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.
It has been a productive and delicious fall at The Farm! Thanks to a crew of dedicated volunteers and students studying Sustainable Agriculture and Permaculture our farm is far from sleepy.
Though we do not have as many active projects out in the fields these days, Devin and I can often be found checking on our crops in the hoophouses or walking Zuri on the land.
On October 24th, we hosted the Blessing of Hoophouse #2 to thank the Class of 1964 for their gift, which covered construction costs of the structure. This hoophouse is truly a blessing to us – as it has already allowed us to extend the growing season of crops like cherry tomatoes and currently houses spinach and other hardy greens.
Members of the Class of 1964 were present on October 24th to witness Father Jim Lies’s blessing of the hoophouse and to hear Devin speak about the benefits of structures like hoophouses. We are excited about the addition of this growing structure!
This second hoophouse, measuring 30′ x 48′, dwarfs our original (and still very much beloved 18′ x 48′ hoophouse) offers a nutrient rich floor where we will plant cucumbers and tomatoes earlier that we can in the fields next season. Thus, this structure will help us to make more delicious produce available to our partners for more months of the year!
The fields are still producing a few hearty greens like kale, baby broccoli and carrots, but most of the land has a nice coat of cover crops like hairy vetch and oats to help fix nitrogen and add organic material to the soils, respectively.
One of my favorite crops – High Mowing Mesclun Mix – was still producing flavorful greens in mid-November, which I dressed up with our own carrots and a few chunks of Honey Crisp apples from Brookdale Fruit Farm to create a refreshing salad.
In the hoophouses you can see that a number of crops have already benefited from the slightly warmer temperatures the plastic walls offer.
Though our harvests are lighter, we are keeping busy working on projects like building a herb spiral in our permaculture garden on campus – next to Amesbury in the Senior courts – and planting perennials like pear and peach trees, raspberries and blackberries, and hardy kiwis on campus and at The Farm!
Langwater Farm was kind enough to allow us to take a few field stones from their pile next to their rt. 138 fields for our herb spiral project.
Projects like this are fun because they offer our students the opportunity to work on farm projects on the main campus. It is our hope that this garden will serve to produce vegetables and fruit for our campus community and raise awareness about The Farm and how they can get become (or stay) involved.
The fall/winter is a good time to build growing structures like the herb spirals and is also an excellent time to plan our permaculture gardens and to plant a number of perennials.
We spent some time in November planting Dwarf Chojuro Asian Pear and Dwarf Gala Peach Trees, Auburn Homestead Chestnut Trees, 3 different varieties of Blackberries, Koralle Ligonberries, and Issai Hardy Kiwi from Stark Brothers and Raspberries, Mint, and Jerusalem Artichokes from our partners at Massasoit College on campus…
…at The Farm…
…in our Apple Orchard…
…and in our permaculture garden at The Farm.
Other projects include getting to know our Best Bees bee keepers. Devin and I visited them at their headquarters in Boston to learn how to extract honey and get the inside scoop on their research projects.
We were overjoyed to learn that our bees had been productive enough to share some of their bounty with us!
The results are beautiful and delicious!
We are happy to report that our honey flew of the shelves during a find raiser. We sold 3 oz jars for $10/jar and all of it was purchased within one day of posting an advertisement on our Facebook and sharing an email about the honey with our Stonehill community. We hope to be able to share more of this amber treat with more folks next year.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch – well, Farmhouse – we are cooking up a new program called The Farmhouse Writing Fellows Program. Farmhouse Writing Fellows will be given dedicated writing space on the second floor of the Farmhouse to work on scholarly or pedagogical projects for the semester.
Five Faculty will be joining us this spring: Rachel Hirst, George Piggford, Megan Mitchell, Corey Dolgon, and Candice Smith-Corby. We will be hosting Farmhouse Conversations every other Friday so that our fellows can share a bit about their work with the community. We will share invitations via our weekly “This Week at The Farm” community emails and via our Facebook page and we hope to see you there!
You might be wondering where this mystical farmhouse is located! Don’t worry, we made a sign so that you will be sure to find us!
I knew just the place to create such a sign: my parent’s home in Millerton, NY. First we chose the right piece of cherry, before sketching out the letters, and then used a router to carve out the word and the little shovel icon.
After a few hours of work we had our sign!
Now you can find it hanging at the entrance of our Farmhouse: 411 Washington St.
We look forward to your next visit to see us at The Farm or at The Farmhouse as we chip away at our long list of winter projects and order up seeds for our next growing season – which will start earlier now, thanks to Hoophouse #2!
Sending you warm wishes for a restful and rejuvenating holiday season!
Looking out at the fields at the end of the day today I was struck by the jungle of tomato, squash, eggplant and pepper plants that met my gaze. Are the winter squash already ripening – the tomato seeds that we planted back in late March now giant plants busily producing delicious fruits in varying hues?
We are in the fields every day, harvesting, planting and weeding, but it’s easy to forget how these vibrant plants were once fragile seedlings in our propagation hoophouse.
These seedlings grow up quickly and by mid-August THEY are the ones that dictate the rhythm of the days – for everyone knows that if you leave a productive zucchini plant unattended for even one day the fruits will double in size!
Our days are also guided not just by the speed at which the plants produce their fruits, but by our deliveries to our partners: The Easton Food Pantry (Monday), The Table at Father Bill’s and Mainspring (Thursday), and the Family Life Center (Thursday). We visit My Brother’s Keeper a few days throughout the week, as they make deliveries to their clients at least three days per week and we like to try to pick and deliver the same day to ensure freshness and maximize nutritional benefits of the veggies for those who they reach.
We who have been at The Farm all summer have grown accustomed to these rhythms and the full fields, but I have heard from our students who have recently returned from their summers elsewhere that the farm that they returning to barely resembles the one that they left in late April. It is fun and refreshing to take a look back at images throughout the season to track some of the changes and appreciate the fecundity of the plants that have quietly grown and produced delicious vegetables for us all season.
It’s really incredible to think about the speed at which a zucchini or summer squash produces fruit once the plants mature – I almost feel like you could watch them grow right before your eyes. Every once and awhile a few plants go unattended for a couple of days in a row, and the resulting zucchini are as big as our crews calves – and more cut out to become Zucchini Parmesan than a side dish of delicate grilled spears.
One of my favorite places at the moment is the propogation hoophouse where the kale, lettuce, pac choi, and chard seedlings are sharing their growing space with curing Honey Bear Acorn Squash and delicious Delicata Squash. It illustrates the productivity of the season thus far and the promise of a green and flavorful fall.
Another fun place to be is our second hoophouse, constructed through a generous donation by the Class of 1964 and the Harold Brooks Foundation and Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustee, which we are nicknaming the “growhouse.” It is already brimming with life – healthy tomatoes and freshly seeded rows of carrots and turnips – and within the next couple of months we will replace the rows of tomatoes with spinach and other cool weather crops.
Every spring when I look out at our field I feel a bit like a writer staring at a blank manuscript, pen in hand, and hoping that a sudden bought of intense writer’s block does not decide to take up residence in my head. Thankfully, without fail over the past four season, we start to plan and plant our veggies that will include peppers, tomatoes, kale, onions, eggplants, herbs, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, flowers and potatoes his year. Pretty soon we are harvesting, washing, packing and delivering our crops and that worry fades.
Once we till in the winter cover crops and plant our first rows of radishes and peas the worry starts fades and we move through the days prepping beds with compost, filling them with seedlings, and within a month or two the fields are filled once again. And we watch in wonder as the hard work pays off and gives back much more than one could ever expect.
As the cooler nights arrive, we continue to farm, planting crops that will enjoy the fall in the fields or in the “growhouse” as we start to store up images and save seeds to keep us warm in the colder months and well prepared for another bountiful season at The Farm!
From the Lab to The Field: Cold-Tolerance Gene Research at the Farm
Guest post by, Danielle Garceau, Class of 2015
Even during the quieter, less hectic winter months, there is still a surprising amount of activity at the farm. From Mesclun mix and other cold weather crops like Spinach growing along in the hoop house, to students learning in their outdoor classroom, the farm is still a happening place.
But what else might be going on? Yes, research! As the temperature begins to drop the farm is the ideal location for an ongoing study that I am conducting with Professor Irvin Pan of the Biology Department with the support of the Farm. Through this research, we are hoping to determine the underlying genetic basis for cold-tolerance in crop species known to be cold-hardy.
Funded by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and the Stonehill Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Program, this project is a continuation of research conducted this past growing season that will shift from the lab to the farm this winter. We are collecting and analyzing field data to better understand how certain tasty plant species can survive in outdoor winter weather environments.
Over this past summer, our group identified the cold tolerance genes Inducer of CBF Expression 1 (ICE1), C-Repeat Binding Factor 3 (CBF3), and Eskimo 1 (ESK1) in known cold-hardy crops such as Broccoli, Bok-Choi, and Kale alongside the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana. We conducted an experiment to compare the expression of the cold-tolerance gene CBF3 in plants incubated at warm and cold temperatures.
The picture above is one of many gel electrophoreses ran on the DNA (in this case, cDNA or complementary DNA that is made from mRNA or messenger RNA) of these crop species. The bands above are the actual DNA of a specific gene that we are studying. The brighter the band, the more DNA there is in the plant tissue, meaning the plant is turning on this specific gene. As you can see from this gel picture after a 2 hour long exposure to cold temperatures, the expression level of the cold-tolerance gene CBF3 underwent as much as a 15 fold increase! We think that this may be one reason why plants like Broccoli, Kale, and Bok-Choi don’t mind colder temperatures.
Through conducting further cold exposure experiments this winter at the greenhouse we hope to confirm these results on a larger scale and over a longer time period of one month while also recording the temperatures that the plants experience every hour using a temperature data logger.
In addition to our work in the heated greenhouse this winter, we hope to also grow our cold-hardy plants in the newly built cold frame. Using the cold frame will allow us to gather data in a setting in which not only farmers but home gardeners could grow crops during the colder months of the year. This cold frame will also prove to be a useful learning tool in sustainable agriculture practices to students that use the farm as an outdoor classroom and engage in classes like Sustainable Agriculture – taught by Farm Manager Meigs.
In conducting this research at the farm we hope to ultimately extend the farm’s growing season further into the winter through the selection of crops most suited to colder temperatures. Through extending the farm’s growing season we also hope to enable the farm to provide fresh produce to community partners well into the winter season.
It has been a gorgeous and productive fall at The Farm. Just last week we harvested our sweet potatoes, which put us over 12,000 pounds of veggies picked and donated for the 2013 growing season.
We’ve been keeping busy, harvesting and delivering veggies, hosting a wide array of classes, and participating in the celebration of the inauguration of our new President, Father John Denning, by providing flowers from the fields for the reception.
On many sunny, and a few cloudy, rainy days, students have been showing up at The Farm to help harvest sweet potatoes, hot and sweet peppers, cabbage, broccoli, beets, kale, and other hearty greens.
Though many parts of the field have started to turn from green to brown, the vibrant pink, purple and white Cosmos and our glorious green cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli plants are doing their darnedest to stave off the certainty of the frost filled mornings that await us.
It is a time of year when change is omnipresent. If you look to the left you can still see fields decked with cabbage, broccoli, and sweet potato vines, but if you look to the right, the rows and rows of tomatoes are no more, and in their place cover crops are germinating.
Though we are sad to see the tomatoes go, it is always fun to plant the next crops. This time of year we broadcast cover crops like Bell Bean, Hairy Vetch, and Perennial Winter Rye to feed and protect our soils and help them rest over the course of the cold winter that lies ahead.
It is clearly a magical time of year, when we can spend part of the day harvesting summery crops like Habanero Peppers…
…before moving on to sweet potatoes…
…then pull up black plastic from rows that housed eggplants…
…before finally planting garlic.
With the combination of help from volunteers on “Farm Fridays,” multiple classes, and our Fall Farm Intern, Devin, all of this fall work seems to unfold with ease.
As many parts of the farm turn green with cover crops, other sections continue to produce delicious crops like cabbage, kale, broccoli and Brussels Sprouts for our Community Partners.
We will continue to harvest and prepare our fields for the winter for the next month and hope to see you at volunteer hours even as the colder days (and nights) start to arrive!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
Please enjoy some of the colorful images captured in the fields over the past few weeks!
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.
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.
Sometimes the flowers have other exotic looking visitors…
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.
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.
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!
On April 11th, 35 trees arrived from Adam’s County Nursery in Aspers, PA. These trees were purchased with some of the funds generously donated by the Class of 2011. We have chosen 4 varieties of apple trees to start our orchard including the heirloom, Pippin, and 3 scab-resistant varieties: Crimson Crisp, Initial, and Querina. It is our hope that within 3 years these trees will be producing a good amount of local, organic, and delicious fruit for our community partners in Brockton. The fruit of each variety will ripen at different times over the course of the growing season, providing us with a nice, long apple harvest season.
The instructions from the nursery were the following: keep roots moist, store the box in a cool and dry area, and plant within 2 weeks – at the most! These tasks were easily accomplished with the help of over 50 volunteers. Helpers included students from my Environmental Science class, Professor Corey Dolgon’s Introduction to Sociology class, Professor Tom Balf’s Environmental Science class, and other new and returning students and staff volunteers who joined us during “volunteer hours” on Thursdays and Fridays.
After assessing our farm’s current footprint, we decided to establish the orchard in the southwest corner of our field. On April 13th, Sheriden and Brian arrived a bit earlier than the rest of the day’s volunteers and helped me place a stake where each hole would need to be dug. The trees have been grafted onto a semi-dwarf stock, so the trees will only grow to be about 8 to 10 feet high and 8 feet wide. This will allow for easy picking – we hope the deer don’t think so too!
A couple of hours after Brian, Sheriden and I laid out the orchard, a large group of volunteers joined us and quickly dug holes where each stake had been placed. We even had enough time that afternoon to plant the first 10 trees, and chose the Crimson Crisp variety to be the first to go in the ground.
The trees seemed to utter sighs of relief as they went from their cramped, dark quarters in the box into the warm soil and compost. Each tree received 5 gallons of water to help them weather the unseasonably warm, dry days.
We waited for the warmest days of the following week to pass before planting the remaining trees on April 19th and 20th.
On Thursday afternoon Sean Vermette, the college’s painter, and his two children, Maeve and Will joined us to ensure that one of the Querina apple trees settled nicely into it’s new home.
Sean held the tree in place while Will and Maeve filled the hole in with soil and compost.
I have a feeling that Will and Maeve will be visiting from time to time to check on the progress of their little tree. I hope they will not be too disappointed by the long wait for their tree’s first apples!
That same afternoon, students from Prof. Tom Balf’s class planted the 9 remaining Querina Apple Trees after learning a little bit about cover crops, crop rotation, drip irrigation and other sustainable farming practices.
Many of these students were new to the farm, and I was impressed by their careful and efficient work. I look forward to welcoming them back anytime!
After planting the trees, these students made quick work of delivering 5 gallons of water to each tree. We will be setting up drip irrigation over the next couple of weeks for each tree to get them through the hottest months of the summer.
It’s hard not to smile as you see the orchard going in.
The last few trees were planted on April 20th – well within the 2 week window suggested by Adam’s County Nursery.
Under bright blue and sunny skies, Joe Favazza, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of the Faculty, and Katie Conboy, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, joined students Sarah, Erin, Dan, Tim and me to plant the last couple of Pippin apple trees.
It will take a couple of years until the trees bear fruit, but we are already reaping the benefits of growing an orchard as a community.
A big thank you to the Class of 2011 for donating the trees, and to the students and staff who helped perform orchard layout, dig the holes, plant the trees, apply the compost, and water the trees.
Please visit often to nurture the orchard and watch it grow.