cowboy hat holds a sugar snap pea between two fingers to show it off to the camera
Sugar Snap Pea, anyone?

The improvement of the farm overall…

As previously mentioned, a new piece of equipment can greatly improve a farm overall. From weeding, harvesting, and finding potatoes beetles, a lawn mower greatly improves a farm. It is amazing to see how all the tasks can be improved by just a simple piece of equipment.

Why I farm…

I have always had an interest in the outdoors, from when I was a young boy in Canton CT. I am an avid fisherman and love all things outdoors, including hiking and kayaking. My family has had a large garden as well, helping to fuel my love of gardening and growing produce.

A few people gather at a wooden picnic table to keep yellow buckets of veggies cool in the shade on a market day
Summer farmer, Shelby, a regular visitor from the community, Dick Costa and Summer farmer and author, Dalton keep veggies cool in the shade on a market day.

I went to school at Northwest Catholic H.S., located in West Hartford CT. Being close to Hartford, we had many programs that would help people in the community. My interest in helping others and love of the outdoors is why I am at The Farm at Stonehill. It is great to enjoy something, while helping others in the greater community. By growing food for those in need, one is making a big difference when healthy produce can be accessible. This is important to the community and myself because fresh vegetables is a healthy choice for meals. It is important to help others in one’s community because a little help can greatly change someone’s life. I am thankful to be able to make a difference by providing fresh produce to those in need at The Farm at Stonehill!

Categories
Community Summer 2017 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Melissa Mardo – Learning By Doing

A woman stands at the open back of the Mobile Market van to help pack it up with produce and spread the word
As a Farm and Mobile market Intern, Melissa often helped to pack up our van and spread the word about our Mobile Market – and how to prepare healthy and delicious meals with our produce.

I am so grateful to have spent four years volunteering at The Farm At Stonehill and two full summers as an intern. Each day there was a new experience, new plant ready to be harvested, and a new lesson to learn. There are three stories that stand out to me from the summer.

A bunch of students pose with Farm workers and a yellow bucket full of the beans they helped pick at Camp Shriver
Happy bean pickers – participants in Camp Shriver!

Every summer, The Farm At Stonehill hosts Camp Shriver kids that attend a camp on Stonehill’s campus. There is a new theme each year such as composting, planting, etc. and the kids get to visit the farm each week and help with harvesting. One week kids came to harvest green beans, which is back-breaking work and seems never ending. The entire group was so excited about the size of the green beans they had handfuls of beans they were putting into our bins. Some kids had eaten green beans before, others had never seen the plant, yet all of them were willing to try this mysterious new vegetable and they loved it! We had to fight with these elementary school kids not to eat all the green beans in order to weigh the harvest before they could take some home. I’ve seen kids go crazy for candy, but it was so rewarding to see their genuine excitement over vegetables.

Three women in matching shirts stand ready for customers by a table of yellow buckets full of broccoli and leafy greens under a white tent by the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center
Michelle, Jackie and Melissa are ready for customers to arrive at our 63 Main St. (Brockton Neighborhood Health Center) location in late June.

This summer we geared up for the second year of our Mobile Market and launched a new location at an assisted elderly home. Just like with the campers, these residents could not contain their excitement each Wednesday afternoon when our van rolled up with fresh fruits and veggies. We were greeted with happiness, curiosity for our new weekly vegetables, and inundated with thank you’s. Each week there was one woman who visited our market stand telling us the recipes she created the previous week from the produce she bought from the market. I was so thankful to see her each week, and hear her story (and recipes) about how the farm’s produce impacted her directly. I’m used to seeing The Farm truck drive off with veggies to be delivered to our partners, but I don’t often get to talk with the people who eat them.

Rows of plants growing through the layer of biodegradable plastic, covering long adjacent beds stretching across the Farm
Farming is a lot of work – but it is rewarding!

Finally, I’m so happy I’ve had the opportunity to be able to work in nature. To measure my success from the day based on how much dirt I had piled up under my fingernails. To remember how many zucchini I harvested based on the red scratched on my legs from the leaf prickles. To have my back ache in the evening because I spent the morning picking strawberries. Not everyone gets a work day outside in the sun (and rain), moving around instead of seated at a desk, and able to breath fresh air. I’ve spent so many years learning inside at a desk in a classroom, that the farm was one of the first learning experiences I had outside of four walls and learning by doing. I am passionate about experiential learning based on how The Farm has impacted my learning experience and so many others. I encourage you all, to spend some time outside and see who you can meet and what you can learn out there.

 

Three young children hold small buckets as they learn the joys and hard work of farming in the leafy green beds
Come on out to the farm this fall and next season to join us in the field and learn more about the joys (and hard work) of farming.
Categories
Community Summer 2017 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Jackie – Growing a Land of Thriving Fruits and Vegetables (at the farm and at the market)

A woman helps to harvest some of onions mid-season, holding one above a yellow bucket
Jackie helps to harvest some of our onions mid-season.

I first visited the farm at Stonehill during my sophomore year. I had the opportunity to take a course that focused on sustainable agriculture which was quite helpful for my environmental science major. At the beginning of the course, which was taught by Stonehill’s Farm Manager, Bridget Meigs, she asked that we all attend volunteer hours at the farm. Throughout the fall semester, I watched the farm transform as we pulled stakes out from where tomato plants had once thrived and removed dead plants from a row which had once produced beautiful vegetables. After removing and pulling and cleaning, I decided that I wanted to see the farm return to its lively glory, a land full of thriving fruits and vegetables.

Four people work together to plant seedlings and hand-lay black plastic over a bed, in order to bring the fields back to their productive bounty
Planting seedlings and hand-laying black plastic – to bring the fields back to their productive bounty.

Towards the end of my sophomore year, I heard that Bridget was searching for summer interns to assist her at the farm. Thankfully, I, along with three other undergraduate students and one Stonehill alum were given the opportunity to work alongside Bridget and each other to achieve the mission of the Farm at Stonehill. As part of the Mission Division of Stonehill, the farm was established in response to food access issues in the Town of Easton and nearby City of Brockton.

Five people gather with their arms around each other to reflect the work they did together as a Mission Division Team
Michelle, Jackie, former VP for Mission Father Jim Lies, Alex and Celia pause to reflect on the season and all of the beautiful produce we have grown and distributed together as a Mission Division Team!

Following Bridget’s Sustainable Agriculture course, I was better equipped with the knowledge of food security, food justice, and simply how our food is grown. Working at the farm gave me the firsthand experience to apply everything I had learned throughout the semester. I was able to help grow, harvest, donate, and sell the produce grown at the farm. Before working at the farm, I never realized how much work really had to be put into growing our food. Now, when I walk around the supermarket and see the produce aisle, I tend to stop and think about how exactly it was grown, whether or not it is certified organic, and where it came from.

Three yellow buckets begin to fill with various green veggies dumped from a burlap sack
Some of the harvest ready for delivery in July.

 

One of my favorite parts of working at the farm this summer was being able to help at the Mobile Market. I was able to work directly with people who struggle to maintain food security in the surrounding community. Week after week, I started to recognize those who religiously came to our market, and learned that many of those who did come depended on the produce we grew for something fresh and healthy. Another thing I loved about working on the farm was harvesting. After every harvest, I would look at my fellow farmers and tell them how much satisfaction I felt knowing that my hard work was part of the reason the produce came to be.

People gather to look at baskets of produce along tables at the Mobile Market
Loving life at our weekly Mobile Market!

Although the summer has come to an end, my work at the Mobile Market and my new knowledge of food and agriculture continue on. I am so thankful for this opportunity and cannot wait to see what comes next.

Two women crouch down and smile in front of two colorful arrangements of harvested flowers that they worked hard to put together
Michelle and Jackie – after some time harvesting and arranging our pollinators’ favorite crops – flowers!

 

 

Categories
Community Summer 2017 The Farm at Stonehill

Gianna – The Mindful Gardener

Gianna Desrochers was one of our hardworking summer farmers this season! She shares here about the highlights of her summer – and why you should grow some veggies with us or on your own.

The biggest thing I learned from working on the farm is how much work is put into growing produce.

A woman with orange flowers from the field in her hair sits next to the white dog to relax in the fields
Gianna, decked with flowers from the field, relaxes with Zuri after a long a few hours of planting and weeding.

Personally, I didn’t think much about how that plump, red tomato made it’s way on the grocery store’s shelves nor how much labor it took just to make it possible to be grown.

A hand shows off three bright red tomatoes harvested from hoophouse 2
Beautiful tomatoes from Hoophouse 2 – definitely worth the effort!

You start by making a hospitable environment for the seed, which means starting with fertile soil. This soil is put into seeding trays and the seeds then pushed into it, and are then watered until germination occurs. When the seedlings become strong enough to be grown in the crop beds, they are carefully taken out of the seeding trays and planted in the soil.

A woman holds the first round of harvested zucchini in between rows of crops
Gianna helping to harvest our first round of zucchini in July.

We made sure that the plants that need regular watering had drip tape in the soil of each of the rows, and we would patch them if a leak sprung out. These seedlings are checked on a daily basis, where we make sure they’re all happy in their new home.

A panorama shows off the many long and populated rows of growing green crops
Creating these beautiful and productive fields take a lot of time and effort!

Daily weeding of these areas is also necessary because the weeds would overwhelm the seedlings and would lead to competition of resources. When one area of weeding was finished, another area would be ready to be weeded, making it a never-ending cycle. I found this work to be difficult and time-consuming, especially on the hot summer days. I would have never realized this amount of work that is put into produce unless I personally experienced it, like I did here on the farm.

 

My favorite part of working on the farm was harvesting the produce we had successfully grown. I find it so rewarding to be able to see what we have worked so hard to get all season by harvesting. I also get to examine the plants, checking for any possible disease or pest issues, knowing that if I have a problem or a question, Bridget would be able to give me a great answer.  I loved learning about the wildflowers and weeds that grew around the farm. Bridget would answer my constant questioning of what’s what from everything I found around the farm, whether it was a weed or a bug I found on one of the crops.

Two yellow baskets are full of leafy green crops, wrapped and packed for delivery
Some of our crops all packed up and ready for deliver – after weeks of care in the fields.

I really enjoyed working on the Farm at Stonehill because of the huge amount of things I have learned, varying from the mindfulness on how that tomato has made its way onto the supermarket’s shelves and all the knowledge of the plants we tended or grew freely on the farm.

It’s an experience that I ask everyone to try themselves because it really makes you think more about our food system and how that tomato really made its way into your grocery basket.

Categories
Summer 2017 The Farm at Stonehill

Alex – Things Truly Do Happen For A Reason

Three people stand in the grassy fields, the middle one holding two bundles of bright flowers
Alex, Brian Kennedy, C.S.C, and Gianna enjoy a little break post harvest during the warm summer days.

 

When entering the 2016-2017 school year, farming was probably one of the last things on my mind. I had signed up to take Sustainable Agriculture with Bridget as an elective, just because I thought it looked interesting. Little did I know, four months later I would be begging to travel join Bridget and Candice in Italy with their Origin of Resources LC, and eventually becoming part of the Summer Farm Team. Becoming part of the Summer Farm Team was one of the best decisions I have ever made and the year could not have played out more perfectly than it did. Things truly do happen for a reason.

Four Camp Shriver visitors join an older worker to harvest cucumbers and gather them into a yellow bucket
Alex and some of our Camp Shriver visitors harvest cucumbers on a cool day in July.

When Summer began, I did not know what to expect. I had volunteered at the farm throughout the year, but a full-time position was a whole different ball game. The first few weeks were cold and were filled with hard work. We planted hundreds of crops, made hundreds of holes and pounded hundreds of stakes. While the work sounds tough (it was), it wasn’t at the same time. While accomplishing all of this hard work, I was surrounded by some of the most kind-hearted people you will ever meet. Bridget, Celia, Gianna, Jackie, Melissa and Michelle. These fellow farmers made the work not seem so hard, they made if fun and easy. Bridget’s amazing outlook and attitude towards everyday makes you want to put your heart into everything and it is truly inspiring.

A yellow bucket fill of yellow squash sits among rows of large leafy green crops in the Farm
Lots of good lifting gets done at the farm!  Come on by to get a work out anytime!

Bridget is no doubt a great leader and an even more incredible person. She would constantly buy us iced coffees or frozen yogurt just to make our days that much better. She brought us to here barre classes and truly made us a part of her daily life. I also am a now a regular attendee of barre, and I am the only male so if males are reading this, support Bridget and come to barre! When Bridget wasn’t around, she left Michelle in charge. Michelle is a graduate and was a great leader for us. I may not act like it Michelle, but I look up to you and you would make an excellent assistant farm manager! The rest of us crew members did various different things and all contributed to the positive attitude and outlook that the team had every day. It really made this year fun and an amazing experience. If you don’t know the farmers, you should get to know them and become one yourself.

A panorama of three team members working together on the floor of the shed to gather veggies in yellow buckets and pack them for the market
The Summer Team harvests and packs veggies for the market.

Being a Summer farmer also helped me learn many new things. Things I thought I would never know, I now do. I never thought I would learn all of these types of tomatoes, cucumbers or squash. I never thought I would squeeze potato beetles bare hand, but I did and I began to enjoy it. I may have even learned how to cook? The farm included so many questions, so many bugs, so many memories. I am saddened that the Summer has come to a close, but I will return to the farm throughout my senior year (which is bittersweet). To a Summer I will never forget, thank you!

-Alex Pica

Two people use scuffle hoes to weed the Blue Corn plants
Michelle and Alex use scuffle hoes to weed our Blue Corn – brought to us by Prof. Warren Dahlin who participated in an H.O.P.E. trip in the Southwest.