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.

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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.

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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.

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 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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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
Fall 2013 Fall Cultivation 2013 Fall Harvest 2013 The Farm at Stonehill

Autumn In All of Her Glory

It has been a gorgeous and productive fall at The Farm.  Just last week we harvested our sweet potatoes, which put us over 12,000 pounds of veggies picked and donated for the 2013 growing season.

photo of the fields in early october.
Greens, browns, pinks, and purples still adorn the fields in early October.

We’ve been keeping busy, harvesting and delivering veggies, hosting a wide array of classes, and participating in the celebration of the inauguration of our new President, Father John Denning, by providing flowers from the fields for the reception.

photo of 25 bouquets adorned the tables at President Father John Denning's Inauguration Reception on Friday, September, 20, 2013.
25 bouquets adorned the tables at President Father John Denning’s Inauguration Reception on Friday, September, 20, 2013.

On many sunny, and a few cloudy, rainy days, students have been showing up at The Farm to help harvest sweet potatoes, hot and sweet peppers, cabbage, broccoli, beets, kale, and other hearty greens.

photo of students harvesting sweet potatoes
A crew of volunteers dig for sweet potatoes on a sunny “Farm Friday” afternoon.
Just a few of the volunteers who joined us in the fields on October 18th.
Just a few of the volunteers who joined us in the fields on October 18th to remove black plastic, harvest peppers, and plant garlic.

Though many parts of the field have started to turn from green to brown, the vibrant pink, purple and white Cosmos and our glorious green cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli plants are doing their darnedest to stave off the certainty of the frost filled mornings that await us.

photo of This cosmos is visited by a late season honey bee.
This cosmos is visited by a late season honey bee.

It is a time of year when change is omnipresent. If you look to the left you can still see fields decked with cabbage, broccoli, and sweet potato vines, but if you look to the right, the rows and rows of tomatoes are no more, and in their place cover crops are germinating.

A colorful cosmos in the foreground with broccoli growing along behind.
A colorful cosmos in the foreground with broccoli growing along behind.

Though we are sad to see the tomatoes go, it is always fun to plant the next crops. This time of year we broadcast cover crops like Bell Bean, Hairy Vetch, and Perennial Winter Rye to feed and protect our soils and help them rest over the course of the cold winter that lies ahead.

photo of Winter rye (the grass-like seedling) germinates beside Hairy vetch - a nitrogen fixing legume (in the foreground)
Winter rye (the grass-like seedling) germinates beside Hairy vetch – a nitrogen fixing legume (in the foreground).

It is clearly a magical time of year, when we can spend part of the day harvesting summery crops like Habanero Peppers…

photo of Habanero Peppers ready for the picking.
Habanero Peppers ready for the picking.

…before moving on to sweet potatoes…

photo of Freshly harvested Sweet Potato.
Joe holds a freshly harvested Sweet Potato.

…then pull up black plastic from rows that housed eggplants…

photo oNick Howard helps remove black plastic - used to help grow eggplants - from the fields.
Nick Howard, a member of Stonehill’s Advancement Team, helps remove black plastic – used to help grow eggplants – from the fields.

…before finally planting garlic.

photo of planting garlic.
Laura plants garlic seed from Red Fire Farm on October 18th.

 

phot of Volunteers help feed our garlic seed compost and the cover them with soil for a long, productive winter's nap.
Volunteers help feed our garlic seeds compost and the cover them with soil for a long, productive winter’s nap.

With the combination of help from volunteers on “Farm Fridays,” multiple classes, and our Fall Farm Intern, Devin, all of this fall work seems to unfold with ease.

photo of Many muddy hands help make the work of fall harvest light.
Many muddy hands help make the work of fall harvest light.

As many parts of the farm turn green with cover crops, other sections continue to produce delicious crops like cabbage, kale, broccoli and Brussels Sprouts for our Community Partners.

photo of A head of cabbage - almost ready for harvest.
A head of cabbage – almost ready for harvest.

We will continue to harvest and prepare our fields for the winter for the next month and hope to see you at volunteer hours even as the colder days (and nights) start to arrive!

Some of our harvesters pause from their labor - digging for sweet potatoes - for a quick smile.
Some of our harvesters pause from their labor – digging for sweet potatoes – for a quick smile.

See you at the next Farm Friday!

photo of Zuri
Zuri looks up from her rabbit hunting duties to welcome 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.

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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.

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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 Greenhouse Our Vision Spring 2012 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

That Summer Feeling… in Mid-March!

photo of Garlic on March 23
Garlic’s up in the field!

Spring is here!

It is hard to believe that it is only March 23rd! The plants in the field and in the trays are responding well as they drink in the warm rays and grow towards the sun.

photo of greens
Mesclun Mix Seedlings

 

photo of arugula and onions
Astro Arugula and Candy Onion seedlings drink in the sun in the greenhouse.

 

photo of celosia
Celosia seedlings.

It is a bit strange, to say the least, to have temperatures in the high 70’s and low 80’s in March!

What does this mean about the health of our planet? 

Weather forecasts look to be dropping to more seasonal highs in the 50’s next week, which is a bit of a relief. As much as I enjoy the “summer feeling,” March is a bit early for that to be kicking in already!

Erin, Gabbie and Dan seed zinnias in the greenhouse.

With some luck, the warm weather will allow our seedlings to grow well and hopefully be able to offer our produce to our partners in Brockton much earlier this second season. This year we will deliver produce to The Easton Food Pantry, Father Bill’s and MainSpring, My Brother’s Keeper and the Old Colony YMCA weekly.


Under warm and sunny skies, we quickly got to work at The Farm. 

“Getting to work” was made easier thanks to our new, 2002 Chevy Silverado farm truck…

photo of new farm truck
At the wheel of our new farm truck!

…new greenhouse tables built by Mark Larson, one of the college’s talented carpenters…

photo of greenhouse
Our new greenhouse tables, ready for seedlings!

…and good farming neighbors!

On March 22nd around 6:30PM, Rory O’Dwyer from Langwater Farm arrived with their John Deere tractor and a chisel plow to turn our first field.

photo of Rory tilling
First turn of the fields: March 22

  It only took her a little over 1 hour to work her magic, and turn in some of the winter rye that we planted in the fall.

photo of fields on March 22 pre till
Our front field covered with our cover crop: winter rye.

The very next day, under clear skies and 70 degree weather, over 15 volunteers joined me to do some early weeding in the perennial beds!

First they signed in…

photo of volunteer log
Our Volunteer Log

…then the weeding began in the perennial beds…

volunteers photo
Erin, Sean, Bryan and Dan were just 4 of the over 15 volunteers who helped out at the farm today!

 

photo of volunteers weeding raspberries
Ryan, Michelle and a couple of volunteers weed the raspberries.

 

…planting commenced in window boxes on our shed…

photo of Margaret and Dan
Margaret and Dan plant Morning Glories, Sweet Peas and Zinnias in our shed window boxes.

 

…and planting seeds continued in the greenhouse (and later in the Sem basement).

photo of Bryan w water
Bryan gets ready to bottom water some newly planted seeds.

 

There was even a moment or two to enjoy a snack from the field!

Nick and Tim kale snack photo
Nick and Tim pause for a bite of kale that overwintered in the fields.

We welcome you to join us this season by following us online or working with us in the fields.“Like us” on Facebook by clicking here to keep on top of happenings at The Farm. 

photo of Michell with logbook
Don’t forget to sign in!

Happy Spring! Happy Farming!