Categories
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 Spring 2012 Spring Cultivation 2012 Spring Harvest 2012 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Students Fill the Fields Rain or Shine

The Farm is bubbling with new life this spring.

The greenhouse is filling with colorful seedlings and student volunteers visit regularly to care for them and ensure that they are getting planted out in the field as soon as possible.

photo of colorful seedlings in the greenhouse
Cabbage, kale, beet, celosia, spinach, and nasturtium seedlings fill the tables in the greenhouse and drink in the mid-April sun.

As you may recall, just over 1 month ago we were experiencing summer-like temperatures and a warm, dry spell, very uncharacteristic of a typical New England Spring.

photo of Bryan and Sean planting onions
Bryan and Sean plant onions in windy, dry weather in the middle of April.

During volunteer hours in early April we were often decked out in our summer best.

photo of volunteers planting fields
Kristen, Andrea, Meaghan, Andrew, Dan, Nick, Maranda, Andrew and Kiera, plant lettuce seedlings and prep more beds with compost to add organic and nutrient rich content to the soil.

Over the past couple of weeks, the weather has shifted a bit and we have been lucky to receive some rain for our newly planted crops.  Between showers we have planted flowers including celosia, snapdragons, salvia, and statice, and vegetables including cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, beets, onions, potatoes, mustard greens, and even some early zucchinis and summer squash out in the field.

Much of this work has been carried out by student volunteers either during volunteer hours or even during class time.

photo of Hannah and Dan
Hannah and Dan - covered in dust and still smiling!

~~~

On the last day of classes, Thursday, May 3rd, I invited students in my class (Environmental Science and the Food Justice LC which I teach with Prof. Sue Mooney) to spend their last Environmental Science class with me at The Farm.

The students weathered the misty, cool weather and got a lot done!

~~~

The early arrivals got right to work harvesting Mesclun Mix and Arugula for My Brother’s Keeper, which was picked up and delivered that day.

photo of Mike harvesting lettuce
Mike helps with our first harvest of the season.

~~~

photo of students with first harvest
Kate, Alyssa, Mike and Kriten display the first harvest of the 2012 season. These greens were picked up by My Brother's Keeper moments later and delivered that day.

~~~

photo of greens
Students harvested, washed and packed 3 pounds of this delicious Mesclun Mix and Arugula for My Brother's Keeper.

 ~~~

The rest of the class kept busy planting winter squash seeds in trays in the greenhouse, beet and red mustard green seedlings and potatoes in the fields, and prepping the beds covered in black plastic mulch for zucchini and summer squash seedlings.

photo of students planting beet seedlings
Becca, Stephanie, Hannah and Emily plant Early Wonder Beet seedlings.

~~~

photo of Catie, Alexa and Jill planting potatotes
Catie, Alexa and Jill plant Red Gold Potatoes.

~~~

photo of Adriana and Sydney planting potatoes
Adriana and Sydney get ready to plant German Butterball Potatoes.

~~~

photo of group planting potatoes
Potato planters: Catie, Adriana, Sydney, Jillian, Alexa, Rosemarie, Sarah and Nick.

~~~

photo of Food Justice LC
33 Members of the Food Justice LC gather for a group shot after planting, weeding, and harvesting on the last day of classes.

~~~

Volunteers are helping The Farm grow in leaps and bounds.

Thanks to their help, we have already filled twenty-three 125′ beds with a wide variety of early season vegetables and some flowers.  We have even started to harvest some of our greens and made small deliveries to My Brother’s Keeper and the Easton Food Pantry.

The steady stream of student volunteers is allowing us to reach more people with fresh, healthy, nutritious and organic vegetables sooner than expected.

~~~

Over the course of the season I look forward to welcoming new and returning students and staff to help with planting, cultivating and harvesting our crops. 

One day – in 3 years or so – we’ll have new jobs like harvesting apples. For now I am happy to see the young trees coming to life out in the field.

Photo of apple tree
Our apple trees are settling into their new home with us.