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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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 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 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.

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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.