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Community Summer 2017 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Melissa Mardo – Learning By Doing

A woman stands at the open back of the Mobile Market van to help pack it up with produce and spread the word
As a Farm and Mobile market Intern, Melissa often helped to pack up our van and spread the word about our Mobile Market – and how to prepare healthy and delicious meals with our produce.

I am so grateful to have spent four years volunteering at The Farm At Stonehill and two full summers as an intern. Each day there was a new experience, new plant ready to be harvested, and a new lesson to learn. There are three stories that stand out to me from the summer.

A bunch of students pose with Farm workers and a yellow bucket full of the beans they helped pick at Camp Shriver
Happy bean pickers – participants in Camp Shriver!

Every summer, The Farm At Stonehill hosts Camp Shriver kids that attend a camp on Stonehill’s campus. There is a new theme each year such as composting, planting, etc. and the kids get to visit the farm each week and help with harvesting. One week kids came to harvest green beans, which is back-breaking work and seems never ending. The entire group was so excited about the size of the green beans they had handfuls of beans they were putting into our bins. Some kids had eaten green beans before, others had never seen the plant, yet all of them were willing to try this mysterious new vegetable and they loved it! We had to fight with these elementary school kids not to eat all the green beans in order to weigh the harvest before they could take some home. I’ve seen kids go crazy for candy, but it was so rewarding to see their genuine excitement over vegetables.

Three women in matching shirts stand ready for customers by a table of yellow buckets full of broccoli and leafy greens under a white tent by the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center
Michelle, Jackie and Melissa are ready for customers to arrive at our 63 Main St. (Brockton Neighborhood Health Center) location in late June.

This summer we geared up for the second year of our Mobile Market and launched a new location at an assisted elderly home. Just like with the campers, these residents could not contain their excitement each Wednesday afternoon when our van rolled up with fresh fruits and veggies. We were greeted with happiness, curiosity for our new weekly vegetables, and inundated with thank you’s. Each week there was one woman who visited our market stand telling us the recipes she created the previous week from the produce she bought from the market. I was so thankful to see her each week, and hear her story (and recipes) about how the farm’s produce impacted her directly. I’m used to seeing The Farm truck drive off with veggies to be delivered to our partners, but I don’t often get to talk with the people who eat them.

Rows of plants growing through the layer of biodegradable plastic, covering long adjacent beds stretching across the Farm
Farming is a lot of work – but it is rewarding!

Finally, I’m so happy I’ve had the opportunity to be able to work in nature. To measure my success from the day based on how much dirt I had piled up under my fingernails. To remember how many zucchini I harvested based on the red scratched on my legs from the leaf prickles. To have my back ache in the evening because I spent the morning picking strawberries. Not everyone gets a work day outside in the sun (and rain), moving around instead of seated at a desk, and able to breath fresh air. I’ve spent so many years learning inside at a desk in a classroom, that the farm was one of the first learning experiences I had outside of four walls and learning by doing. I am passionate about experiential learning based on how The Farm has impacted my learning experience and so many others. I encourage you all, to spend some time outside and see who you can meet and what you can learn out there.

 

Three young children hold small buckets as they learn the joys and hard work of farming in the leafy green beds
Come on out to the farm this fall and next season to join us in the field and learn more about the joys (and hard work) of farming.
Categories
Community Summer 2017 The Farm at Stonehill

Gianna – The Mindful Gardener

Gianna Desrochers was one of our hardworking summer farmers this season! She shares here about the highlights of her summer – and why you should grow some veggies with us or on your own.

The biggest thing I learned from working on the farm is how much work is put into growing produce.

A woman with orange flowers from the field in her hair sits next to the white dog to relax in the fields
Gianna, decked with flowers from the field, relaxes with Zuri after a long a few hours of planting and weeding.

Personally, I didn’t think much about how that plump, red tomato made it’s way on the grocery store’s shelves nor how much labor it took just to make it possible to be grown.

A hand shows off three bright red tomatoes harvested from hoophouse 2
Beautiful tomatoes from Hoophouse 2 – definitely worth the effort!

You start by making a hospitable environment for the seed, which means starting with fertile soil. This soil is put into seeding trays and the seeds then pushed into it, and are then watered until germination occurs. When the seedlings become strong enough to be grown in the crop beds, they are carefully taken out of the seeding trays and planted in the soil.

A woman holds the first round of harvested zucchini in between rows of crops
Gianna helping to harvest our first round of zucchini in July.

We made sure that the plants that need regular watering had drip tape in the soil of each of the rows, and we would patch them if a leak sprung out. These seedlings are checked on a daily basis, where we make sure they’re all happy in their new home.

A panorama shows off the many long and populated rows of growing green crops
Creating these beautiful and productive fields take a lot of time and effort!

Daily weeding of these areas is also necessary because the weeds would overwhelm the seedlings and would lead to competition of resources. When one area of weeding was finished, another area would be ready to be weeded, making it a never-ending cycle. I found this work to be difficult and time-consuming, especially on the hot summer days. I would have never realized this amount of work that is put into produce unless I personally experienced it, like I did here on the farm.

 

My favorite part of working on the farm was harvesting the produce we had successfully grown. I find it so rewarding to be able to see what we have worked so hard to get all season by harvesting. I also get to examine the plants, checking for any possible disease or pest issues, knowing that if I have a problem or a question, Bridget would be able to give me a great answer.  I loved learning about the wildflowers and weeds that grew around the farm. Bridget would answer my constant questioning of what’s what from everything I found around the farm, whether it was a weed or a bug I found on one of the crops.

Two yellow baskets are full of leafy green crops, wrapped and packed for delivery
Some of our crops all packed up and ready for deliver – after weeks of care in the fields.

I really enjoyed working on the Farm at Stonehill because of the huge amount of things I have learned, varying from the mindfulness on how that tomato has made its way onto the supermarket’s shelves and all the knowledge of the plants we tended or grew freely on the farm.

It’s an experience that I ask everyone to try themselves because it really makes you think more about our food system and how that tomato really made its way into your grocery basket.