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Community Spring 2013 Spring Cultivation 2013 Spring Harvest 2013 Spring Projects 2013 Spring Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Springing into Summer

It doesn’t seem like so long ago that our fields were filled with snow and the brilliant greens of spring seemed improbable, if not impossible.

Ben, Ian and Jake Kelly harvest our first radishes!
Ben, Ian and Jake Kelly harvest our first radishes!

Thankfully, the seasons always change in New England, and with the warmer days – filled with planting, weeding and harvesting – the ice and snow are now the distant memories!

Our fields are filling with hundreds of veggie, flower and fruit seedlings.
Our fields are filling with hundreds of veggie, flower and fruit seedlings.

In the weeks that led up to Commencement, temperatures soared into the 70’s and 80’s, making for some excellent weather to cultivate the crops.

Students help to weed and thin a row of beets.
Students help to weed and thin a row of beets.
thinning beets
Thinning and weeding a row a beets.

Volunteers of all ages have already pitched in this season to help make for what we believe will be our most productive season yet!

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Sometimes they work in pairs…

Andrew and David Rogers plant Snapdragons on Friday, May 17th.
Andrew and David Rogers plant Snapdragons on Friday, May 17th.

…go it solo…

Hunter weeds a row of Hakurei Turnips in the week leading up to his graduation from Stonehill.
Hunter weeds a row of Hakurei Turnips in the week leading up to his graduation from Stonehill.

…or work as a boisterous and energetic team.

A team of Res Life Staff provide invaluable help planting rows and rows of tomato seedlings on May 20th.
A team of staff from Residence Life provide invaluable help planting rows and rows of tomato seedlings on May 20th.

In addition to the human power, our tractor is also responsible for doing some of the heavy lifting.  So far, we have used our Kubota L5030 and Kuhn rototiller to turn the fields and make strategic compost deliveries.

The initial turn of Field #2 on April 22nd.
The initial turn of Field #2 on April 22nd.

We continue to work with Langwater Farm to get help laying black plastic for our full season crops, such as the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, sweet potatoes and the flowers.

Justin of Langwater Farm lays black plastic for some of our crops.
Justin of Langwater Farm lays black plastic.

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At the start and the end to each day, Zuri and I have taken to walking the fields to note our crops’ progress, observe changes of the season and note any issues – such as leaks in the irrigation or insect pressure.

Zuri looks on as Killdeer nesting in our fields dart about.
Zuri looks on as Killdeer, attempting to nest in our fields, dart about.
Killdeer like to nest in open fields like our. Here, a family enjoys a field near San Francisco, CA.
Killdeer like to nest in open fields like our. Here, a family enjoys a field in Ontario, Canada.

On these walks we make discoveries like our first flower in bloom…

Zinnia in bloom on May 22nd.
Zinnia in bloom on May 22nd.

… Bok Choi ready to be harvested …

A variety of Bok Choi called Mei Qing Choi is ready to be picked and delivered!
A variety of Bok Choi called Mei Qing Choi is ready to be picked and delivered!

…and where to harvest the Mesclun Mix on that particular day – as it is planted in a number of places throughout the fields.

Mesclun Mix, washed, dried and about to be packed for our partners at My Brother's Keeper.
Mesclun Mix, washed, dried and about to be packed for our partners at My Brother’s Keeper.

All of time that we spend weeding carrots…

Alphonse Riang, one of three part-time summer farmers weeds a row of carrots.
Alphonse Riang, one of our three summer student farmers, weeds a row of carrots.

…and thinning beets…

Jake Gillis, another essential student farmer, weeds beets.
Jake Gillis, another essential student farmer, weeds beets.

…is time well spent, and results in a bountiful harvest that is already starting to appear on the tables of the clients served by our partners: My Brother’s Keeper, The Family Center at The Old Colony YMCA, The Table at Father Bill’s and MainSpring, and The Easton Food Pantry.

Jake and Alphonse wash and pack greens.
Jake and Alphonse wash and pack greens.

~~~

While many projects at the farm happen in the good company of volunteers and summer staff, I still find myself with an hour or two most days to work on projects in contemplative solitude. Sometimes I occupy my mind, puzzling over complex issues and projects: How can I improve the irrigation system? How can I manage the moths that are munching on some of the leaves on our apple trees?

A Plato Zucchini seedling enjoys it's new home in the field.
A Plato Zucchini seedling enjoys it’s new home in the field.

Other times I opt to work my body and rest my mind and simply plant! I fall into the blessed rhythm of it all. I bend and bow, stretch and squat, and kneel and crouch – and look back every so often to take note of the beauty of the rows as they fill.  It is during these moments when I become awestruck by the fortitude and beauty of the vegetables quietly growing around me. If I listen carefully imagine that I can hear exclaim in joy as they extend their roots into the soil and strecth their stems and leaves to drink in the sun.

Sugar Snap Peas climb the trellis.
Sugar Snap Peas climb the trellis carefully constructed by volunteers weeks before.

Like the farmers that plant them, the seedlings extend their reach, bend to the elements, drink in the sun and rain, and grow.

~~~

Zuri and I will walk the fields and continue to report back on all of the activities in our fields that are already springing into Summer!

Categories
Spring 2013 Spring Cultivation 2013 Spring Projects 2013 Spring Volunteers 2013

Guest Post: The Curious Labor of Planting Peas

 

By Stephen Siperstein

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

photo of starting the project
Readying to plant the peas in the small trench with our rich compost and kholrabi (seedling in the tray) along the edges of the bed.

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.

photo of bed prep
Finishing up bed prep for our pea seeds and kholrabi seedlings.

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.

photo of Craig and Michelle
Craig and Michelle work together to plant peas.

“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.

photo of first row planted
Our first row: a polyculture of Sugar Snap Peas and Kholrabi.

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.

Zuri after a long day in the fields - already dreaming about tomorrow at the farm.
Zuri after a long day in the fields – already dreaming about tomorrow at the farm.

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.

 

 

Categories
Spring 2013 Spring Projects 2013 Spring Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill

Sewing the Seeds of Season III

The landscape in Easton is still mostly white, grey and brown, but the sunlight of spring is starting to feed us with stronger rays as the days grow longer.

photo of late winter morning sun
Stronger sun rays are starting to shine on the late winter snow at morning light.

On morning walks with Zuri, the white lab-hound mix who came into my life last June, I catch glimpses of warmer colors as the sun rises on the snow covered fields.

Photo of the apple orchard in the winter
Our Apple Orchard drinks in the sun and rests under a blanket of snow.

The student farmers have kept the farm a lively part of our college culture through the colder months, ever ready to be called in to help with projects – such as rescuing our snowed-in hoop house – or actively participating in our new seminar in Sustainable Agriculture.

photo of snowed in hoop house
Snowed in hoop house – but not for long!
photo of rescued hoop house
Success!

As you can see in the two photos above, seniors Jack Bressor, Lauren Engel and Sean Moran showed their dedication to the farm by effectively removing hundreds of pounds snow from the southern side of the hoop house after the blizzard in early February.

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Our students have also been laying the groundwork to increase the amount of “real food” served on campus by attending a training at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD to join a nationwide campaign.  Perhaps some of this “real food” will include a few items from The Farm at Stonehill – such as winter squash or greens – this year.

photo of students who attended the real food challenge summit
Breanne Penkala, Andrew Curran, Sean Davenport, Catie Barros and Christine Moodie – all members of the Class of 2015 and former Food Politics students – are just a few of the students who want more real food at Stonehill.

Keep an eye out for events on campus where you can learn more about ways to support a local, sustainable and fair food system on campus and in your community!

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For those of you who have driven by the farm recently, you have probably noticed the large trench cutting through our main field perpendicular to Rt 138. Not to worry! This is only a temporary feature that is allowing for water access to a new storage barn for all of the equipment and supplies that Facilities Management maintains.

photo of trench at the farm
Trench for a water line – facing west.

 This trench will be filled back in with care within a few weeks.  When we turn the fields for Season 3 in April we will be careful to add extra nutrient rich compost – composed of decomposed organic materials from our dining commons and Clover Valley Stables –  to ensure that the health and productivity of these soils is not impacted in any major way.

photo of trench at the farm facing east
Trench for water line – facing east.

In our Sustainable Agriculture class we turned the dramatic looking feature into a soil science laboratory (a “teaching moment,” if you will) as we studied soil horizons and learned about the ingredients necessary to create healthy soils.

photo of our soil horizon
Jack points out our the A and B layers in our soil profile.

 

photo of image of soil profile
A basic soil profile diagram.

Jack Bressor and Bryan Tavares co-taught a class with me about soils and asked the class to consider the different features of healthy soils (i.e. sand for drainage, organic material to retain moisture and add vital nutrients) and create a “perfect” seed-starting mix and grow and care for a bean plant.

photo of soil components
Bryan and Jack provide the class with components of healthy soils (vermiculite, stone dust, 2 kinds of compost, and loam) for growing healthy veggies.

 These students will nurture their bean plants over the next couple of months and hopefully plant them in the fields once the weather warms.

photo of making potting mix
Sean, Melissa, Molly, Pat, Tom, Ryan, Michelle and Bryan create their perfect potting mix to give their been seeds a healthy start.

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Despite the snowflakes currently falling from the skies, I am comforted by the knowledge that onions and some of our flowers are germinating under lights in the basement of Holy Cross.

photo of germinating walla walla onions
Sweet Walla Walla Onions successfully germinating!

If all goes according to plan, these seedlings will be growing with gusto in our fields in a few months’ time.

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In other news, our farm dog, Zuri, has enjoyed her first winter immensely – going on adventures, napping with new dog friends or pausing to greet every student or staff member who she meets on campus or in the fields behind the farm!

photo of zuri and harken walking on the pond
Zuri enjoys a stroll with her airedale buddy, Harken.

 

photo of Zuri resting with Bailey
Zuri and Bailey rest together after a wild walk in the winter woods.

Our third season has just begun.

Check back from time to time to watch our fields fill with the colors of spring and summer. It will definitely prove to be an adventure as we put our L5030 Kubota tractor and our Kuhn el53-190 Rototiller to work.

Categories
Community Summer 2011 Summer Cultivation 2011 Summer Harvest 2011 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Summer Heat

Photo of our first tomatoes
Our first tomatoes, Red Pearl Red Grapes, are starting to turn red in the fields.

 

Summertime.. and the living is… busy!

On a day like today, when temperatures are hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, it is hard to believe that just a couple of weeks ago the fields were literally full of water and the mercury hovered only in the mid 60’s.

fields with rain on July 8th
On July 8th, some of our tomato beds sat just above the waterline.

 

The fields are responding to the rain from a couple of weeks ago and the heat of the past few days.  Our harvest crates are overflowing with zucchini, cucumbers, and summer squash.

Just the other day we harvested over 200 lbs of cucumbers over the course of a couple of hours.  We are pulling over 100 pounds of cucumbers, 50 to 75 pounds of zucchini, and many heads of lettuce, bunches of turnips, kale and chard from the fields every day.

We have had to schedule extra deliveries and pick ups with our partners because we are running out space in our large refrigerator to keep the produce cool!

photo of fields
Zucchini, cucumber and tomato plants.

 

Sometimes it is hard to keep up with the crops…

 

Photo of Michelle with massive zucchini
Michelle and a Raven Zucchini that hid from us for a couple of days... perfect for zucchini bread or a family favorite: Zucchini Parmesan.

 

… but we have a feeling this zucchini will find a good home in a casserole, soup or zucchini bread in the kitchens of the Salvation Army.

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The flowers, including cosmos, zinnias, snapdragons, sweet william, celosia, and marigolds also love the sun and their bright colors brighten the fields and lure important pollinators into the fields.

If you are interested in ordering a bouquet for your office, please contact us we will get back to you shortly.

 

photo of flowers in the field
Flowers in the field love the sun!

 

flowers on july 19 - bouquets
Bouquets ready for delivery on July 19, 2011.

 

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We are excited to see some of our mid-season crops ripening and starting to come out of the fields including Orient Express Eggplant and Purple Islander Peppers.

 

photo fo eggplant and peppers
Purple Veggies: Orient Express Eggplant and Islander Purple Peppers

 

photo of purple peppers
Islander Purple Peppers in the glow of sunset.

 

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Many hands play a part in caring for these veggies in the field and bringing in the harvest.  Last week my parents, Jane and Jonathan Meigs, joined me to harvest peas and adorn our new shed with cheerful window boxes.

 

mom and window box
My Mom, Jane, creates a beautiful window box to dress up our new shed.

 

photo of dad with peas
My Dad, Jono, harvested a few pounds of Sugar Snap Peas which were later donated to families at the Old Colony YMCA in Brockton.

 

Some of the projects, like stringing our tomatoes, cover me in pollen and leave my hands a bit swollen and sore…

 

 

photo of hand
Farming hand after an afternoon of stringing tomatoes... already rinsed once!

 

…but the beautiful crops that result and the smiles on the faces of our staff at Stonehill, the volunteers, and our partners (and some trusty hand balm) help them heal up quickly and make ready for another day in the fields.

 

Soon we will be harvesting Sweet Corn, Green Beans and Tomatoes!

 

corn ear
An ear of sweet corn... ready for harvest soon!

 

green beans
Almost time to harvest our green beans!

 

Come visit us to see the bounty for yourself and help us with the harvest.

Categories
Our Vision Spring 2011 Spring Seedlings 2011 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer Welcome

Blessing of The Fields

photo of items used in the Blessing if the field
A Shovel, a Stole, Marigolds and Holy Water used in the Blessing if the Fields

 

The Blessing of the Fields, led by Stonehill College President and Reverend Marc Cregan, included music performed by a student choir, a reading from the Gospel of Marc, poetry by Robert Frost and Mary Oliver, and a history of the all important shovel.

The shovel, which is already an essential tool at the farm and connects us to the history of the college and the Ames Family.  Oliver Ames founded his world-famous shovel company in North Easton in 1803. A century later, his great grandson, Frederick Lothrop Ames (1876-1921), built the mansion and 600-acre estate that would become Stonehill College.

paul daponte in the church
VP of Mission and Professor of Religious Studies Paul Daponte joyfully welcomes members of the community to The Farm.

Prof. Daponte first conceived of the idea to start a farm at Stonehill College in response to participating in an “Into the Streets” day of service last spring in Brockton.  On that day, he was made aware of “food desert” conditions in the neighboring town of Brockton. Less than one year later, his idea to start a farm at the college has come to fruition and The Farm at Stonehill is starting to grow produce to help address these conditions.

photo of the group that came to the blessing
We gathered in the greenhouse for readings, prayers and the blessing.

We were happy to receive students, faculty, staff and members of the nearby community to the farm for the event.  I look forward to seeing all of our attendees back on the farm to enjoy the space as they help to plant, cultivate and harvest the crops.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

– Mary Oliver

Forsythia and the cross: Signs of spring and prayer for fields of plenty this season.

 

Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year. 
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

 

 

 

 

 

– Robert Frost

Categories
Spring 2011 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Volunteers from Near and Far Put Down Roots

Spring is in the air and with it the projects are many and full of new life at The Farm.

photo of clock con facilities building
Clear blue skies at The Clock Farm just north of our field (April 15, 2011).

Friday was a beautiful day that hinted at the long, sun-filled days to come.  On that fine day, Dick Murray, who works in facilities management, completed his work spreading stone dust to create a solid and level base for our greenhouse which will be going up over the next couple of weeks.

photo of ariel and brian on future greenhouse
Stonehill students Ariel and Brian test out the stone dust base of the greenhouse on April 14, 2011.

Student volunteers Ariel and Brian tested out the base for the greenhouse and put together the Earthway one-row seeder this Thursday before planting bell peppers and transplanting broccoli.

photo of Brian and Ariel putting the one row seeder together
Brian and Ariel putting the one-row seeder together.

Until the greenhouse is up, we continue to plant seeds and nurture seedlings across the street in the basement of the Holy Cross Center.

A volunteer holds his hands over trays of seedlings under a heat lamp
Mike, a volunteer and friend visiting from Canada, encourages the Tandora Leek and Green Bib Lettuce seedlings to grow (April 17, 2011).

On Friday, we had our first delivery of nutrient rich compost from Clover Valley Stables, and I took advantage of the sunny warm afternoon to plant a row of raspberry canes: 10 Nova  and 10 Polana.

A black truck dumps a pile of compost in a dirt field at the farm
Our first delivery of compost from Clover Valley Stables.

 

A row of raspberry canes extends down the dirt field
Raspberries planted on Friday, April 15, 2011.

Just a couple of days later, despite the grey skies and biting, springtime breezes of New England, I was back with two intrepid Canadian friends and volunteers  to plant 3 Bayberry bushes and 2 Northland Blueberry bushes in the northwest corner of the field.

A man and woman work together to dig holes for planting bayberries and northland blueberries
Canadian volunteers Mike and Judy dig in – planting Bayberries and Northland Blueberries (April 17, 2011).

 

A bayberry bush is gently planted in a hole in the dirt field
Bayberry bush in the process of being planted.

 

A man pours water on a new bayberry bush using an orange bucket
Canadian (note T-shirt) Mike waters one of the Bayberry bushes in.

These are the first of many plants that will take root and with some luck grow into healthy bushes that will produce berries that we can enjoy and share for many years to come.