Seedlings start small, but it doesn’t take long before they start to drink in the light, nutrients and water that allow them to take root and grow.
Some days we focus so much on the tasks at hand – a common occurrence in most any walk of life – and fail to really see how quickly each crop, and the farm as a whole, is changing right before our eyes.
A few evenings ago I returned to the farm just before sundown to stroll through the fields and take a good look at the crops.
Here is what I found.
The summer squash and zucchini dance in earnest with the last of the daylight and lean into each ray emanating from the west.
The apple trees sway in the day’s final rays as a light, early evening breeze rustles their first flush of foliage.
Our sweet corn, truly grass-like at this stage, appears fragile and uncertain, but stands tall and whispers of how it will grow to tower above my head one day.
There is a simplicity to these early days of warm, sunny weather.
The weeds are not quite capable of challenge.
There is a palpable sense of anticipation in the fields of the bounty and beauty of the productive jungle-like world that will appear – seemingly overnight – as summer takes hold.
For now we enjoy the simplicity of the early days of the season, and know that it is only a matter of time – hours filling easily with planting and cultivating the fields – before all of the crops will share their sun-kissed flavors with our growing community.
The greenhouse is filling with colorful seedlings and student volunteers visit regularly to care for them and ensure that they are getting planted out in the field as soon as possible.
As you may recall, just over 1 month ago we were experiencing summer-like temperatures and a warm, dry spell, very uncharacteristic of a typical New England Spring.
During volunteer hours in early April we were often decked out in our summer best.
Over the past couple of weeks, the weather has shifted a bit and we have been lucky to receive some rain for our newly planted crops. Between showers we have planted flowers including celosia, snapdragons, salvia, and statice, and vegetables including cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, beets, onions, potatoes, mustard greens, and even some early zucchinis and summer squash out in the field.
Much of this work has been carried out by student volunteers either during volunteer hours or even during class time.
On the last day of classes, Thursday, May 3rd, I invited students in my class (Environmental Science and the Food Justice LC which I teach with Prof. Sue Mooney) to spend their last Environmental Science class with me at The Farm.
The students weathered the misty, cool weather and got a lot done!
The early arrivals got right to work harvesting Mesclun Mix and Arugula for My Brother’s Keeper, which was picked up and delivered that day.
The rest of the class kept busy planting winter squash seeds in trays in the greenhouse, beet and red mustard green seedlings and potatoes in the fields, and prepping the beds covered in black plastic mulch for zucchini and summer squash seedlings.
Volunteers are helping The Farm grow in leaps and bounds.
Thanks to their help, we have already filled twenty-three 125′ beds with a wide variety of early season vegetables and some flowers. We have even started to harvest some of our greens and made small deliveries to My Brother’s Keeper and the Easton Food Pantry.
The steady stream of student volunteers is allowing us to reach more people with fresh, healthy, nutritious and organic vegetables sooner than expected.
Over the course of the season I look forward to welcoming new and returning students and staff to help with planting, cultivating and harvesting our crops.
One day – in 3 years or so – we’ll have new jobs like harvesting apples. For now I am happy to see the young trees coming to life out in the field.
It is hard to believe that it is only March 23rd! The plants in the field and in the trays are responding well as they drink in the warm rays and grow towards the sun.
It is a bit strange, to say the least, to have temperatures in the high 70’s and low 80’s in March!
What does this mean about the health of our planet?
Weather forecasts look to be dropping to more seasonal highs in the 50’s next week, which is a bit of a relief. As much as I enjoy the “summer feeling,” March is a bit early for that to be kicking in already!
With some luck, the warm weather will allow our seedlings to grow well and hopefully be able to offer our produce to our partners in Brockton much earlier this second season. This year we will deliver produce to The Easton Food Pantry, Father Bill’s and MainSpring, My Brother’s Keeper and the Old Colony YMCA weekly.
Under warm and sunny skies, we quickly got to work at The Farm.
“Getting to work” was made easier thanks to our new, 2002 Chevy Silverado farm truck…
…new greenhouse tables built by Mark Larson, one of the college’s talented carpenters…
…and good farming neighbors!
On March 22nd around 6:30PM, Rory O’Dwyer from Langwater Farm arrived with their John Deere tractor and a chisel plow to turn our first field.
It only took her a little over 1 hour to work her magic, and turn in some of the winter rye that we planted in the fall.
The very next day, under clear skies and 70 degree weather, over 15 volunteers joined me to do some early weeding in the perennial beds!
First they signed in…
…then the weeding began in the perennial beds…
…planting commenced in window boxes on our shed…
…and planting seeds continued in the greenhouse (and later in the Sem basement).
There was even a moment or two to enjoy a snack from the field!
We welcome you to join us this season by following us online or working with us in the fields.“Like us” on Facebook by clicking here to keep on top of happenings at The Farm.
On February 24, Brian and Sean joined me in the basement of the Sem to plant our first seeds, which included 4 varieties of onions (Alisa Craig, Candy, Cortland and White Pearl Drop) and Snapdragons. These two were quick studies, and with ease they prepped trays and set to work planting the small seeds.
It didn’t take long (5 days) before little green sprouts started to pop up into view. We moved them out into the greenhouse to ensure good light quality as they grow!
It didn’t take long for word to spread, and more farm volunteers arrived ready to work on Friday. We planted lettuce, spinach, chard, and a couple of more flower varieties including Statice and Celosia.
The snowy morning at the farm did not diminish our enthusiasm as we moved the onions and greens that have already germinated out into the greenhouse.
It will not be long before we are all out in the fields surrounded by the greens of spring, the vibrant rainbow of summer, and the deeper hues of the fall.
For now we plant and water, watch and plan, as the days become longer and the temperatures begin to climb.
Before we know it, these fields covered in the crystals of winter, will be filled with vibrant colors that only the longer, warmer days of the spring, summer and fall can bring.
Volunteers hours will begin in earnest after Spring Break.
If you would like to receive emails about when you can volunteer please email Erin: firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a message using the Volunteer Tab above.
When asked if I thought we’d have corn that was “Knee high by the 4th of July,” I smiled to myself and set a quiet goal to do just that. I am happy to share with you that the 4th saw our corn at the height of my knee and it has now grown to hip level.
At the same time, I also started to wonder about this famous saying. Where did this phrase originate, who’s knees are we talking about, and does it apply to our region and to our farm? I did a little bit of research and learned that this phrase originated in the midwest and growers there believed that a corn crop will turn out well if it is at least knee high in early July because this indicates that the initial growing conditions were good, the crop is off to a good start and it will continue to thrive and yield a good crop. In the end of the day, it seems that perhaps the health rather than the height of the corn by early July is most important, and if a crop is given good initial growing conditions and is tended with care, healthy plants and good yields are likely to result. Even so, I was happy to be able to stand next to our corn on the 4th of July and have it’s healthy leaves gently brush my knees.
Some of the important work on the farm can seem to be the least glamorous, but can be satisfying and is most definitely incredibly important: WEEDING! I was happy to welcome a number of students participating in SURE (Stonehill Undergraduate Research Experience) this summer last week for a couple of hours. They energetically worked in groups to free our Rainbow Chard from the clutches of weeds and clear some rows to make way for new sets of seedlings.
Back in March we started to plant our seeds, and over the past four months Brian, Michelle and I have carefully tended to seedlings until they grew into mature plants bearing fruit. We are now harvesting 2 varieties of zucchini, summer squash, 3 varieties of cucumbers, lettuce, 2 varieties of turnips, sugar snap peas, some herbs and some spring onions.
We are also starting to pick flowers including Cosmos, Zinnias, Snapdragons, Celosia and Marigolds. We are harvesting these flowers, arranging them in bouquets and they are up for sale (50 cents/stem) on campus. Shoot us an email if you’d like to decorate your office with some colors from the fields!