Michelle David (2017) has been working at The Farm since her freshman year as a volunteer. We are so lucky to have had her on our team as the Assistant Manager this season. A natural leader with a ready smile and a great work ethic, we are so thankful that she has been able to join us for two seasons in a row. Below she shares a bit about her time at The Farm over the past 4 years. Enjoy!
The Farm at Stonehill has been a part of my Stonehill experience since freshman year.
I first came to the farm as a new freshman, looking for a way to get involved and make new friends. Little did I know that I would fall in love with the mission of the farm, and find myself as a regular volunteer, a summer farmer as a rising senior, and again now as an alumnus. The Farm has become a home for myself, where I can see with my own two eyes how much good can come from a small piece of land when people who care about environmental and food justice work together.
As an English major at Stonehill, I was often times asked why I had taken such an interest in the Farm and agriculture as a whole. The answer was always fairly simple for me: as someone who eats food, I should be concerned about where my food comes from, how it is produced, and how its production affects others.
This summer, I have had the privilege of working more closely with the Mobile Market, which brings fresh produce to two different locations within Brockton. The market has become one of my favorite parts of the week, as I get to actually meet with the people who receive the crops we grow each week. I feel the recent addition of the mobile market provides something more that we could not provide by donating all of our produce: the power of choice. The mobile market provides the opportunity for people to actually choose what they want to eat, and to be able to purchase nutritious food at a reasonable price, rather than receiving donations, which can be quite liberating for people.
Overall, I feel that my time at the farm has helped shape who I am today. I appreciate the natural world around me more than I did before starting to volunteer at the farm. I have also grown an appreciation for all people who work in the agricultural business, as it is hard, laborious work which often times goes unrecognized and unsupported. I am also much more aware of my role as a consumer, and the power that I hold in my purchases. When shopping, I often take into consideration how the food was grown (organically, sustainably, or conventionally) and where it was grown in order to understand how the food I purchase effects communities around me and future generations of people.
As I prepare myself to move away from Stonehill, I hope to take what I have learned at the Stonehill Farm and bring it either into my future work, or at the very least into my future home, and to continue supporting organizations that work to ensure that all people have access to healthy food.
“Almost certainly, however, the first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind.” – Norman Borlaug
This summer, we were lucky to have (from left to right) Melissa Mardo (2017), Michelle David (2017), Jackie Lerner (2019), Gianna Desrochers (2019), Alex Pica (2018) and Celia Dolan (2019) on our summer farmer crew – quite the dream team! For the next few weeks, we will give you and inside peek into what these summer farmers experience working at The Farm through guest posts.
We will begin with Celia Dolan (2019) who has been an essential member of our team for two growing seasons!
“Farming is in your blood,” he said.
I nodded my head in agreement with Jay McHugh, my distant cousin, whose pig farm I went to visit last weekend. Well, I’m not sure that it can be called a pig farm considering pigs no longer live there. In fact, it is hardly even a farm. Weeds have taken over, the barns have dilapidated, and equipment has rusted. For decades, miserly developers tried to buy the land from Jay and his father; a few times they stooped low enough to attempt to burn them out. After putting up such a big fight, it seems a shame to sell the land. Yet, that is what Jay decided to do. And it does not take much imagination to wonder why.
The farmer who once worked the land seems to have fallen apart alongside his fields. He is tired, needs knee replacements, and is anxious to move off his family farm. While we talked, he recalled times when his neighbors called to complain about his livestock grazing. In his area, there is little support of local farmers or open land. People push for progress, with money and bulldozers to do the pushing for them.
As I gazed at the drooping pasture gates and thriving weeds, I was reminded of how nature dictates our actions and how we are so closely tied to the land. However, I would never have recognized such a connection if I did not recently start working on a farm myself. In fact, I probably never would have visited my cousin’s pig farm in the first place.
Last summer, I volunteered at the Farm at Stonehill often enough to apply for a full-time position working there this summer. I loved it last summer and I have continued to love it this season. It seems that each day I learn something new at the farm.
We’ve eradicated potato beetles with the organic finger-pinching method. We’ve discussed blossom-end rot on tomatoes, types of mildew that attack plants, how to store seeds – we were even lucky enough to have a crash-course in rototiller tractor driving (though we have not actually done and driving or tilling)!
We learned about which battles you should choose to fight. Do you make a third attempt to grow produce in a hydroponic garden? Do you pull up weeds in an area that will soon be tilled, or simply till them under? Do you grow tomatoes next season when tomato blight seems to have a strong hold in the soil? Often, it seems there are no right or wrong answers. Rather, Bridget demonstrates how we take signs from the farm. She once said that unlike people, plants don’t tell you what they need. While this is true, I have learned that plants communicate in other ways.
They show us when they are thirsty, or hungry for nutrients. The plants communicate with each other, helping each other grow as the Three Sisters – beans, corn, squash – do. Or they try to tear each other apart, as weeds compete for nutrients, sun, and water. In this way, plants are not very different than people; they know what they want and they aren’t afraid to show it. When they do show it, we farmers act accordingly. We work for and with the plants.
We also work for and with each other. As a result, we have also learned a lot about human connections. Each farmer has asked questions, made suggestions, or offered ideas about the farm and how it operates. We divide up tasks and have our go-to harvest crops. For example, I usually meander through the summer squash rows, while Michelle proclaims that she is going to zucchini land and Alex peeks under prickly leaves to find cucumbers. Gianna gathers hundreds of cherry tomatoes and Jackie searches for eggplant. We share our knowledge with each other. If one of us notices something, like a new bug or suspicious mildew on a plant, we ask Bridget.
Our learning extends beyond the work day, as well. Bridget shares farm newsletters and emails that she receives from other local farmers. She helps us stay active, leading barre class every week. We’ve cooked and shared food with each other using fresh veggies from the farm. With all that we do, we see our hard work come full circle. From seeding, to transplanting, to harvesting to cooking, we have helped plants grow, and we have also grown alongside each other throughout the season. Walking through the farm and connecting with nature, I feel completely satisfied with our hard work.
Knowing what a healthy farm looks like made the dereliction of my cousin’s farm even more painful. I found myself teary-eyed over losing a farm that was never mine to begin with. I imagined what it must have been, could see what it looked like now, and feared what it would look like in a year. Pristine and identical houses would stand where pigs once roamed and where nettles grew now.
I wondered how someone could so easily give up on a farm that he had worked hard on his entire life. Working at the farm with Bridget and the other summer interns taught me so many valuable lessons that I could not learn anywhere else. I cannot thank her enough for sharing that with us and I would not trade a day that I have worked there for anything else.
So, if you have yet to visit the Farm at Stonehill, I highly recommend stopping by. Who knows what you might learn!
Alex, Jackie, Gianna and Brian packing up bags of produce for Mobile Market clientele.
At The Farm:
Camp Shriver participants help Alex harvest pickling cucumbers.
We were excited to spend time with Camp Shriver – planting sunflowers at their base camp on Monday and then hosting 1 of 4 groups on Thursday to tour the Farm and pick cucumbers and cherry tomatoes.
Harvesting our cukes rain or shine with Camp Shriver.
The rain is helping our veggies grow – when the sun returns we know we will be running to keep up with the plants!
In the Community:
Due to stormy conditions, we created mixed (and bursting) $10 veggie bags for Mobile Market clientele instead of hosting a market. Our partner, Alexandra then distributed them to patients both market locations. We will be at 1380 Main St next week from 3-4:30.
Hope Weaver, Class of 2018, updated our Brockton Community Garden Map. It now shows active sites, what is growing and which sites welcome volunteers.
It’s been an incredible start to the 2017 season. As usual, we are blessed with a positive and hard working crew. This year’s crew members include Michelle David, Melissa Mardo, Jackie Lerner, Alex Pica, Gianna Desrochers, and Celia Dolan. In addition, Brian Kennedy, C.S.C. – a Holy Cross Seminarian – is joining us for the month of July. We are not always all at the farm together, but when we are there is a festive and productive feeling in the air (weeds weed themselves — ha ha, I jest — but the truth is that a lot of hard work gets done and miraculously the crew keeps smiling). I feel very lucky to have them! I will take the time to introduce each of them more over the next couple of weeks.
One of the reasons for a successful start to the season is our supportive VP for Mission, Father Jim Lies. For the past few years, we have felt his strong support in so many ways and it has allowed us to grow and thrive. He has been with us every step of the way as we cultivate our living classroom by adding the Mobile Market, welcoming groups to the farm, taking good care of our soil, and growing biodiversity along with nutritious and fresh produce for our community partners. We will miss him, but wish him the best of luck as he starts his new position in London with Notre Dame.
Good luck in London, Father Jim! We will miss you!
This remainder of this post will share just a few things we have been up to. More to come soon!
At The Farm:
We have already harvested and delivered ~1,500 pounds of veggies this season.
We are harvesting zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, scallions, pac choi, lettuce, basil, other herbs, peas, a few cherry tomatoes and beautiful flowers (see link below to order your bouquets)!
In the Community:
Our markets at BNHC are going well! Going forward we will offer a market every Wednesday from 3-4:30 and alternate between 63 Main and 1380 Main.
Brockton’s Community Garden Network!
Thanks to the hard work of our Brockton’s Promise Americorp Vista, Sara Morris, the community garden network in Brockton has been strengthening! Please visit: www.brocktonspromisegardens.weebly.com (co-created by Sara and Jackie Gorman) to check out sites and resources for effective community gardening.
Would you like some beautiful flowers? To order your small: $5 (10-15 stems), medium: $10 (~25 stems) or large: $15 (~35 stems) bouquet click here or email: email@example.com
FindThe Farm at Stonehillon Facebook and “like us” of follow us on Instagram (#thefarmatstonehill) to stay connected to Farm happenings.
A view of The Farm from the Tine Miller Meditation Area – greens in the foreground, tilled fields planted with cover crops beyond.
The Farm at Stonehill was recently featured in an article called “Watering Brockton’s Food Desert” by Ross Muscato in Fiorente Health Desk.
It is a busy time at The Farm as we continue to harvest and deliver our greens to our community partners and prep the rest of the fields for a long, rejuvenating winter’s nap.
We are still harvesting cherry tomatoes in the hoophouse, but will be replacing those prolific plants with winter hardy spinach over the next couple of weeks.
In the fields we are rolling up our irrigation equipment and getting ready to plant garlic and mulch some freshly planted June-bearing strawberries.
Find The Farm at Stonehill on Facebook and “like us” of follow us on Instagram (#thefarmatstonehill) to stay connected to Farm happenings.
The Farm at Stonehill is a community effort and we invite you to stop by to visit and lend a hand.
Our RA, ABS, and MSM volunteers helped out on Tuesday!
We are welcoming RA, MSM, and ABS student leaders to help with some projects in the fields including weeding onion beds, removing black plastic, weeding raspberries, and planting greens in the hoophouse.
We are planting a late succession of squash and cukes in the field and in hoophouse 2 and caring for our kale and lettuce seedlings in hoophouse 1.
We are making the last of our flower bouquets are we start to harvest winter squash and melons in earnest.
Sunflowers – as far as the eye can see… it’s summertime!
At The Farm…
We are harvesting scallions, zucchini, 3 varieties of summer squash, 2 varieties of cucumbers, 2 varieties of eggplant, cherry tomatoes (from the hoophouse), basil, 4 varieties of lettuce, pac choi, new potatoes, and garlic.
We are hosting campers from Camp Shriver who are learning about compost and healthy soils.
Evan enjoyed picking, smelling and tasting a wide variety of herbs – including mint, lemon balm, oregano and sage when he visited with his group from Camp Shriver.
We hosted about 90 science focused high school students from Brockton High School who were interested in learning more about Stonehill, our farm, and what we do.
We are so thankful for our hard working volunteers who have been putting in full days with us this week: Patrick Cahill, Celia Dolan, John Dunn, and Sara Morris – and on Fridays: Brett Smith, Danny Haffel and Vivian Senatore.
In the Community…
We are delivering our bounty to our 4 community partners and also making it available for purchase through the Mobile Market at The Brockton Neighborhood Health Center (BNHC) and The Family Center on Wednesday afternoons.
Mobile Market locations have been chosen to make our produce more available to individuals who lack access to fresh, affordable produce. Prices are set low to increase access (ex. 50 cents per cucumber or squash) and all sales are deposited into an account that allows us to continue to run the mobile market. Patients at BNHC will soon be provided with veggie vouchers that they can use to “buy” vegetables through a grant given to BNHC from Project Bread. The Mobile Market is exciting, as it is serving as just one more way to distribute our organically grown produce to those who need it most.
Please contact us if you are interested in volunteering this week: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are mulching squash and tomato beds and weeding garlic and other crops.
We are planting the last of our seedlings (pumpkins and butternut squash) and beans.
We are enjoying our new picnic table made from lumber saved from a Cypress tree that came down up near Donahue Hall last year.
We are welcoming our partners at the David Jon Louison Family Life Center of the Old Colony YMCA into the fields on Friday morning.
We are harvesting zucchini, summer squash, bunching onions, basil, Kaboku cabbage, bok choy, lettuce, kohlrabi, kale, chard, beets, sugar snap peas, and our first cucumbers from the hoophouse.
In the Community…
We are donating these veggies to our partners and offering them and a couple of additions from Langwater Farm (red bunching onions and beets – purchased through a grant from the Vela Foundation) at the Mobile Market.
We hosted our second Mobile Market day at the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center (63 Main St. from 3:30pm – 4:45pm) and the Trinity Baptist Church Parking lot (1367 Main St. from 5:00pm – 6:30pm). It was a great success!
We launched our Mobile Markets on June 15th at The Brockton Neighborhood Health Center (63 Main St) and the Family Center/Trinity Baptist Church parking lot (1637 Main St)!
Melissa Mardo (Market Intern), Angela Beyer (Market Manager), Tim Watts and other volunteers enjoyed a successful first market day – selling lots of greens, kohlrabi, beets, herbs, chard and a few guest veggies from Langwater Farm (spring onions and turnips).
We will continue to donate veggies to our 4 main community partners and one additional crate of seasonal goodness each week to the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center for their cooking classes at their Pleasant St. location.
AT THE FARM
We are harvesting lots of greens and watching as our first zucchini and sugar snap peas appear in the fields.
We are taking care of our potato plants by controlling those Colorado Potato Beetles (squish!).
We are planting melons and winter squash.
FLOWERS and SEEDLINGS
Flower Bouquets are available:
Small (10-15 stems) $5, Medium (20-25 stems) $10, and Large (35-40 stems) $15
…or another size that works best for you!
This year you can place your order via Marketplace or by sending an email to
It is a wintery day in Easton, and as the wind whips and snowflakes fly past the window, I fill my cup with hot tea and my head with vibrant images of our farm on warmer days.
It is hard to believe that 2015 was already our fifth season, and our production (exceeding 15,000 pounds), new programs (the Mobile Market), increase in use as a living classroom (more professors and students learning at the farm), and growing family (volunteers and community gardeners) illustrate a clear shift from “chick to fledgling” stage in our development as a farm community.
Our seed order is almost complete and plans for our next season abound, but pausing to reflect on the past five seasons, I’m amazed at how our farm continues to thrive and extend its reach into Brockton and Easton.
This season we forged new relationships in the community and entered new territory when we piloted our Mobile Market this fall in the parking lot of Trinity Baptist Church and The Family Center (1367 Main St). Starting on September 16, 2015, and for the following six weeks, we drove our farm truck to this address and set up a veggie stand.
This program, supported by a $5,000 grant from Project Bread, allows us to partner more closely with organizations like UMASS Nutrition Services and sell some of our organic produce at or below market prices directly to consumers in parts of Brockton that lack easy access to healthy, fresh produce.
Thanks to a generous donation of a Sprinter Van from Craig and Lisa Hyslip, we will be able to transport our veggies to our Mobile Market locations in an environment that protects them from heat, rain, and other kinds of conditions that can impact freshness. We are currently working with students and staff in Stonehill’s Marketing Department to create a colorful, festive logo that conveys the bounty and health the market will bring wherever it goes! We will share market dates, locations, and times by the springtime – we are hoping to offer markets two days per week at two different locations.
As always, we will continue to donate the majority of our produce to our four main community partners: The Easton Food Pantry, My Brother’s Keeper, The David Jon Louison Center of the Old Colony YMCA and The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring.
Our farm thrives because of the energy brought in by our visitors –the students and staff who volunteer, the insects that pollinate, and the classes that come to learn – and the gifts of the farm – new friendships, honey made from the nectar, and knowledge learned through experiences.
This season, six faculty utilized The Farm as a space to teach about sustainability. Disciplines included Philosophy, Political Science, Art, Environmental Science, Eco-spirituality and Ecology, and the farm hummed with the energy and activity that these classes brought to the fields. In a Learning Community called The Origin of Resources: From Farm to Studio, co-taught by me and Candice Smith Corby, our students learned about sustainable food production and how to create natural pigments and dyes from some of the plants growing at The Farm. With this course, more than any other I have had the opportunity to teach, I learned and subsequently taught about how to preserve the flavors and the beauty of the harvest. This learning occurred in the fields in the company of Candice, our students, and through the teachings of generous guest teachers like Chef Geoff Lukas and Farmer Linda Reinhardt.
These relationships serve to increase my hunger for knowledge about how to sustainably grow food to increase food security, to maintain healthy, biodiverse landscapes, and to understand and celebrate the traditions that support these kinds of connections with the land.
A relationship is growing with the land that surrounds our production fields. We often see monarch butterflies in our fields, pausing in the flower beds before moving on to an abutting field to find their beloved milkweed.
We have also witnessed the hue of the honey produced by our bees deepen over the course of the season. We know this is because they tend to visit more goldenrod in the fall months. With the long, warm fall this past season our bees were so productive that Best Bees of Boston was able to harvest and provide us with over 75 pounds of honey from our hive!
It is our hope that the bees also enjoyed the flowers that we planted in our fields and that also served as bouquets for staff and students – as well as two brides who chose our flowers to help them celebrate on their wedding day.
While productivity of our crops and activity in the fields certainly slows during the colder months of the year, I am pleased to report that spinach planted in our second hoophouse in October is thriving. We will continue to explore other methods of season extension (utilizing more high tunnels, production of micro-greens and maintaining the TowerGarden on campus) in order to learn about the optimum conditions for sweet, nutritious crops at The Farm.
I have come to believe that the success of a farm is tightly linked to the people who choose to spend time elbow deep in the dirt in many different kinds of weather. In our fields each summer I am always impressed by my hard-working and dedicated summer crew and during the school year it is common to welcome twenty to thirty volunteers to work the fields every week. I am so thankful for all of their hard work and also for my growing ties with other local growers like my friends at Langwater, Round the Bend, Brix Bounty, Freedom Food Farm, Tangerini’s, and Second Nature Farm.
I feel lucky to know that students like Madison and Emily will be ready to meet me when the snow and wind abate – to shovel out the hoophouse once again – and pretty soon plant seeds for the 2016 season!
Over the past five seasons, I have come to learn that these students, the faculty and staff who teach and volunteer at the farm, the folks who receive the produce we grow, and the other local farmers and farming networks ARE The Farm at Stonehill.
I have learned so much from you all and I cannot wait to see where we go from here!