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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 Green Cabbage: From Seed to Table Our Vision Spring 2011 Spring Harvest 2011 Spring Seedlings 2011 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Lettuce (Let Us) Plant and Harvest

photo of sarah and janine planting
Seniors Sarah and Janine plant red cabbage.

 

The farm is growing in leaps and bounds thanks to help from our community at Stonehill College.  Before the rain of last week Seniors Sarah Bolasevich and Janine DiLorenzo joined me in the fields to plant out red cabbage.  Their help and company provided the ingredients for a fun and productive afternoon.

Photo of Sarah and Janine - yoga at the farm.
Yoga poses and planting cabbage go hand in hand at The Farm.

 

That same week I was joined by Lyn Feeney from the Mission Division, and we planted out beets that were first seeded in the basement of Holy Cross Center on St. Patrick’s Day.

 

Photo of Beets planted out under the row cover
Beets planted with Lyn’s help.

 

The very next day, my friend Dave Kelly, an Easton native, spent his Saturday afternoon with me prepping beds and planting out mustard greens.

photo dave kelly planting red mustard greens
Dave prepares a bed with rich compost for red mustard greens.

The rain started to fall the very next day and did not let up for a week, but the greens were safely in the ground thanks to all of my helpers!

photo of cabbage up close under row cover
The green cabbage enjoys the cool weather.

~~~~~

Under grey skies last week, Senior LucyRose Moller joined me to harvest our first batch of lettuce for The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring.

photo of mesclun greens
Mesclun greens for The Table at Father Bills & MainSpring.

 

Green Romaine, Red Butterhead and Red Leaf Lettuce for Father Bill's & MainSpring.
Green Romaine, Red Butterhead and Red Leaf Lettuce for The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring.

The colors of the mustard greens, tatsoi, and other mesclun greens filled us with joy as we filled our bushel baskets.

Photo of LucyRose with Romaine Lettuce row
LucyRose celebrates as we harvest mesclun greens, romaine and red leaf lettuce.

 

photo of Bridget with first mesclun green harvest
I love lettuce!

 

photo of LucyRose with our first harvest of Mesclun Greens
LucyRose with our first batch of Mesclun Greens.

 

On the morning of Thursday, March 19th, we made our first delivery to Father Bill’s and MainSpring in Brockton, MA just 4 miles from Stonehill campus.  We delivered a variety of Mesclun Greens and Romaine, Red Leaf and Butterhead Lettuce to add local flavor and nutrients to the salad served at the first official lunch meal provided by The Table since they moved over to Father Bill’s from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

 

photo of Kathy, Craig, Dori and Tom at Father Bill's
Kathy, Craig, Dori and Tom happily accept our first gift of Mesclun Greens in the kitchen at Father Bill’s & MainSpring.

 

This was the first of what we plan to be MANY deliveries of fresh vegetables grown by the Stonehill College commumity for our neighbors.

 

 

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.