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Community Spring 2013 Spring Cultivation 2013 Spring Harvest 2013 Spring Projects 2013 Spring Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Springing into Summer

It doesn’t seem like so long ago that our fields were filled with snow and the brilliant greens of spring seemed improbable, if not impossible.

Ben, Ian and Jake Kelly harvest our first radishes!
Ben, Ian and Jake Kelly harvest our first radishes!

Thankfully, the seasons always change in New England, and with the warmer days – filled with planting, weeding and harvesting – the ice and snow are now the distant memories!

Our fields are filling with hundreds of veggie, flower and fruit seedlings.
Our fields are filling with hundreds of veggie, flower and fruit seedlings.

In the weeks that led up to Commencement, temperatures soared into the 70’s and 80’s, making for some excellent weather to cultivate the crops.

Students help to weed and thin a row of beets.
Students help to weed and thin a row of beets.
thinning beets
Thinning and weeding a row a beets.

Volunteers of all ages have already pitched in this season to help make for what we believe will be our most productive season yet!

~~~

Sometimes they work in pairs…

Andrew and David Rogers plant Snapdragons on Friday, May 17th.
Andrew and David Rogers plant Snapdragons on Friday, May 17th.

…go it solo…

Hunter weeds a row of Hakurei Turnips in the week leading up to his graduation from Stonehill.
Hunter weeds a row of Hakurei Turnips in the week leading up to his graduation from Stonehill.

…or work as a boisterous and energetic team.

A team of Res Life Staff provide invaluable help planting rows and rows of tomato seedlings on May 20th.
A team of staff from Residence Life provide invaluable help planting rows and rows of tomato seedlings on May 20th.

In addition to the human power, our tractor is also responsible for doing some of the heavy lifting.  So far, we have used our Kubota L5030 and Kuhn rototiller to turn the fields and make strategic compost deliveries.

The initial turn of Field #2 on April 22nd.
The initial turn of Field #2 on April 22nd.

We continue to work with Langwater Farm to get help laying black plastic for our full season crops, such as the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, sweet potatoes and the flowers.

Justin of Langwater Farm lays black plastic for some of our crops.
Justin of Langwater Farm lays black plastic.

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At the start and the end to each day, Zuri and I have taken to walking the fields to note our crops’ progress, observe changes of the season and note any issues – such as leaks in the irrigation or insect pressure.

Zuri looks on as Killdeer nesting in our fields dart about.
Zuri looks on as Killdeer, attempting to nest in our fields, dart about.
Killdeer like to nest in open fields like our. Here, a family enjoys a field near San Francisco, CA.
Killdeer like to nest in open fields like our. Here, a family enjoys a field in Ontario, Canada.

On these walks we make discoveries like our first flower in bloom…

Zinnia in bloom on May 22nd.
Zinnia in bloom on May 22nd.

… Bok Choi ready to be harvested …

A variety of Bok Choi called Mei Qing Choi is ready to be picked and delivered!
A variety of Bok Choi called Mei Qing Choi is ready to be picked and delivered!

…and where to harvest the Mesclun Mix on that particular day – as it is planted in a number of places throughout the fields.

Mesclun Mix, washed, dried and about to be packed for our partners at My Brother's Keeper.
Mesclun Mix, washed, dried and about to be packed for our partners at My Brother’s Keeper.

All of time that we spend weeding carrots…

Alphonse Riang, one of three part-time summer farmers weeds a row of carrots.
Alphonse Riang, one of our three summer student farmers, weeds a row of carrots.

…and thinning beets…

Jake Gillis, another essential student farmer, weeds beets.
Jake Gillis, another essential student farmer, weeds beets.

…is time well spent, and results in a bountiful harvest that is already starting to appear on the tables of the clients served by our partners: My Brother’s Keeper, The Family Center at The Old Colony YMCA, The Table at Father Bill’s and MainSpring, and The Easton Food Pantry.

Jake and Alphonse wash and pack greens.
Jake and Alphonse wash and pack greens.

~~~

While many projects at the farm happen in the good company of volunteers and summer staff, I still find myself with an hour or two most days to work on projects in contemplative solitude. Sometimes I occupy my mind, puzzling over complex issues and projects: How can I improve the irrigation system? How can I manage the moths that are munching on some of the leaves on our apple trees?

A Plato Zucchini seedling enjoys it's new home in the field.
A Plato Zucchini seedling enjoys it’s new home in the field.

Other times I opt to work my body and rest my mind and simply plant! I fall into the blessed rhythm of it all. I bend and bow, stretch and squat, and kneel and crouch – and look back every so often to take note of the beauty of the rows as they fill.  It is during these moments when I become awestruck by the fortitude and beauty of the vegetables quietly growing around me. If I listen carefully imagine that I can hear exclaim in joy as they extend their roots into the soil and strecth their stems and leaves to drink in the sun.

Sugar Snap Peas climb the trellis.
Sugar Snap Peas climb the trellis carefully constructed by volunteers weeks before.

Like the farmers that plant them, the seedlings extend their reach, bend to the elements, drink in the sun and rain, and grow.

~~~

Zuri and I will walk the fields and continue to report back on all of the activities in our fields that are already springing into Summer!

Categories
Spring 2013 Spring Cultivation 2013 Spring Projects 2013 Spring Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill

It’s Always a Party at The Farm

The fields at The Farm have been hopping over the past couple of weeks!

Father Jim Lies, VP for Mission, and a few more volunteers prepare to plant cucumber seeds.
Father Jim Lies, VP for Mission, and a few more volunteers prepare to plant cucumber seeds.

We have been enjoying the start of spring by joining in the fun of the Earth Day Party on the quad, welcoming classes and volunteers to the farm to help plant everything from grapes to onions, and participating in the Mentoring Through Art courses’ end-of-year celebrations.

So many Tomato Seedlings coming along nicely!
So many Tomato Seedlings coming along nicely!

It is exciting to watch the fields and bordering trees fill with all of the pale yellows and greens of early spring.

Evan Sorgi, Tom Bowes and Ryan Zayac, all graduating seniors help to plant lettuce.
Evan Sorgi, Tom Bowes and Ryan Zayac, all graduating seniors, help to plant lettuce.

Our “Farm Fridays” remain popular, and keep me busy putting our energetic volunteers to work!

Catherine, Paige and Lauren plant Bok Choy!
Catherine, Paige and Lauren plant Bok Choy!

 ~~~

Happy volunteers on a Farm Friday!
Happy volunteers on a Farm Friday plant summer squash, cucumbers and zucchini.

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We have also had the pleasure of participating in events on campus like the Earth Day Party to celebrate sustainability at Stonehill.  Students from the Real Food Stonehill group, a sub-group of a new Provisional SGA Group: “Food Truth”, shared kale chips and carrot bread (made with veggies from Langwater Farm) and Great Blue Hill blue cheese from Marion, MA (donated by Sodexo), and encouraged people to think about why what we eat matters for the health of the planet and for the health of those who grow it and eat it!

Catie Barros and Breanne Penkala (Class of 2015) share "real food" treats.
Catie Barros and Breanne Penkala (Class of 2015) share “real food” treats.

Students from the Real Food group asked their peers to share why they want Real Food…

Why do YOU want Real Food?
Why do YOU want Real Food?

…and asked them to sign a petition supporting the Real Food Challenge.

Real Food Challenge Petition
Real Food Challenge Petition

There were over 20 other groups present working on a number of different sustainability initiative including members of the No To-Go campaign, Meatless Monday, Zipcar, Democratic Education, and many more.

Paige Begley and Jess Mardo (Class of 2013) encourage reuse rather than waste.
Paige Begley and Jess Mardo (Class of 2013), major leaders in the “No To-Go” container initiative, encourage reuse rather than waste.

Many students visited the tables to learn about how to get involved…

Students visit different groups involved in sustainability on campus.
Students visit different groups involved in sustainability on campus.

…and enjoyed music by Dan & The Wildfire.

Dan & The Wildfire bringing the fair to life!
Dan & The Wildfire bringing the fair to life!

~~~

Meanwhile, back on The Farm, Father Steve Wilbricht’s Ecology and Religion class was hard at work planting a vineyard near the Legacy Orchard.

Planting the Vineyard!
Planting the Vineyard!

The students, Father Steve and I dug into the soil, putting up a strong trellis to support the one-day flourishing vines!

Andrew gets ready to secure one of the posts for the trellis.
Andrew gets ready to secure one of the posts for the trellis.

In time, it is our hope that these vines will produce grapes and serve as a sweet teaching and learning tool, connecting ecology and a multitude of traditions.

~~~

Over the past week we have also become the lucky recipients of a beautiful mural, created by the Mentoring Through Art Learning Community under the tutelage of Professors Adam Lampton and Ed Jacoubs.

The backdrop for the mural.
A magnificent tree serves as the backdrop for the mural.

With the help of students in the class and some middle school kids from partnering schools in Brockton, a bright and cheerful mural has been created and now hangs on display on the shed at The Farm.

Final product!
Final product!

At the class’s final celebration on Tuesday, April 30th, the class that created the mural was joined by Professor Robertson’s class – mentoring with movement..

Stonehill students dance with their mentees during their final celebration at The Farm.
Stonehill students dance with their mentees during their final celebration at The Farm.

and Professor Walter’s class, which created cheerful signs to label our plants in the fields.

Professor Walter's class poses with Zuri in front of Professor Lampton's class's mural!
Professor Walter’s class poses with Zuri in front of Professor Lampton’s class’s mural!

As you can see, it’s always a party at The Farm…

…and Season 2013 has only just begun!

A crew plants onions. We can't wait to see them grow.
A crew plants onions. We can’t wait to see them grow.
Categories
Spring 2013 The Farm at Stonehill

Taking The Farm To Vermont – for the Weekend!

Every once and awhile it is important to leave the farm to see what other farmers are producing and how they go about doing it!  On the weekend of April 13th, Zuri and I took 8 students up to the beautiful state of Vermont to do just that.

photo of students in a field in VT
Michael, Paige, Catherine, Pat, Cam, Lauren, Jack and Jess with Zuri.

We traveled to Montpelier, the state’s capital, where we were warmly welcomed by Jack’s parents and quickly introduced to the generous hospitality of this small and strong state where local and enticing goods are produced, marketed, consumed, treasured and enjoyed.

Montpelier: our homebase.
Montpelier: our home base for the weekend.

Early April equals the “Mud Season” in VT and much of New England, but that doesn’t keep hardy Vermonters (and weekend guests) from walking in the woods.

Jack and Cam point out the beauties of Mud Season: Open to People - Closed to Cars!
Jack and Cam point out the beauties of Mud Season: Open to People – Closed to Cars!

Over the course of the next couple of days we visited a number of businesses, such as:

Ben and Jerry’s

We prepare to learn all about sustainability at Ben and Jerry's.. yum!
At Ben and Jerry’s we learned all about their commitment to sustainability and how they work to keep true to their roots despite Unilever’s takeover in 2001.

Cabot Cheese …

Visiting Cabot Cheese for a tasting we learned about the recent logo change to reflect the fact that the milk comes from New England and New York - not just Vermont!
Visiting Cabot Cheese for a tasting we learned about the recent logo change to reflect the fact that the milk comes from New England and New York – not just Vermont!

Cold Hollow Cider Mill…

Checking out Cold Hollow Cider Mill, where the fields were filled with solar panels!
Checking out Cold Hollow Cider Mill, where the fields were filled with solar panels and the Cider Mill store sells a wide array of products made in VT to attract business and be economically sustainable.

…where Paige found a tractor to test drive…

Paige, hard at work.
Paige, hard at work.

…before we headed up to Hardwick to visit Highfields Composting and Claire’s Restaurant.

We took in the scene - lots of compost in windrows - at Highfields Composting.
We took in the scene – lots of compost in windrows breaking down – at Highfields Composting.
Catherine and the class enjoyed an informative conversation with one of the managers of this Farm to Table cafe in Hartwick, VT.
Catherine and the class enjoyed an informative conversation with one of the managers of Claire’s Restaurant.

Our first day was filled with many planned and unplanned lessons on the many ways to be environmentally and economically sustainable and the related challenges. On our drive, we saw fields filled with solar panels and a biodiesel station. Cam Hill reflects on the solar fields here:

While driving through Vermont there were numerous solar fields visible from the roadside. These ranged from small solar panels on the roofs of houses to much larger solar fields of free standing solar panels. Vermont has a commercial production of 8.8 million watts through solar fields, which currently provides 18% of all electricity used in Vermont. The numerous solar fields are due to Vermont’s numerous state programs that incentivize the installation of solar panels through different state programs. For example, a 100% sales tax exemption on renewable energy systems, a 100% property tax exemption for photovoltaics of 10kW or less and a business energy conservation loan program up to $150,000. All these different state level incentives, coupled with an environmentally aware populace have created a situation where it is very beneficial to install renewable energy systems.

 

At the cider mill, we learned that the solar panels out in the field nearby are owned by Green Mountain Solar. A woman working at the mill informed us that energy they harness feeds back into the grid and is utilized throughout the area.

 

On our way back to Montpelier for the night, we stopped off at a covered bridge to take a walk and enjoy the cool, spring weather.

We pause to check out a sleepy railroad covered bridge on the way back from Hartwick.
We pause to check out a sleepy covered bridge on the way back from Hardwick.

The next morning we started the day with a visit to Vermont Compost. It was incredible to see how this operation – that produces the “Fort Vee” mix which we start all of our seeds in at our Farm at Stonehill – works.  Upon our arrival, our guide took us right into the center of the operation where we were quickly surrounded by steaming piles of nutrient rich piles of organic material.

Some of the components of the compost - chipped wood.
Some of the components of the compost – chipped wood.

The chickens and two working German Shepherds were clearly important components of this operation – as well as bulldozers that run on biodiesel, thermometer gauges, screens to sift the soil, and important soil amendments like sphagnum, kelp, and mica.

Note the chickens doing their part at Vermont Compost in the background.
Note the chickens doing their part at Vermont Compost in the background.

We made a quick stop at Morse Maple Farm Sugarworks where we learned about how the syrup is made by boiling down gallons upon gallons of sap from the Sugar Maple trees.

Checking out the process of boiling down the sap in the sugar house.
Checking out the process of boiling down the sap in the sugar house.

Our last stop of the trip was at Fable Farm in Barnad, VT.  A good friend of mine, Chris Piana and his brother started this community focused farm a couple of years ago.

Chris Piana, one of the founders of Fable Farm, and most of our group pose with one of the farm's beautiful old trees.
Chris Piana, one of the founders of Fable Farm, and most of our group pose with one of the farm’s beautiful old trees.

Paige shares a bit about our time with Chris here:

Fable Farm is a CSA Organic Farming Project situated in Barnard, Vermont. At Fable, we talked to Chris and learned about their community partnerships and support and the farm’s commitment to growing healthy, local produce. Though many of the fields we saw were covered in snow, the promise of produce was near. Because of their relationships with Barnard community members, Fable Farm has been able to expand their growing area and now have plots in many places across the town. Chris and Fable Farm are a constant reminder that the promise to live a sustainable, organic lifestyle is attainable with support, dedication and passion. As Chris shared with our class, he does what he loves, and sees farming as a lifestyle, not an occupation.

Enjoying the field at Fable Farm.
Enjoying the field at Fable Farm.

Many thanks to our hosts for a fun and informative weekend in a beautiful state.  It was a wonderful weekend away, made possible in part by funding from Stonehill’s Green Fund.

We learned a number of sustainable farming techniques that we look forward to employing at our farm this season! 

5 members of our Sustainable Ag class: Cam Hill, Jack Bressor, Pat Cabral, Paige Begley and Jess Mardo.
5 members of our Sustainable Ag class: Cam Hill, Jack Bressor, Pat Cabral, Paige Begley and Jess Mardo.

 

 

Categories
Spring 2013 Spring Cultivation 2013 Spring Projects 2013 Spring Volunteers 2013

Guest Post: The Curious Labor of Planting Peas

 

By Stephen Siperstein

On Thursday, April 11th, Stephen Siperstein and students in his Nature Writing class joined us at The Farm to partake in the planting of our first row of the 2013 season.  We worked together to rake, dig a small trench for the peas, add compost and then plant the peas and kohlrabi seedlings.  Before our work began we talked about Thoreau and his close relationship with the land as a farmer and as a steward.  Read on to learn more about the class’s experience through Stephen’s eyes.

“The Curious Labor of Planting Peas”

By, Stephen Siperstein

photo of starting the project
Readying to plant the peas in the small trench with our rich compost and kholrabi (seedling in the tray) along the edges of the bed.

This Thursday, Bridget (and Zuri) welcomed our Nature Writing class to The Farm at Stonehill for an afternoon of planting peas and contemplating Henry David Thoreau. After a quick tour of the farm, we got to work hauling compost, hoeing trenches, and snuggly placing each pea seed in the rich soil.Taking a cue from Thoreau, I went to the farm determined to know peas, but what I discovered was less about peas and more about the farm itself.

photo of bed prep
Finishing up bed prep for our pea seeds and kholrabi seedlings.

Sometimes such unforeseen discoveries comprise the curious labor of teaching. Most people think of Thoreau as the environmental saint who built a cabin on the shore of Walden Pond and conducted an experiment of living simply. Fewer people think of Thoreau as the farmer who during his time at Walden cultivated a bean field of 150 rows (over 24,000 bean plants!), not to mention more rows of potatoes and turnips. Yes, Thoreau was often critical of farmers, but he also loved working with the earth—just as long as such work was not undertaken for profit only but for a greater purpose.

photo of Craig and Michelle
Craig and Michelle work together to plant peas.

“What shall I learn of beans or beans of me?” Thoreau asks at the beginning of “The Bean-Field” chapter in Walden. What he ultimately discovers is not only that his plot of land is “the connecting link between wild and cultivated fields,” and not only that he should look out for woodchucks. He discovers that the “curious labor” of growing beans can provide joy, self-respect, and deep learning.

photo of first row planted
Our first row: a polyculture of Sugar Snap Peas and Kholrabi.

As the students and I hoed and sowed, laughed and talked about summer plans, it seemed to me that if he were here, Thoreau would nod in approval at the work being done at our farm. Working with the hands, Thoreau explains, “has a constant and imperishable moral, and to the scholar it yields a classic result.” The Farm at Stonehill is a place of fertile soil, ethical lessons, and intellectual richness, where the land itself provides the connecting link between actions and values, between the work students do with their hands and the work they do with their minds.

Zuri after a long day in the fields - already dreaming about tomorrow at the farm.
Zuri after a long day in the fields – already dreaming about tomorrow at the farm.

Such work is hard, but the rewards of the labor, both in process and in the eventual “fruits” are always worth it… we think Zuri would agree.

 

 

Categories
Spring 2013 Spring Cultivation 2013 Spring Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill

It’s Time to Farm!

photo of volunteers
How much do we love Farm Fridays?

It’s time to get to the Farm!

In class, during volunteer hours, or just on a whim, students are starting to arrive at the farm to help plant the seeds of our 2013 Season.

On Friday, April 5th, over 20 students joined me and Zuri to help ready the fields and plant seeds.  We transplanted flowers and prepared a row in the field for Sugar Snap Peas.

photo of Breanne and Sara
Sara and Breanne transplant Statice seedlings in the hoophouse during Farm Friday volunteer hours.

With many willing workers we accomplished a wide array of tasks in a few short and sun-filled hours.

photo of the pea trellis project
Putting up the trellis for the Sugar Snap Peas!

After the flowers were transplanted we moved them over to the heated greenhouse at Shields to ensure a nurturing home to help boost their growth and allow some of them (hoping for the purple zinnias) to possibly bloom by graduation!

photo of seedlings in greenhouse
Zinnia, Statice, Black-eyed Susan, Bok Choi, and Chard seedlings enjoy the warmth of the sun in the greenhouse in Shields.

Some of the heat loving seedlings are enjoying this sauna of sorts, while others that prefer the cooler temperatures, such as lettuce, onions and kohlrabi, are happy to be in our hoophouse at The Farm.

photo of greens in hoophouse
Onions, Kolhrabi and Lettuce seedlings in our hoophouse awaiting their day to be planted in the fields.

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In other news, Gabby Gobiel (2015) is taking our farm to the international stage as she explores vineyards and farms and studies sustainable food systems in Italy this semester!  We are excited to welcome her back this summer and learn how we can integrates ideas she has developed abroad into our own farming practices.

photo of Gabby in italy
Farmer Gabby Gobiel explores vineyards in Italy!

 

Categories
Spring 2013 Spring Projects 2013 Spring Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill

Sewing the Seeds of Season III

The landscape in Easton is still mostly white, grey and brown, but the sunlight of spring is starting to feed us with stronger rays as the days grow longer.

photo of late winter morning sun
Stronger sun rays are starting to shine on the late winter snow at morning light.

On morning walks with Zuri, the white lab-hound mix who came into my life last June, I catch glimpses of warmer colors as the sun rises on the snow covered fields.

Photo of the apple orchard in the winter
Our Apple Orchard drinks in the sun and rests under a blanket of snow.

The student farmers have kept the farm a lively part of our college culture through the colder months, ever ready to be called in to help with projects – such as rescuing our snowed-in hoop house – or actively participating in our new seminar in Sustainable Agriculture.

photo of snowed in hoop house
Snowed in hoop house – but not for long!
photo of rescued hoop house
Success!

As you can see in the two photos above, seniors Jack Bressor, Lauren Engel and Sean Moran showed their dedication to the farm by effectively removing hundreds of pounds snow from the southern side of the hoop house after the blizzard in early February.

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Our students have also been laying the groundwork to increase the amount of “real food” served on campus by attending a training at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD to join a nationwide campaign.  Perhaps some of this “real food” will include a few items from The Farm at Stonehill – such as winter squash or greens – this year.

photo of students who attended the real food challenge summit
Breanne Penkala, Andrew Curran, Sean Davenport, Catie Barros and Christine Moodie – all members of the Class of 2015 and former Food Politics students – are just a few of the students who want more real food at Stonehill.

Keep an eye out for events on campus where you can learn more about ways to support a local, sustainable and fair food system on campus and in your community!

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For those of you who have driven by the farm recently, you have probably noticed the large trench cutting through our main field perpendicular to Rt 138. Not to worry! This is only a temporary feature that is allowing for water access to a new storage barn for all of the equipment and supplies that Facilities Management maintains.

photo of trench at the farm
Trench for a water line – facing west.

 This trench will be filled back in with care within a few weeks.  When we turn the fields for Season 3 in April we will be careful to add extra nutrient rich compost – composed of decomposed organic materials from our dining commons and Clover Valley Stables –  to ensure that the health and productivity of these soils is not impacted in any major way.

photo of trench at the farm facing east
Trench for water line – facing east.

In our Sustainable Agriculture class we turned the dramatic looking feature into a soil science laboratory (a “teaching moment,” if you will) as we studied soil horizons and learned about the ingredients necessary to create healthy soils.

photo of our soil horizon
Jack points out our the A and B layers in our soil profile.

 

photo of image of soil profile
A basic soil profile diagram.

Jack Bressor and Bryan Tavares co-taught a class with me about soils and asked the class to consider the different features of healthy soils (i.e. sand for drainage, organic material to retain moisture and add vital nutrients) and create a “perfect” seed-starting mix and grow and care for a bean plant.

photo of soil components
Bryan and Jack provide the class with components of healthy soils (vermiculite, stone dust, 2 kinds of compost, and loam) for growing healthy veggies.

 These students will nurture their bean plants over the next couple of months and hopefully plant them in the fields once the weather warms.

photo of making potting mix
Sean, Melissa, Molly, Pat, Tom, Ryan, Michelle and Bryan create their perfect potting mix to give their been seeds a healthy start.

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Despite the snowflakes currently falling from the skies, I am comforted by the knowledge that onions and some of our flowers are germinating under lights in the basement of Holy Cross.

photo of germinating walla walla onions
Sweet Walla Walla Onions successfully germinating!

If all goes according to plan, these seedlings will be growing with gusto in our fields in a few months’ time.

~~~

In other news, our farm dog, Zuri, has enjoyed her first winter immensely – going on adventures, napping with new dog friends or pausing to greet every student or staff member who she meets on campus or in the fields behind the farm!

photo of zuri and harken walking on the pond
Zuri enjoys a stroll with her airedale buddy, Harken.

 

photo of Zuri resting with Bailey
Zuri and Bailey rest together after a wild walk in the winter woods.

Our third season has just begun.

Check back from time to time to watch our fields fill with the colors of spring and summer. It will definitely prove to be an adventure as we put our L5030 Kubota tractor and our Kuhn el53-190 Rototiller to work.