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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 Reflections Summer 2013 Summer Cultivation 2013 Summer Harvest 2013 Summer Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Productive Plants Weather New England’s Heat and Rain

photo of sunset
Another beautiful and dramatic summer sun sets on a another full and productive day in the fields.

I never cease to be amazed, enthralled, and at times worried by weather patterns that visit us here in New England during the busy growing season.  Farmers in our region typically say that hot, dry weather is much more desirable than cool, wet conditions.  This is because we can usually get water to the crops that need it the most during dry spells – be it through pressure-fed drip irrigation or, if need be, a hose with a water wand – however, we cannot keep the fields dry when heavy clouds pass through and leave puddles in their wake.

Thus far, our plants have not suffered terribly from the heat or from the rain. In fact, quite the opposite is occurring on our 1.5 acre vegetable and flower farm!

photo of summer Straight Neck Summer Squash, Galine Eggplants, and Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes.
Straight Neck Summer Squash, Galine Eggplants, and Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes.

Thanks to hard working summer farmers, Devin, Alphonse, and Jake, our many volunteers and volunteer groups – including individuals participating in Camp Shriver, BostonWise!, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s New England Leadership Conference, an Old Colony YMCA Day Camp: Rise Up!, and students from Whitman-Hanson High School – and our Kubota tractor and Kuhn Rototiller, the plants in our fields are producing beautiful and delicious fruits and flowers!

Camp Shriver participants take a break with Zuri after harvesting over 7 pounds of Green Beans for us!
Camp Shriver participants take a break with Zuri after harvesting over 7 pounds of Green Beans for us!

This year we have harvested over 3,500 pounds of produce thus far – over 1,000 pounds more produce than last year at this time!  Crops include 4 varieties of kale, 5 varieties of lettuce, summer squash, 2 varieties of zucchini, 5 varieties of onions, a number of different kinds of tomatoes (over 1,000 plants are growing away), 5 kinds of potatoes, green beans, sugar snap peas, herbs – including basil, cilantro, dill, and parsley, 2 varieties of eggplants, 2 varieties of cucumbers – one day we harvested over 160 pounds of them, and a number of different kinds of root vegetables.

An organic variety of kale called Ripbor is producing well for us this year!
An organic variety of kale called Ripbor is producing well for us this year!

We couldn’t accomplish all of this without the hard work of volunteers who join us each year from groups like the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s New England Leadership Conference.

An excellent group of volunteers participating in the New England Leadership Conference helped us weed our winter squash and harvest our first row of potatoes on a day with 95 degree heat - no complaints!
An excellent group of volunteers participating in the New England Leadership Conference helped us weed our winter squash and harvest our first row of potatoes on a day with 95 degree heat – no complaints!

In addition, some of the successes of our farm are directly related to the generosity of organizations like the Harold Brooks Foundation who provide funding for important farm equipment like our tractor and rototiller. 

We are excited to share that this support continues!  Just last week, Marie Kelly, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, informed us that we have been awarded a $15,000 grant from The Harold Brooks Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustee for the second year in a row!  We are very thankful for this support and plan to utilize these funds to sustainably produce more vegetables in the fields and increase the number of individuals who participate in and benefit from our central mission: to educate about and to address food desert conditions in our region.

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Please enjoy some of the colorful images captured in the fields over the past few weeks!

photo of A flower on one of our tomato plants - soon to become a sweet, flavorful fruit!
A flower on one of our tomato plants – soon to become a sweet, flavorful fruit!

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photo of An organic plum tomato variety called Granadero is producing beautiful fruit - soon to become red and delicious!
An organic plum tomato variety called Granadero is producing beautiful fruit – soon to become red and delicious!

I enjoy arriving at the farm each day a few minutes bit before the crew to walk the fields with Zuri and plan how we will spend the day – harvesting, cultivating (AKA weeding!), or planting seeds of fall successions of vegetables such as cabbage, kale, lettuce, spinach, carrots, or beets.

Once the students are hard at work harvesting the vegetables, I often find myself in the rows of flowers fulfilling orders for bouquets.

photo of A beautiful variety of Black Eyed Susan - "Cherry Brandy" - adds a sophisticated flare to the bouquets.
A beautiful variety of Black Eyed Susan – “Cherry Brandy” – adds a sophisticated flare to the bouquets.

Surrounded by Black Eyed Susans, Zinnias, Snapdragons, Salvia, Sweet William, Strawflowers, Love in a Mist, and Sunflowers, I snip long stems and hum along with the bees who are busying themselves collecting nectar – pollinating as they go.

photo of A honeybee makes her approach to a radiant zinnia.
A honeybee makes her approach to a radiant zinnia.

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photo of A honeybee - hard at work!
A honeybee – hard at work!

Sometimes the flowers have other exotic looking visitors…

photo of A dragonfly
A dragonfly takes a rest on one of the zinnias.

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The flowers double as our the sole on farm revenue generator, and also attract beneficial insects and their predators, and fill our fields with a cheerful array of colors.

Sweet William - the prettiest smelling perfume in the field!
Sweet William – bearer of the prettiest smelling perfume in the field!

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photo of salvia
Salvia – a honeybee’s heaven on earth!

The fields continue to produce and we zip around like busy bees, attempting to collect and share all of their bounty!

We reap the rewards of the hard work in the fields when we deliver the produce to our partners who often exclaim and smile when they see the diverse and colorful veggies arrive.

Fields of plenty - quietly producing!
Fields of plenty – quietly producing!

We are so very thankful for the opportunity to work with excellent partners at My Brother’s Keeper, The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring, The Family Life Center of The Old Colony YMCA, and The Easton Food Pantry, and for the support we receive from volunteers and organizations like The Harold Brooks Foundation to ensure that this work continues!