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.



Community Community Partners Our Vision Reflections Spring 2011 Spring Cultivation 2011 Spring Harvest 2011 Summer 2011 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Early Summer Bounty: Roots, Leaves, Petals, & Fruits for The Table

With the help of healthy soils, mild spring weather, and a growing crew of energetic volunteers, our crops are thriving and a diversifying harvest continues to come out of the field.

photo of red express cabbage heading up!
Our Red Cabbage is getting closer to it's harvest date.


Tim at the farm
Even though Tim works full-time on the Facilities Management team he finds a few hours every day to help out at The Farm.



Each week we are collecting more kinds of roots…

photo of radishes up close
Radishes, fresh from the field, & pre-rinse and delivery to My Brother's Keeper.


photo of green onions
Evergreen Bunching Onions



photo of Bright Lights
Bright Lights Swiss Chard


Photo of Beet Greens
Early Wonder Beet Greens



photo of Nasturtiums
Nasturtiums spice up a mesclun salad mix.


photo of zinnias
Zinnias are some of our flowers! Many more to come.


and fruits…

photo of zucchini and summer squash
Zephyr Summer Squash and Dundoo Zucchini


from our fields…

photo of Brian Harvesting
Brian harvests kale for The Table at Father Bill's and MainSpring on a cool, late spring morning.


…for our partners.


We aim to deliver enough fresh produce to this year’s 3 partners each week to provide at least 1 portion of produce  to the individuals or families they serve.  1 portion could equate to 1/3 to 1/2 lb of kale or swiss chard, 5 beets, 2 to 3 zucchini or summer squash, or a large head of lettuce.


We are currently harvesting 75 portions for My Brother’s Keeper, 30 portions for the Old Colony YMCA and do one large bulk delivery for The Table at Father Bill’s and MainSpring to enrich the nutritious meals the serve up every day to over 150 people.


field from NE corner
Summer color is starting to grow at The Farm.


Come visit us soon and watch the yellow-greens of spring turn deepen to shades that only the long, warm days of summer can bring.