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Community Community Partners Spring 2019 summer 2019 The Farm at Stonehill

A Summer Farmer’s Experience – Alex Smoolca

The Farm's summer crew, consisting of five women and a man all standing together by the hoophouse with veggies in hand
Our summer crew: Assistant Farm Manager Celia Dolan, Louisa Rossel, Alex Smoolca, Olivia Reed, Natalie McDonough and Cassie Pavain.

Hello readers, my name is Alex Smoolca and I am a senior at Stonehill College studying psychology with a sociology minor. I spent this past summer working at The Farm at Stonehill. Upon getting hired I had good expectations for the job because one of my best friends, Natalie, has been working there for years and she always gives the farm high praise. My first couple of weeks I worked with Bridget (my boss the farm manager and now director) and Celia (the assistant farm manager). We spent the first few weeks seeding, planting, and laying down irrigation. I enjoyed my first few weeks.

Little lettuce seedlings growing along in trays in the greenhouse
Little lettuce seedlings growing along in the greenhouse!

Bonding with Celia over hard rock and metal music because, at least to me, Celia (at the time) did not seem like the type of girl who would like that type of music. She is just such a sweet, gentle, kind, and caring soul. She knows a lot about a lot, especially when it comes to farming and the environment, and she’s a lot of fun to work with. She’s very easygoing and one of the hardest workers I’ve met my age. After those couple of weeks, I met my other coworkers Natalie (who I already knew), Cassie, Liv, and Louisa. We worked hard all summer growing, nurturing and harvesting a variety of plants/vegetables: lettuce, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, peas, green beans, a variety of flowers, and more.

Nine small buckets of sweet strawberries from the hoop house and permaculture garden gathered in a yellow bucket
Beautiful and sweet strawberries from the hoop house and permaculture garden!
One of the 3 varieties of open pollinated heirloom corn grown at the farm this year, Glass Gem (from Fruition Seeds), a variety of many reds and yellows
One of the 3 varieties of open pollinated heirloom corn we grew at the farm this year – this one is called Glass Gem and is from Fruition Seeds.
A collection of red, yellow, orange, and pink blooms from the field as summer leans towards fall
Beautiful blooms from the field as summer leans towards fall.

I’m not going to lie being an employee at the farm is hard work. There’s a lot of squatting up and down, digging through dirt, and other physically exhausting activities. Not only that we had to worry about the power of the sun. I would come home some days drenched in sweat and caked in dirt just feeling gross.

Two people sit in the dirt fields to plant delicate squash on a sunny day
Natt and Celia taking care to plant the delicate squash.

However, it was more than worth it. The farm has probably been the most positive work environment I’ve been a part of. My coworkers and boss are always supportive, thoughtful, generous, and relaxed. Some days I would come into work exhausted because of my shenanigans the night before and my coworkers would always help pick me up and brought the best out of me even when I didn’t think I had it in me. Plus, on rough days, Bridget would buy us coffee or let us take breaks when she knew we were struggling. My coworkers, boss, and I had such great banter as well. I’ll never forget the amount of wacky conversations and just weirdness that we all displayed on the farm (especially after losing our minds weeding the watermelons and harvesting potatoes for weeks). Throughout the summer all of us got pretty close and honestly it feels weird to call them coworkers or my boss, not to sound too cheesy, but to an extent I consider us a family.

Five women stand joyously in the dirt fields, arms in the air, as they plant winter squash
Louisa, Elaina, Cassie, Natalie and Celia love planting winter squash!

So, the question remains what did we do with all of our crops? Well the whole point of the farm surrounds the idea of food justice. In the neighboring small city of Brockton there is a serious lack of access to organic/healthy food. Brockton is a they say a food desert. So, to help make this situation better we donate most of our produce to organizations like My Brother’s Keeper, Easton Food Pantry, The Evelyn House, and others that deliver and serve fresh food to those in Brockton who desperately need it. The rest of our produce goes to our mobile markets on Wednesdays. During these days we take our harvest to two separate locations in Brockton and hold a market. The residents of the surrounding area get vouchers to purchase food, so they do not have to use their own money.

Four people sit in the bed of a pickup truck next to five yellow buckets of various veggies, ready to deliver to the Easton Food Pantry
Smoolca, Beth Cronin, Celia and Natt prep a delivery to the Easton Food Pantry in August.
Five people stand, arms around each other, in front of the Mobile Market van parked in a lot
Some of the folks who help make the markets great!
A colorful blackboard menu in front of a market table advertises Farm Fresh veggies for sale, from cucumbers to kale, parsley to cilantro, and more
A nice blend of summer and fall veggies at a market in early September.

The markets can be a lot of fun, but very hectic at times. We can run out of favorite vegetables (like watermelons and corn) and if customers do not get in line early enough the vegetables that they were hoping to buy may be gone by the time it’s their turn in line. Sometimes the customers get impatient if they are waiting in line for a long time, think they are paying too much for their vegetables, or a translator is helping another customer so they have to wait. It’s also a struggle because many residents of Brockton are from other parts of the world and English is a second language so we have to rely on our good friends from the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center to help boost communication. At first, their impatience bothered me, but then I thought about it from their perspective. These people deal with a constant struggle to take care of themselves and their families due to a number of stresses that might include some level of poverty. Every day could be a fight to survive due to lack of food security, and if they can’t seize opportunities like the market to the fullest extent it may be difficult or even impossible to find organic, local, nutritious, seasonal produce that week. However, overall, I’d say the market is very successful and helps every customer that comes to our tent.

The summer Farm crew of six enjoy some delicious vegetarian dishes at the end of season farm potluck, sitting at a wooden picnic table underneath the shade of the trees
Our summer crew enjoy some delicious vegetarian dishes at the end of season farm potluck.

I am grateful that I had this opportunity to work at the farm. I’ve made some great friends and learned a lot. I am sad summer has come to an end and my last year in college has started. However, Bridget has rehired me to work on the farm during the year so I will continue to be working throughout the school year. Not going to lie it’s going to be tough to balance applying to grad school, playing rugby, doing schoolwork, and working a job on top of that. However, I think that my job at the farm will help me get into a good routine and a nice way to take a break from the stressors in my life. I’m excited to see what else I’m going to learn and experience in my coming months on the farm.

 

 

Categories
Community Greenhouse Reflections Spring 2019 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Brimming With Hope as the Supermoon Rises

The first day of Spring arrives, and I find myself brimming with hope for another amazing season at The Farm.

My early morning walks with Zuri around the fields are filled with soft, warm light dancing on the frost covered grasses. It is hard to believe that in a few short months the morning dew will offer a welcome coolness compared the blazing midday heat.

A purple crocus flower blooms and peeks out of dead leaves covering the ground, a sign of Spring coming soon
We find a crocus on an early morning walk – a sure sign that Spring is arriving soon.

This is the time of year when we pause to drink in the sun – lifting our chins towards the sky like turtles sunbathing on boulders in a stream – thankful for the warmth the rays bring to our faces and to our sleepy spirits.

A bright circle - the supermoon - shines high above the treeline at the Farm
The full moon in March is also known as the Worm Moon and is a supermoon! Here it is rising above the trees that line the eastern edge of the field and Rt. 138.

Perhaps it is the power of the full moon on the solstice, but there is something intoxicating about the start of this season.  Highs and lows from the previous season are already fading as the fields start to green, the garlic starts to sprout and the seedlings start to grow.

The seeds are the focus this time of year – when will be planting the onions? the kale? the snapdragons? What will thrive and what will bend despite or due to the challenge of drought or disease?  We create our seeding charts and dutifully fill trays with nutrient rich soil.  We provide water and sunlight.

It is then that the magic happens – we watch as the seedlings emerge. Some of them, like onions and leeks are gangly, lean and angular, while others like snapdragons and Matricaria (a member of the Chamomile tribe) are symmetrical and almost glamorous as they dance in their morning or afternoon shower.

Thin, stringy onion sprouts grow up and out from a series of plastic trays
Unruly onions burst from their seeds – the greens grow a bit taller and straighter each day.
A close up on a matricaria flower sprout slowly beginning to sprout in one of the trays, its small green leaves revealing their complex symmetry
A new flower for us this year – Matricaria – has intricate and symmetrical seedlings right from the first days they appear.

I am reminded of the essential living and nonliving components that help our farm thrive: the students and community members who arrive early and stay as long as they can to plant the seeds, the nutrients in the soil, the water that transports the nutrients into the roots of the seedlings, and the sun which beckons our young plants to grow.

A woman works with over a dozen students in the greenhouse to plant thousands of seeds during on crowded tables for volunteer hours
Celia (center in purple t-shirt) and 13 volunteers help to plant thousands of seeds during volunteer hours on Friday, March 15th.

 

It will not be long before the fields are filled with flowers and veggies bending and swaying with the elements as they produce glorious blooms and fruits that fill our hearts and bellies with joy.

These are the magical days of early spring where we dream and hope for a season filled with growth, beauty and joy – I can feel it – can you?

~Bridget

Categories
Summer 2018

New Equipment on the Farm! – by Dalton Griggs

New Equipment on the Farm! 

Guest post by, Dalton Griggs

From the beginning of agriculture, equipment has been used to preform jobs more efficiently. As time has evolved, equipment has as well. New equipment can make a job 10 times more efficient and improve many aspects of a farm as well. The one issue with equipment is emissions. This factor must be considered when choosing to use a machine over a hand tool. This season at The Farm at Stonehill, a Husqvarna mower, with a Honda engine, was purchased to use on the farm and has been a great success.

A man happily pushes a lawnmower across the grassy fields between beds of the Farm
Dalton enjoying his time mowing at the farm!

My History with equipment…

As soon as I was old enough, I have always enjoyed using equipment that has made one’s job easier. In Connecticut, my family owns about 3 acres, and has numerous pieces of equipment to help maintain it. From lawnmowers ranging to brush cutters, I have had numerous experiences with equipment. The new lawn mower at The Farm at Stonehill this season has brought great results, such as weed control, and improving associability between potato and flower rows.

One of a few workers pushes a wheel hoe through the rows of the Farm to keep the winter squash weed free
Dalton’s other great skill this summer was wheel hoeing. This tool and his hard work kept our winter squash very happy – and weed free up through harvest time.

Chainsaw…

For years in Connecticut, we used a light duty chainsaw to cut firewood for our fireplace. The home light chainsaw would struggle to cut maple and oak trees. Once we purchased a medium duty, Stihl Ms 391 Chainsaw, the job was done quick and simple. This showed the job improvement a new piece of equipment can do.

Cost… price vs productivity

When one is purchasing a piece of equipment, one must weigh the price of the equipment and the physical gain. For instance, with the new chainsaw, the amount of gas used is much less, because the new Stihl is quicker and more fuel efficient than the old chainsaw. Despite to cost of the new chainsaw, the benefits of using less gas counteract the expense.

With the Husqvarna lawn mower, grass could be mowed between rows, aiding to reduce weeds and make harvesting produce, especially the potatoes much easier. Numerous daily farm tasks, such as removing potatoes beetles, picking flower bouquets, weeding, and various other tasks are made easier due to the cut weeds and grass from the lawn mower. It appears to be a worth while investment. I currently have a cub cadet push mower, however formerly had a troy built with a Honda engine lawn mower. The Honda engine does seem to hold up very well. The one we had lasted roughly eight years, mowing a good 6 hours every week.

One of a few workers pushes a wheel hoe through the rows of the Farm to keep the winter squash weed free
Dalton’s other great skill this summer was wheel hoeing. This tool and his hard work kept our winter squash very happy – and weed free up through harvest time.

Lawn mowing tricks…

I have many years of experience with power equipment, from maintaining to operating, I have developed many methods to help get the job done. I never really thought about my mowing methods, until this year at The Farm at Stonehill.

Pertaining to push mowers, I tend to pop the front wheels off the ground when raising the deck quickly, very helpful when avoiding rocks, and drip tape (at the farm). If one shifts their weight to the back of the machine, it is helpful to turn around. Is also great to add fuel additives prior to mowing. This helps to reduce ethanol residue in the fuel lines. This helps to extend the life of the equipment. Corns leads to the issue of Food Justice, should corn be used to be added to gasoline or used to provide food. Unfortunately, almost all corn is modified some bit, GMO’s have been proved to be unhealthy. This leads to why I want to work at The Farm at Stonehill.

A man in a cowboy hat holds a sugar snap pea between two fingers to show it off to the camera
Sugar Snap Pea, anyone?

The improvement of the farm overall…

As previously mentioned, a new piece of equipment can greatly improve a farm overall. From weeding, harvesting, and finding potatoes beetles, a lawn mower greatly improves a farm. It is amazing to see how all the tasks can be improved by just a simple piece of equipment.

Why I farm…

I have always had an interest in the outdoors, from when I was a young boy in Canton CT. I am an avid fisherman and love all things outdoors, including hiking and kayaking. My family has had a large garden as well, helping to fuel my love of gardening and growing produce.

A few people gather at a wooden picnic table to keep yellow buckets of veggies cool in the shade on a market day
Summer farmer, Shelby, a regular visitor from the community, Dick Costa and Summer farmer and author, Dalton keep veggies cool in the shade on a market day.

I went to school at Northwest Catholic H.S., located in West Hartford CT. Being close to Hartford, we had many programs that would help people in the community. My interest in helping others and love of the outdoors is why I am at The Farm at Stonehill. It is great to enjoy something, while helping others in the greater community. By growing food for those in need, one is making a big difference when healthy produce can be accessible. This is important to the community and myself because fresh vegetables is a healthy choice for meals. It is important to help others in one’s community because a little help can greatly change someone’s life. I am thankful to be able to make a difference by providing fresh produce to those in need at The Farm at Stonehill!

Categories
The Farm at Stonehill

Summer 2017 is Here!

A few bright yellow sunflowers held with some other smaller, duller ones
A few of our glorious sunflowers.

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.

The second hoophouse is filled with tall leafy cuke plants growing up trellises
Cukes growing up their trellises in Hoophouse 2.

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.

Two people pose alongside some beds of plants in the Farm

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.

A poster advertises the Wednesday afternoons, 3:00-4:00 time slot for "The Farm at Stonehill Mobile Market" with a series of dates and locations above pictures of various veggies
Mobile Market Dates, Times and Locations.

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.

~~~

Flowers

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: bmeigs@stonehill.edu

A collection of purple and white flowers mixed together to make beautiful bouquets
Flowers abound!

 ~~~

Find The Farm at Stonehill on Facebook and “like us” of follow us on Instagram (#thefarmatstonehill) to stay connected to Farm happenings.

The Farm at Stonehill is a community effort and we invite you to stop by to visit and lend a hand.

Categories
Winter 2016

Five Years and Growing Strong

Zuri and I visited the farm - Friday, February 5th.
The fields are bundled in a layer of white insulation – Zuri welcomes the snow on February 5th, 2016.

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.

Bringing in a healthy garlic harvest with helpers Christine, John, Michelle and Melissa, July 2015.
Bringing in a bountiful garlic harvest with helpers Christine, John, Michelle and Melissa, July 2015.

~~~

Tim and Alana help to polit our Mobile Market - Fall 2015.
Tim and Alana help to pilot our Mobile Market – Fall 2015.

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.

partnering up with UMASS Nutrition services - Ratatouille
We enjoyed partnering up with UMASS Nutrition Services who prepared ratatouille from our veggies and shared the easy and healthy recipe with customers who could then purchase all of the necessary fresh ingredients from our market to make the dish.

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.

Mobile Market Sprinter Van donation.
This Sprinter Van, donated by Stonehill parents Craig and Lisa Hyslip, will become our Mobile Market van during the 2016 growing season.

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.

1 of our 4 main partners
The Easton Food Pantry receives about one-quarter to one-third of all of the produce that we grow at The Farm. I always enjoy dropping off our veggies to Glen on Monday mornings.

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 learnand the gifts of the farmnew friendships, honey made from the nectar, and knowledge learned through experiences.

some fall harvesters!
It was such a productive year – here two volunteers help to harvest produce and keep Zuri company (or course!) on a warm October afternoon.

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.

preserving the harvest
Melissa, Madison and Tori prepare tomatoes for a “tomato conserva” under the guidance of Geoff Lukas at The Farm in September.

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.

Milkweed thrives in the fields behind The Farm - reminding us that our 1.5 acres is a part of a biodiverse mosaic of habitats.
Milkweed thrives in the fields behind The Farm – reminding us that our 1.5 acres is a part of a much larger ecosystem comprised of a biodiverse mosaic of habitats.

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!

Our honey made a nice holiday gift - allowing members of the Stonehill community to enjoy the benefits of local, raw honey!
Our honey made a nice holiday gift – allowing members of the Stonehill community to enjoy the benefits of local, raw honey!

  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.

wedding flowers late August 2015.
Here is one of the bride’s bouquets that we created in August!

~~~

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.

Spinach Harvest - February 1, 2016.
Jake Rafferty (2016) helped me harvest some spinach on February 1, 2016.

~~~

10 pounds of luscious spinach from 3 rows in Hoophouse #2.
Here are the 10 pounds of luscious spinach that came from the three rows pictured above.  They were bagged and donated to My Brother’s Keeper that morning.

~~~

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. 

so many upbeat and hard working volunteers - the key to our farm's success!
so many upbeat and hard working volunteers – the key to our farm’s success!

~~~

Shoveling out Hoophouse 2!
Madison and Emily met me at The Farm on February 5th to shovel out our hoophouses.

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!

snowman with a radish nose...
Once the shoveling was done, Maddie and Emily created this little guy to watch over the fields for us until warmer days returns!

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!

 

Categories
Community Spring 2014 Spring Cultivation The Farm at Stonehill

All A-Buzz at The Farm

Guest Post: All A-Buzz at The Farm

By, Devin Ingersoll (2014)

As the weather warms up there is something new buzzing about among the fruits and veggies at the Farm at Stonehill – Italian Honey Bees!

photo of Some of our honeybees hard at work on June 13th.
Some of our honey bees – hard at work on June 13th.

            In May of this year the Farm began working with The Best Bees Company, a company based out of the South End of Boston, MA offering beekeeping services to over 200 clients throughout New England in rural, suburban, and urban habitats.  All profits fund research to improve honey bee  health at the Urban Beekeeping Laboratory & Bee Sanctuary, also located in the South End.  The company installed our very own beehive stocked with Italian Honey Bees on May 16th. The hive is located near a boggy area (for water) and our Apple Orchard, but the bees can travel up to 5 miles from the hive as they complete their work and will happily pollinate our crops for this season and years to come. 

picture of The bees will help to pollinate many of our crops, including our apples.  Pictured here: Crimson Gold Apple Blossom - located about 100 feet from our hive.
The bees will help to pollinate many of our crops, including our apples. Pictured here: Crimson Gold Apple Blossom – located about 100 feet from our hive.

           Why Italian honey bees, you say?  This species of honey bee is known for its productivity and docile nature – hardworking and friendly (a lot like our farm crew!).  Beekeepers will come out to the hive once a month to check on the bees and at the end of the season harvest the honey and wax for us as well.  The company provides friendly and informative monthly reports like this:

Dear Bridget,

After checking your hive last Thursday, we are happy to report that your hive is very active and healthy.  The queen has been laying, giving your colony around 8 frame sides of brood.  There are nearly 4 frame sides of honey production under way, but nothing fully capped to pull yet.  We added a second box to your hive, giving your bees another 20 frame sides to inhabit. Your colony is utilizing 16 out of the now 40 frame sides currently in place. 

Warm Regards,
Operations at Best Bees

Alia, one of the beekeepers informed us that we may see up to 10-20 lbs of honey this first season.  Depending upon the amount of honey we see we will decide upon where it will be sold or donated – keep an eye on the blog for more information on this as the season progresses!

photo oHoney bees arrive on May 16th. The beekeeper pictured here is looking for the queen.
Honey bees arrive on May 16th. The beekeeper pictured here is looking for the queen.

            Honey bees live in a very well-organized and well-maintained hives usually in small, enclosed spaces.  Humans have used this trait to their advantage and have created boxes where honeybees are usually perfectly happy to create a home. The bees work together to build their geometric honeycombs from wax secreted from their abdomens.  Each individual honeycomb hexagon is used to store pollen, honey, or developing bee larva.  Just as caterpillars turn into butterflies, bees undergo metamorphosis as they transform from the egg to larva to pupa to adult honeybee. 

photo of Alia, a Beekeeper from Best Bees shows me a healthy crew of our honey bees on June 13th - less than 1 month after installation!
Alia, a Beekeeper from Best Bees shows me a healthy crew of our honey bees on June 13th – less than 1 month after installation!

            When you peek into the hive thousands of bees – our hive was started with around 10,000 bees – are busily buzzing about performing their designated tasks.  Each hive has one queen bee that lays all of the eggs for the hive (up to 1,000 a day!). The majority hatch into worker bees who take care of the larvae, build and clean the nest, and leave the hive to forage for food all in their 5-7 week lifespan.  Lastly there are about 100-500 male or drone bees that hatch and subsequently leave the nest to mate with other queens in hives nearby and immediately die.

photo of Rows and rows of tomatoes will soon produce flowers and undoubtedly be visited by the honey bees from the nearby hive.
Rows and rows of tomatoes will soon produce flowers and undoubtedly be visited by the honey bees from the nearby hive.

            As worker bees forage for food (pollen and nectar) from the flowering plants nearby they also act as pollinators for those plants. Without pollination the plants could not complete their life cycle and produce all of the fruits and seeds necessary to continue life as we know it – there would be no fruits or seeds to provide energy to humans and all living things to thrive. We need bees and other beneficial insects, no matter how small, to ensure a healthy ecosystem.

photo of The Lady Bug - especially while in it's larvae stage - is another beneficial and naturally occurring insect thriving at our farm - they are known for their good work of eating soft-bodied pests like aphids.
The Lady Bug – especially while in it’s larvae stage – is another beneficial and naturally occurring insect thriving at our farm – they are known for their good work of eating soft-bodied pests like aphids.

As the summer rolls on we are excited to see the bees buzzing about knowing that without the bees and other pollinators our crops – flowers, veggies, fruits and herbs – would not be as bountiful and delicious as they are today!

photo of The Lady Bug - especially while in it's larvae stage - is another beneficial and naturally occurring insect thriving at our farm - they are known for their good work of eating soft-bodied pests like aphids.
Our first bouquet of the season picked on June 13th. The bees will love these flower and we, in turn, will enjoy all of the colors and perfumes they provide.

~~~

photo of I hold up our first - of many - bouquets that we will harvest this summer!
Farm Manager Bridget holds up our first of many bouquets that we will harvest this summer. Lots of rain last week with sun this week will produce hundreds of blossoms – which will make our bees and customers very happy!

             For more information about the social behavior of bees check out the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium following and Beespotter.

            Maybe you may want to try out beekeeping for yourself next year – check out this site for some information to get you started!

            Next time you are at the Farm check out the hive (next to the compost pile) and watch our bees buzzing about!  

 

 

Categories
Spring 2014 Spring Volunteers 2014 The Farm at Stonehill

Spring’s First Heralds Hum!

With temperatures falling into the teens at night for much of March, it feels like an understatement to say we have had a slow start to spring  here in Easton, MA.  In his poem, “I Have a Rendezvous With Life, ” Countee Cullen includes the line “I have a rendezvous with Life, When spring’s first heralds hum.”  This year it is almost as if Spring is waking up a bit late and almost lackadaisically going about getting herself ready for a very important date with the calendar.  Rest assured, I’m confident that the tilt of the earth and the intensifying sun rays will hurry her along and these colder days will be replaced by warmer days before we know it!

photo of Crocuses burst from the earth despite frigid nighttime temperatures on March 20th.
Crocuses burst from the earth despite frigid nighttime temperatures (March 20, 2014).

At The Farm at Stonehill, we are making good use of this slower start to the season to organize our growing spaces and to plant early crops like onions, greens and flowers to ensure a productive fourth season!  Regular “Farm Friday” volunteer hours will recommence on April 10th promptly at 2:30, but thankfully some of the students have started to appear at The Farm to lend a hand even though they must do so clad in hats, gloves and windbreakers to keep out the chill.

photo of Kraig, Gabby, Dan and Devin use the wind to help them fold up a tarp that was used to protect a sling bag of our seed starting Fort Vee mix from Vermont Compost from the elements during the winter.
Kraig, Gabby, Dan and Devin use the wind to help them fold up a tarp that was used to protect a sling bag of our seed starting Fort Vee mix from Vermont Compost from the elements during the winter.

Volunteers have helped to clean up our hoophouse to make way for trays upon trays of seedlings that are currently germinating in the greenhouse at Shields Science Center.

photo of volunteers
Kaylie Bissonnette and Kayleigh McDonnell (both students in the Sustainable Agriculture class) help to clean up an experimental plot from last year’s Sustainable Agriculture class.

Some of the projects seem small, but to the farmers at Stonehill, an organized hoophouse, is satisfying and beautiful thing to behold – especially when we picture the tables filled with trays teeming with a diverse array of crops!

photo of Chris, Burke and Kraig help to set up seeding tables.
Chris, Burke and Kraig help to set up seeding tables.

It won’t be long before these onion seeds have germinated and turn from brown to green (or red and purple)…

photo of Seeding onions on March 6th under sunny skies in the hoophouse.
Seeding onions on March 6th under sunny skies in the hoophouse.

…like these beets,

photo of Beets seedling drink in the sun in the greenhouse.
Early Wonder Beet seedlings drink in the sun in the greenhouse.

…these lettuce,

photo of two star lettuce seedlings
Two Star Lettuce Seedlings.

…and these Mesclun Mix seedlings.

photo of mesclun mix
My favorite – High Mowing Mesclun Mix!

In addition to our intrepid volunteers, we have had other visitors to The Farm, like Candidate for Lieutenant Governor James Arena-Derosa  in Massachusetts.  One of the main focuses of his campaign is “Ending Hunger While Creating Jobs” and he took some time while he was on campus to visit with me and Professor Chris Wetzel at The Farm and also meet with students in my Sustainable Agriculture class to share his views on the matter.  We all enjoyed his visit and wish him the best of luck with his campaign.

photo of Candidate for Lt. Governor of Massachusetts, James Arena-Derosa visited with me and Chris during his visit to the campus on March 17th.
Candidate for Lt. Governor of Massachusetts, James Arena-Derosa visited with me and Chris at The Farm during his visit to the campus on March 17th.

Unlikely as it may seem, Spring is arriving and bringing the sensation of softer fields underfoot, the lively whooshing of running water in the melting streams, and the cheerful songs of Spring Peepers and Robins.  

It won’t be long before Season #4 is in full swing!

photo of Melissa, Burke, Kaylie, Gabby, Kraig, Devin, Chris, Dan and Kayleigh - basking in the post volunteer hours glow.
Melissa, Burke, Kaylie, Gabby, Kraig, Devin, Chris, Dan and Kayleigh – basking in the post volunteer hours glow.

Stay tuned for updates on the true arrival of spring here – with exciting news about the college’s commitment to Real Food to come in my next post!

photo Zuri is happy that mud season has arrived and is looking forward to welcoming any and all volunteers to The Farm!
Zuri is happy that mud season has arrived and is looking forward to welcoming volunteers to The Farm!

 

Categories
Community Fall 2013 Fall Cultivation 2013 Fall Harvest 2013 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Students Make Light Work of Fall Harvest

My calendar tells me that it still summer, yet the start of classes and the ripening winter squash in the field indicate that the fall is upon us!

photo of I work with some of the volunteers who joined us at The Farm this Friday to help bring in our first round of Butternut and Spaghetti Squash.
I join some of the volunteers in our field of winter squash this Friday to help bring in our first round of Butternut and Spaghetti Squash.

We have been lucky to host a number of groups during this busy time of the year who enthusiastically jump right in to help harvest ripe vegetables at their peak.

Farmers Gabby, Breanne and Sean with Rocky Ford Melon Smiles.
Farmers Gabby, Breanne and Sean display their Rocky Ford Melon Smiles.

Some of the groups include students and staff participating the Resident Assistant and Moreau Student Minister day of service, freshmen involved in the Into The Streets day of service, students enrolled in The Food Politics Learning Community, and students and staff volunteering during “Farm Fridays” – offered every Friday from 2:30-5:00pm, weather permitting.

Photo of student harvesting veggies
Summer Farmer Alphonse picks tomatoes with RAs and Moreau Student Ministers.

It is a busy time of year and I am happy to have the help with the harvest, while Zuri is very pleased to bask in the attention of her admirers.

Conner and Tom, take a break from their work in the fields to visit with Zuri.
Conner and Tom, take a break from their work in the fields to visit with Zuri.

Some of the crops we are currently harvesting include 9 different varieties of tomatoes, 2 varieties of eggplant, 2 varieties of sweet peppers, 3 varieties of hot peppers, 4 varieties of winter squash.

photo of Rose de Berne tomatoes
Rose de Berne Tomatoes – my favorite heirloom variety.

Our community partners at My Brother’s Keeper, The Easton Food Pantry, The Table an Father Bill’s and MainSpring, and The Family Life Center of the Old Colony YMCA tell us that everything is being enjoyed in countless ways – salsas, sauces, salads, and pasta dishes to name a few dishes.

Tomatoes - sorted and boxed up for delivery.
Tomatoes – sorted and boxed up for delivery.

~~~

Some of the veggies picked by the RAs and Moreau Student Ministers went to The Easton Food Pantry.
Some of the veggies picked by the RAs and Moreau Student Ministers went to The Easton Food Pantry.

~~~

To date we have harvested and delivered over 8,500 pounds of organic produce – and some of the heavier and nutrient packed crops such as winter squash and sweet potatoes are just starting to come in.

Candy and Red Baron Onions cure in the hoop house.
Candy and Red Baron Onions cure in the hoophouse.

Our onions and winter squash are curing up well in the hoophouse next to trays filled with spinach and lettuce seedlings for fall production.  I love walking into the hoophouse this time of year and seeing the fruits of season long care and labor lined up next to young plants that are only just beginning to make the move out to the fields where they will grow to their full potential.

photo ofGreens growing on the left and harvested Spaghetti and Waltham Butternut Squash curing on the right.
Greens growing on the left and harvested Spaghetti and Waltham Butternut Squash curing on the right.

This past Farm Friday, on August 30th, Breanne Penkala (2015), a seasoned farmer and the TA for the Food Politics Learning Community suggested that we make salsa at The Farm to invite our farm volunteers to literally enjoy some of the fruits of their labor.

photo of chefs
Chris and Chanel jumped right in and got to work chopping up the tomatoes, cilantro, habanero and jalapeno peppers, garlic, and onions for the salsa party.

The chefs prepared hot and mild versions to please the palates of all present. The mild version also included diced pieces of Rocky Ford Melon – an heirloom musk melon variety – also grown at The Farm.

Father Jim, VP for Mission, joined us to sample the salsa!
Father Jim, VP for Mission, joined us to sample the salsa!

The Fiesta during Farm Fridays was a huge success – over 35 volunteers came over to help with the harvest – and I’m looking forward to doing more events like this to reward the many helpers who make light work of harvesting hundreds, if not thousands of pounds of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, winter squash, and greens with us!

photo of Some of the volunteers who came out for our first Farm Friday to help harvest veggies and to enjoy farm fresh salsa!
Some of the volunteers who came out for our first Farm Friday to help harvest veggies and to enjoy farm fresh salsa!

We will continue to harvest a wide range of veggies as we weed and cultivate fall crops for the next couple of months. We look forward to seeing you in the fields!

photo of flowers
Flower bouquets lined up and awaiting delivery to customers on the main campus.
Categories
Community Community Partners Summer 2013 Summer Cultivation 2013 Summer Harvest 2013 Summer Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Long (mostly) Sunny Days Yield Bountiful Fields

The fields are producing veggies and flowers galore for us this summer. We’ve already harvested and donated over 800 pounds of our organic veggies – mostly lettuce, greens like kale, collards, and chard, onions, zucchini, and summer squash.  Our yields are higher than last year, due to careful cultivation and applications of rich compost, and we expect them to really explode now that the heavier crops like cucumbers and summer squash as starting to appear.

Beth of My Brother's Keeper picks up summer squash and kale on June 27th for their clients in Brockton.
Beth Sheehan of My Brother’s Keeper picks up summer squash and kale on June 27th for their clients in Brockton.

The veggies are all finding homes with our partners: The Easton Food Pantry, My Brother’s Keeper, The Family Life Center of the Old Colony YMCA, and The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring.

~~~

So far, the rain has not impacted our production in a negative way, but we are keeping an eye out for any sign of Early Blight on our tomatoes or Downy Mildew in the squash.

Raised Beds help to keep the tomatoes and eggplants dry - reducing the possible spread of diseases like Early Blight.
Raised Beds help to keep the tomatoes and eggplants dry – reducing the possible spread of diseases like Early Blight.

Raised beds are helping to keep any flooding in fields from damaging the plants.

Squash, Pepper and Zucchini Plants - healthy and starting to produce fruits and flowers.
Squash, Pepper and Zucchini Plants – healthy and starting to produce fruits and flowers.

When the sun does shine, honeybees return to the fields and love the clover that grows around the shed and greenhouse. This is MOSTLY a good thing, except for bare or flip flop clad feet of unaware farmers – namely, Farmer Manager Meigs. I managed to get 2 stings this past week, one on my right pinkie toe and the other, a few days later on the arch of my left foot. Here is what I learned:

1. Remove the stinger ASAP.

2. If you work on a farm, grab an onion, break it open and rub it on the effected area!

I was much better at these steps the second time around!

(I suppose I could also wear close-toed shoes… but that’s a bit extreme, don’t you think?)

Honeybee hard at work - beware barefooted farmers!
Honeybee hard at work – beware barefooted farmers!

~~~

We are happy to bear witness to the changing colors of the fields – from greens to golds in the rows of summer squash, and a wide array colors in our flower beds.

Early bouquets arranged for a celebration for Father Mark Creagan in Boston in early June.
Early bouquets arranged for a celebration for Father Mark Cregan in Boston in early June.

There is something magical about the way that seemingly overnight the yellow flowers appear on the squash, cucumber and tomato plants and white and purple flowers bloom on the eggplant and potato plants.

Summer Squash ready for the picking on June 28th.
Summer Squash ready for the picking on June 28th.

The nutrients and moisture in the soil and the energy from the sun provide most of the fuel for the bounty appearing in the fields, but some of the credit also goes to my 3 hard working summer farmers, Devin, Jake, and Alphonse, and to the volunteers.

Jake and Alphonse - on the hunt for Colorado Potato Beetles.
Jake and Alphonse – on the hunt for Colorado Potato Beetles in one of the rows of eggplant.
"Harvested" Colorado Potato Beetles - before they were disposed of.
“Harvested” Colorado Potato Beetles – before they were disposed of.

On Friday afternoons, a number of students working in Admission and some of our college staff  appear on the scene to help us tackle larger projects like hilling the potatoes.

Volunteers hill 5 rows of potatoes with us on Friday afternoon.
Volunteers hill 5 rows of potatoes with us on Friday afternoon.

~~~

Abbey, Christina, Tom, and Anthony pause for a quick smile before going back to work.
Abbey, Christina, Tom, and Anthony pause for a quick smile before going back to work.

~~~

Our youngest volunteer this season, Liam, plays in the compost while mom, Kim Wheeler, works in the fields.
Our youngest volunteer so far this season, Liam, plays in the compost while mom, Kim Wheeler (in blue), works in the field with Lisa Gualtieri.

~~~

Alphonse makes sure that Liam doesn't eat too much compost ;).
Alphonse makes sure that Liam doesn’t eat too much compost!

Sometimes we are lucky enough to receive an extra hand on weekdays or on a Saturday from Stonehill alums or from local groups looking to lend a hand.

Farmer Devin and Volunteer Evan Sorgi (2013) weed a row of beets.
Farmer Devin and Volunteer Evan Sorgi (2013) weed a row of beets.

~~~

A welcome surprise visit from Nick Howard (2013) - still growing smiles!
A welcome surprise visit from Nick Howard (2013) – still growing smiles!

~~~

Two members of a Loyola University Alumni volunteer group help us stake "Tomatoes 2".
Two members of a Loyola University Alumni volunteer group help us stake “Tomatoes 2”.

Zuri keeps busy protecting our tender greens by warding off bunnies.  She then enjoys joining us for a rest during lunch before heading out for her afternoon rounds.

The team takes lunch!
The team takes lunch!

~~~

On my morning and afternoon strolls around the fields, it’s easy to feel like I can actually SEE the squash and cukes growing right before my eyes.

Marie helps to hill and feed the potatoes.
Marie helps to hill and feed the potatoes.

With the help of rich compost our crops and flowers are flourishing!

Devin and Jake help fill up a van from My Brother's Keeper.
Devin and Jake help fill up a van from My Brother’s Keeper.

~~~

Flower bouquets out for delivery on campus.
Flower bouquets out for delivery on campus.

We invite you to come join us for a visit or a quick hour or two of planting, harvesting or… you guessed it… weeding!

If you would like to place a flower order, please email me and we’ll create an arrangement filled with Snapdragons, Cosmos, Zinnias, Black Eyed Susan, Sweet William, Salvia and Statice (bmeigs@stonehill.edu).

Early flower bouquets.
Early flower bouquets.
Categories
Spring 2013 Spring Cultivation 2013 Spring Projects 2013 Spring Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill

It’s Always a Party at The Farm

The fields at The Farm have been hopping over the past couple of weeks!

Father Jim Lies, VP for Mission, and a few more volunteers prepare to plant cucumber seeds.
Father Jim Lies, VP for Mission, and a few more volunteers prepare to plant cucumber seeds.

We have been enjoying the start of spring by joining in the fun of the Earth Day Party on the quad, welcoming classes and volunteers to the farm to help plant everything from grapes to onions, and participating in the Mentoring Through Art courses’ end-of-year celebrations.

So many Tomato Seedlings coming along nicely!
So many Tomato Seedlings coming along nicely!

It is exciting to watch the fields and bordering trees fill with all of the pale yellows and greens of early spring.

Evan Sorgi, Tom Bowes and Ryan Zayac, all graduating seniors help to plant lettuce.
Evan Sorgi, Tom Bowes and Ryan Zayac, all graduating seniors, help to plant lettuce.

Our “Farm Fridays” remain popular, and keep me busy putting our energetic volunteers to work!

Catherine, Paige and Lauren plant Bok Choy!
Catherine, Paige and Lauren plant Bok Choy!

 ~~~

Happy volunteers on a Farm Friday!
Happy volunteers on a Farm Friday plant summer squash, cucumbers and zucchini.

~~~

We have also had the pleasure of participating in events on campus like the Earth Day Party to celebrate sustainability at Stonehill.  Students from the Real Food Stonehill group, a sub-group of a new Provisional SGA Group: “Food Truth”, shared kale chips and carrot bread (made with veggies from Langwater Farm) and Great Blue Hill blue cheese from Marion, MA (donated by Sodexo), and encouraged people to think about why what we eat matters for the health of the planet and for the health of those who grow it and eat it!

Catie Barros and Breanne Penkala (Class of 2015) share "real food" treats.
Catie Barros and Breanne Penkala (Class of 2015) share “real food” treats.

Students from the Real Food group asked their peers to share why they want Real Food…

Why do YOU want Real Food?
Why do YOU want Real Food?

…and asked them to sign a petition supporting the Real Food Challenge.

Real Food Challenge Petition
Real Food Challenge Petition

There were over 20 other groups present working on a number of different sustainability initiative including members of the No To-Go campaign, Meatless Monday, Zipcar, Democratic Education, and many more.

Paige Begley and Jess Mardo (Class of 2013) encourage reuse rather than waste.
Paige Begley and Jess Mardo (Class of 2013), major leaders in the “No To-Go” container initiative, encourage reuse rather than waste.

Many students visited the tables to learn about how to get involved…

Students visit different groups involved in sustainability on campus.
Students visit different groups involved in sustainability on campus.

…and enjoyed music by Dan & The Wildfire.

Dan & The Wildfire bringing the fair to life!
Dan & The Wildfire bringing the fair to life!

~~~

Meanwhile, back on The Farm, Father Steve Wilbricht’s Ecology and Religion class was hard at work planting a vineyard near the Legacy Orchard.

Planting the Vineyard!
Planting the Vineyard!

The students, Father Steve and I dug into the soil, putting up a strong trellis to support the one-day flourishing vines!

Andrew gets ready to secure one of the posts for the trellis.
Andrew gets ready to secure one of the posts for the trellis.

In time, it is our hope that these vines will produce grapes and serve as a sweet teaching and learning tool, connecting ecology and a multitude of traditions.

~~~

Over the past week we have also become the lucky recipients of a beautiful mural, created by the Mentoring Through Art Learning Community under the tutelage of Professors Adam Lampton and Ed Jacoubs.

The backdrop for the mural.
A magnificent tree serves as the backdrop for the mural.

With the help of students in the class and some middle school kids from partnering schools in Brockton, a bright and cheerful mural has been created and now hangs on display on the shed at The Farm.

Final product!
Final product!

At the class’s final celebration on Tuesday, April 30th, the class that created the mural was joined by Professor Robertson’s class – mentoring with movement..

Stonehill students dance with their mentees during their final celebration at The Farm.
Stonehill students dance with their mentees during their final celebration at The Farm.

and Professor Walter’s class, which created cheerful signs to label our plants in the fields.

Professor Walter's class poses with Zuri in front of Professor Lampton's class's mural!
Professor Walter’s class poses with Zuri in front of Professor Lampton’s class’s mural!

As you can see, it’s always a party at The Farm…

…and Season 2013 has only just begun!

A crew plants onions. We can't wait to see them grow.
A crew plants onions. We can’t wait to see them grow.