At this time of year, with snow layered over cover crop and around the hoop houses, The Farm looks as sleepy as ever.
And Zuri is just as sleepy as the rest of The Farm!
Despite the deep snow settled like a blanket on The Farm, we are anticipating spring and the new growing season that will come with it! We’ve begun preparing for our ninth (!!) season, hosting our first “Farm Friday” volunteer hours last week. Seven volunteers joined us in the greenhouse behind Shields Science Center before leaving campus for spring break and helped to plant onion and snapdragon seeds.
In addition to the first planting of the season, we have been keeping busy in other ways at The Farm. At the end of February, we visited Caffrey Towers in Brockton and had lots of fun with our partners at Brockton Neighborhood Health Center and UMASS Nutrition Education Program. Keryn from UMASS NEP cooked a delicious Haitian soup with a wide array of vegetables, including potatoes and onions from Langwater Farm. Participants enjoyed the soup and took home a bag of ingredients to make their own bowls of this yummy dish!
We welcomed Celia Dolan in mid-February as the new Assistant Farm Manager. She graduated in December with an environmental studies degree, business minor, and a passion for sustainable agriculture. After volunteering and working at The Farm since her freshman year, she was honored to accept this position upon graduating a semester early. She is excited to work with Bridget and the volunteers who make The Farm the inspirational place that it is! While keeping up with the usual winter farm duties, Celia and Bridget are planning a seed saving garden to nurture heirloom seeds and the stories that they hold. Celia spoke on a panel at SEMAP’s Annual Agriculture and Food Conference about The Farm’s efforts to Grow for the Greater Good and described plans for the seed saving garden. Just as she was a voice for The Farm on the panel, Celia is happy be the voice of The Farm on this blog post and more posts to come!
Bridget and Celia look forward to a new season at The Farm. We hope to work with you soon in the spring weather, when the snow has melted and The Farm begins to awaken. Until then, we remain ever-hopeful that sunshine and warmth are around the corner. Stay happy and healthy, friends! ~Celia
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!
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
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
On September 12th, eleven students joined me at the farm to harvest sweet Sugar Pie Pumpkins, and 4 varieties of winter squash.
We worked in small teams to pluck, pile and weigh Butternut, Delicata, Carnival and Acorn Squash.
These pumpkins and winter squash are jam packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium, Dietary Fiber and Manganese.
Roasted, steamed or sauteed, these veggies are delicious, filling and nutritious and definitely signal the final days of Summer and the onset of the Fall.
All tolled, we harvested 1120.22 pounds of pumpkins and winter squash.
Here is the breakdown: 661.38 lbs. of Pumpkins, 216.82 lbs. of Delicata Squash, 228.79 lbs. of Carnival Squash, 64.9 lbs. of Butternut Squash, and just a few random Acorn Squashes (8.33 lbs.)
Thank you Erin, Brandon, Nick, Michelle, Jackie, Ryan, Sage, Sam, Sean, Alex, and Kayla for coming over to help with the harvest! With your help we harvested over 1100 pounds of food in under 2 hours!
Just this morning, Beth from My Brother’s Keeper joined me at the farm to pick up a good chunk of yesterday’s harvest. As a result, we hope the sweet smell of roasted winter squash will fill the air in 75 Brockton homes this week.
The rest of the harvest will be delivered to our other partners within the next week or two, and can either be stored or cooked and eaten the day of delivery.
It is hard to remember that just a week ago we hadn’t seen the sun in days and the heat of summer seemed like nothing but wishful thinking. As the sun returned last week, we were happy to receive help from members of our community including Paul Daponte, Father Pinto, Lyn Feeney, Joe Miller, and Father Steve who helped us plant carrots and radishes, and ready the fields for over 400 tomato seedlings.
I have two students helping me grow the farm this summer, Brian Switzer and Michelle Kozminski. With the help of their constant, hard work and the energetic visits of our volunteers we saw the farm grow from 7 to 16 rows last week! Thank you to all of our busy bees!
As we plant, we also continue to harvest and share our bounty with member of our community at Father Bill’s & MainSpring, The Old Colony YMCA, and My Brother’s Keeper.
Lettuce, ready for delivery!
Paul Ricci, The Associate Director of Grounds, and many members of his team have supported The Farm from Day 1. We are happy to have them as our neighbors at The Clock Farm.
From The Field at The Farm to The Table. We are already looking forward to our next harvest and delivery.