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
Summer 2017 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Guest Post: Celia Sees

Six of the Farm helpers gather at one end of the picnic table and use freshly harvested veggies to put together a meal

This summer, we were lucky to have (from left to right) Melissa Mardo (2017), Michelle David (2017), Jackie Lerner (2019), Gianna Desrochers (2019), Alex Pica (2018) and Celia Dolan (2019) on our summer farmer crew – quite the dream team!  For the next few weeks, we will give you and inside peek into what these summer farmers experience working at The Farm through guest posts. 

We will begin with Celia Dolan (2019) who has been an essential member of our team for two growing seasons!

 

One of the Farm crew members enjoys a plate of veggies at sunset on the Farm
Celia and the crew enjoyed a delicious veggie feast together at The Farm in July.

 

 

“Farming is in your blood,” he said.

 

I nodded my head in agreement with Jay McHugh, my distant cousin, whose pig farm I went to visit last weekend.  Well, I’m not sure that it can be called a pig farm considering pigs no longer live there.  In fact, it is hardly even a farm.  Weeds have taken over, the barns have dilapidated, and equipment has rusted.  For decades, miserly developers tried to buy the land from Jay and his father; a few times they stooped low enough to attempt to burn them out.  After putting up such a big fight, it seems a shame to sell the land.  Yet, that is what Jay decided to do.  And it does not take much imagination to wonder why.

Three people sit in the back of the truck among stacked baskets of wrapped up veggies, ready for delivery on a rainy day
Celia (on the right) helps Jackie and Gianna load up the truck for a delivery to one of our community partners in mid-May.

 

The farmer who once worked the land seems to have fallen apart alongside his fields.  He is tired, needs knee replacements, and is anxious to move off his family farm.  While we talked, he recalled times when his neighbors called to complain about his livestock grazing.  In his area, there is little support of local farmers or open land.  People push for progress, with money and bulldozers to do the pushing for them.

 

As I gazed at the drooping pasture gates and thriving weeds, I was reminded of how nature dictates our actions and how we are so closely tied to the land.  However, I would never have recognized such a connection if I did not recently start working on a farm myself.  In fact, I probably never would have visited my cousin’s pig farm in the first place.

Seven people gather on each side of a bed of stringy plants as the sun sets on the Farm
Celia (in red) volunteers on a regular basis throughout the school year and took an IDEAS class about our food system taught by Jeremy and Mark (both members of the Class of 2017).

Last summer, I volunteered at the Farm at Stonehill often enough to apply for a full-time position working there this summer.  I loved it last summer and I have continued to love it this season.  It seems that each day I learn something new at the farm.

 

We’ve eradicated potato beetles with the organic finger-pinching method.  We’ve discussed blossom-end rot on tomatoes, types of mildew that attack plants, how to store seeds – we were even lucky enough to have a crash-course in rototiller tractor driving (though we have not actually done and driving or tilling)!

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

We learned about which battles you should choose to fight.  Do you make a third attempt to grow produce in a hydroponic garden?  Do you pull up weeds in an area that will soon be tilled, or simply till them under?  Do you grow tomatoes next season when tomato blight seems to have a strong hold in the soil?  Often, it seems there are no right or wrong answers.  Rather, Bridget demonstrates how we take signs from the farm.  She once said that unlike people, plants don’t tell you what they need.  While this is true, I have learned that plants communicate in other ways.

A red basket filled with loads of harvested green beans picked by Camp Shriver campers
Green Beans picked with Camp Shriver campers.

They show us when they are thirsty, or hungry for nutrients.  The plants communicate with each other, helping each other grow as the Three Sisters – beans, corn, squash – do.  Or they try to tear each other apart, as weeds compete for nutrients, sun, and water.  In this way, plants are not very different than people; they know what they want and they aren’t afraid to show it.  When they do show it, we farmers act accordingly.  We work for and with the plants.

 

We also work for and with each other.  As a result, we have also learned a lot about human connections.  Each farmer has asked questions, made suggestions, or offered ideas about the farm and how it operates.  We divide up tasks and have our go-to harvest crops.  For example, I usually meander through the summer squash rows, while Michelle proclaims that she is going to zucchini land and Alex peeks under prickly leaves to find cucumbers.  Gianna gathers hundreds of cherry tomatoes and Jackie searches for eggplant.  We share our knowledge with each other.  If one of us notices something, like a new bug or suspicious mildew on a plant, we ask Bridget.

A line of young Camp Shriver campers work with the Farm managers to plant sunflower seedlings in a dirt bed
Some of the Camp Shriver campers who Celia and our crew welcomed a number of times this summer. Pictured here planting sunflower seedlings they planted from seed 4 weeks earlier.

Our learning extends beyond the work day, as well.  Bridget shares farm newsletters and emails that she receives from other local farmers.  She helps us stay active, leading barre class every week.  We’ve cooked and shared food with each other using fresh veggies from the farm.  With all that we do, we see our hard work come full circle.  From seeding, to transplanting, to harvesting to cooking, we have helped plants grow, and we have also grown alongside each other throughout the season.  Walking through the farm and connecting with nature, I feel completely satisfied with our hard work.

 

Knowing what a healthy farm looks like made the dereliction of my cousin’s farm even more painful.  I found myself teary-eyed over losing a farm that was never mine to begin with.  I imagined what it must have been, could see what it looked like now, and feared what it would look like in a year.  Pristine and identical houses would stand where pigs once roamed and where nettles grew now.

 

I wondered how someone could so easily give up on a farm that he had worked hard on his entire life.  Working at the farm with Bridget and the other summer interns taught me so many valuable lessons that I could not learn anywhere else.  I cannot thank her enough for sharing that with us and I would not trade a day that I have worked there for anything else.

A colorful seasonal bouquet colored with pinks, reds, purples, and yellows contrasts against the gray gravel path
It’s always fun to visit the farm – or take some home with you (ex. seasonal bouquets and honey).

So, if you have yet to visit the Farm at Stonehill, I highly recommend stopping by.  Who knows what you might learn!

~Celia Dolan,  Summer Farmer Extraordinaire!

Categories
Community Fall 2014 Reflections The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

The Fall: Blessings, Visitors and Projects Abound

It has been a productive and delicious fall at The Farm!  Thanks to a crew of dedicated volunteers and students studying Sustainable Agriculture and Permaculture our farm is far from sleepy.

photo of farm visitors on nov 11
Ryan, now enrolled at the Coast Guard, visits us and Stonehill friends Jeremy and Marc at The Farm on November 11th.

Though we do not have as many active projects out in the fields these days, Devin and I can often be found checking on our crops in the hoophouses or walking Zuri on the land.

photo zuri is still working hard - on nov 11th looking for field mice
Zuri is never takes a day off – pictured here searching for mice in our spools of drip tape.

On October 24th, we hosted the Blessing of Hoophouse #2 to thank the Class of 1964 for their gift, which covered construction costs of the structure.  This hoophouse is truly a blessing to us – as it has already allowed us to extend the growing season of crops like cherry tomatoes and currently houses spinach and other hardy greens.

pic of Andrew and Colin, farmers and members of the Class of 2015 join in to thank the Class of 1964 for their class gift of Hoophouse #2.
Andrew and Colin, farmers and members of the Class of 2015 join in to thank the Class of 1964 for their class gift of Hoophouse #2.

Members of the Class of 1964 were present on October 24th to witness Father Jim Lies’s blessing of the hoophouse and to hear Devin speak about the benefits of structures like hoophouses.  We are excited about the addition of this growing structure!

photo of Kim and Devin help out at the Blessing of Hoophouse #2 as we thank the class of 1964 for their support - oct 24th.
Kim and Devin help out at the Blessing of Hoophouse #2 as we thank the class of 1964 for their support on October 24th.

This second hoophouse, measuring 30′ x 48′, dwarfs our original (and still very much beloved 18′ x 48′ hoophouse) offers a nutrient rich floor where we will plant cucumbers and tomatoes earlier that we can in the fields next season.  Thus, this structure will help us to make more delicious produce available to our partners for more months of the year!

photo of A view of the farm from the northeast corner on November 13th.
A view of the farm from the northeast corner on November 13th.

The fields are still producing a few hearty greens like kale, baby broccoli and carrots, but most of the land has a nice coat of cover crops like hairy vetch and oats to help fix nitrogen and add organic material to the soils,  respectively.

photo of Yum - local salad on November 15th
Salad from our fields on November 15th.

One of my favorite crops – High Mowing Mesclun Mix – was still producing flavorful greens in mid-November, which I dressed up with our own carrots and a few chunks of Honey Crisp apples from Brookdale Fruit Farm to create a refreshing salad.

photo of Check out the root nodules on the hairy vetch plants - containing a bacteria called rhyzobium that helps to fix nitrogen.
Check out the root nodules on the hairy vetch – containing rhizobium bacteria that fixes nitrogen in our soil to make it available to our crops next spring.

In the hoophouses you can see that a number of crops have already benefited from the slightly warmer temperatures the plastic walls offer.

2 oct 20th
Tomatoes harvested on October 20th from Hoophouse #2.

~~~

photo of Spinach growing along in Hoophouse #2 on November 10th.
Spinach growing along in Hoophouse #2 in December.

~~~

Though our harvests are lighter, we are keeping busy working on projects like building a herb spiral in our permaculture garden on campus – next to Amesbury in the Senior courts – and planting perennials like pear and peach trees, raspberries and blackberries, and hardy kiwis on campus and at The Farm!

picture oDevin, Sean and Christine "harvest" rocks from a pile of field stones at Langwater Farm.
Devin, Sean and Colin “harvest” rocks from a pile of field stones at Langwater Farm.

Langwater Farm was kind enough to allow us to take a few field stones from their pile next to their rt. 138 fields for our herb spiral project.

photo of Christine Moodie arranges the first stones in the herb spiral.
Christine Moodie, Class of 2015, arranges the first stones in the herb spiral.

Projects like this are fun because they offer our students the opportunity to work on farm projects on the main campus.  It is our hope that this garden will serve to produce vegetables and fruit for our campus community and raise awareness about The Farm and how they can get become (or stay) involved.

photo oJeremy, Danielle G., Sean, Christine and Danielle W. - all members of the Sustainable Agriculture class - pitch in to construct our herb spiral on campus.
Jeremy, Danielle G., Sean, Christine and Danielle W. – all members of the Sustainable Agriculture class – pitch in to construct our herb spiral on campus.

The fall/winter is a good time to build growing structures like the herb spirals and is also an excellent time to plan our permaculture gardens and to plant a number of perennials.

photo of Sean (left) and Christine (right), 2 students participating in a Permaculture Directed Study this fall join me and Devin (center) at Massasoit College where we were given a number of perennials including raspberries, mint, and jerusalem artichokes.
Sean (left) and Christine (right), 2 students participating in a Permaculture Directed Study this fall join me and Devin (center) at Massasoit College where we were given a number of perennials including raspberries, mint, and Jerusalem artichokes by Melanie, Professor of Environmental Sciences and manager of campus permaculture and native garden plots.

We spent some time in November planting Dwarf Chojuro Asian Pear and Dwarf Gala Peach Trees, Auburn Homestead Chestnut Trees, 3 different varieties of Blackberries, Koralle Ligonberries, and Issai Hardy Kiwi from Stark Brothers and Raspberries, Mint, and Jerusalem Artichokes from our partners at Massasoit College on campus…

photo of Christine plants a Asian Pear Tree on campus.
Christine plants a Chojuro Asian Pear Tree on campus.

…at The Farm…

photo of Christine plants a Homestead Auburn Chestnut tree at The Farm.
Christine plants a Homestead Auburn Chestnut tree at The Farm.

…in our Apple Orchard…

photo of Devin and Christine plant a couple of pear trees out in our apple orchard.
Devin and Christine plant a couple of Chojuro Asian Pear trees out in our apple orchard.

…and in our permaculture garden at The Farm.

photo of Christine and Devin plant a number of blackberries in our permaculture garden at The Farm.
Christine and Devin plant a number of blackberries in our permaculture garden at The Farm.

~~~

Other projects include getting to know our Best Bees bee keepers. Devin and I visited them at their headquarters in Boston to learn how to extract honey and get the inside scoop on their research projects.

photo of Alia, a beekeeper with Best Bees harvests some honey from our hive on October 29th.
Alia, a beekeeper with Best Bees, holds up a frame with honey they can harvest for us from our hive October 29th.

We were overjoyed to learn that our bees had been productive enough to share some of their bounty with us!

photo of extracting honey #1
First you have to take off the protective wax covering up the honey.

~~~

photo of Devin spinning out some honey!
Then you have to extract it by spinning it – Devin tries this out!

The results are beautiful and delicious!

photo of our honey in a jar
YUM!

We are happy to report that our honey flew of the shelves during a find raiser.  We sold 3 oz jars for $10/jar and all of it was purchased within one day of posting an advertisement on our Facebook and sharing an email about the honey with our Stonehill community.  We hope to be able to share more of this amber treat with more folks next year.

~~~

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – well, Farmhouse – we are cooking up a new program called The Farmhouse Writing Fellows Program. Farmhouse Writing Fellows will be given dedicated writing space on the second floor of the Farmhouse to work on scholarly or pedagogical projects for the semester.

Five Faculty will be joining us this spring: Rachel Hirst, George Piggford, Megan Mitchell, Corey Dolgon, and Candice Smith-Corby.  We will be hosting Farmhouse Conversations every other Friday so that our fellows can share a bit about their work with the community.  We will share invitations via our weekly “This Week at The Farm” community emails and via our Facebook page and we hope to see you there!

~~~

You might be wondering where this mystical farmhouse is located! Don’t worry, we made a sign so that you will be sure to find us!

photo of first we had to choose the wood and sketch out the word
First we had to choose the wood and sketch out the letters.

I knew just the place to create such a sign: my parent’s home in Millerton, NY.  First we chose the right piece of cherry, before sketching out the letters, and then used a router to carve out the word and the little shovel icon.

photo of Jono Meigs, wood worker extraordinaire teaches me how to use the router.
Jono Meigs, wood worker extraordinaire, teaches me how to use the router.

~~~

photo of i tried it out..
Almost done!

After a few hours of work we had our sign!

photo of we had our sign
My Dad and I proudly display our sign!

Now you can find it hanging at the entrance of our Farmhouse: 411 Washington St.

photo of our sign
Our sign hanging up at the entrance to our farm offices and home to the Farmhouse Writing Fellow Program.

~~~

We look forward to your next visit to see us at The Farm or at The Farmhouse as we chip away at our long list of winter projects and order up seeds for our next growing season – which will start earlier now, thanks to Hoophouse #2!

photo of i tried it out..
Local sunset near Wheaton farm – one of our favorite places to walk with Zuri after a long day at The Farm.

Sending you warm wishes for a restful and rejuvenating holiday season!

~Bridget & Zuri

Categories
Community Fall 2013 Fall Harvest 2013 Greenhouse The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Thanksgiving for a Fruitful Season!

A turnip green wrapped up in a light coat of frost.
A turnip green wrapped up in a light coat of frost.

As the chilling wind races around the fields, stirring up fallen leaves along the edges, rushing between our spindly apple trees, and bending the recently sprouted cover crops with ease it is clear that our third growing season is coming to a close.

Here are a few fast facts about The Farm that tell some of the story of how productive the 2013 Season has been and how many people are responsible for our bountiful harvest.

2013 Harvest: 12,416.5 pounds of over 35 different kinds of veggies – our biggest and most diverse harvest yet!

2013 Donations: These vegetables were donated to our partners: My Brother’s Keeper, the Easton Food Pantry, The Old Colony YMCA’s Family Life Center, and The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring.

2013 Volunteers: Over 500 hours contributed by over 250 individuals.

Classes Held at The Farm: Over 18 different classes, including creative writing, photography, mentoring through art, environmental science, religious studies, and first year experience classes used the farm as an outdoor learning space to help deepen certain lessons and provide context for others.

2013 Flower Sales: $2,100.00

Zuri approves of this year's harvest!
Zuri approves of this year’s harvest!

As Thanksgiving approaches, we have so much to be thankful for, from the natural elements that create an environment that supports healthy and productive plants to our summer staff and year-round volunteers who join us to make the work of planting, feeding the soil with compost, weeding, harvesting, and finally, delivering our crops both easier and much more fun.

protecting apple trees
Members of the Food Politics Learning Community help to protect our young apple trees from rodents that might attempt to snack on saplings in the colder months.

Looking back on this season, I see a different farm than the one we started in February of 2011.  The same generous and hopeful spirit, originally found in Professor Paul Daponte’s vision for the farm – to grow organic and healthy food with and for our neighbors in need and raise awareness about food deserts – is thriving!

A group of students helps to plant garlic on October 28th.
A group of students helps to plant garlic on October 28th.

However, I think that it was in this third season that the dust started to settle and the work of The Farm began to thrive, not just on it’s 2 acre plot next to The David Ames Clock Farm/Facilities Management, but also in the classrooms and in the creation of new student groups like “Food Truth” across the street on the main campus.  There are times, I must admit, when I hear people talking about The Farm, and Food Truth – a student organization that works to promote Real Food on campus – who I have not yet had the pleasure of getting to know.  It is exciting to see The Farm becoming more integrated into the campus culture!

Food Truth held a Banana Split To Commit event on Food Day, October 24th. In this photo, students sign a petition asking for more "real food" on campus as they await their turn to make a banana split comprised of local, organic, fairly traded, or humanely produced items.
Food Truth held a Banana Split To Commit event on Food Day, October 24th. In this photo, students sign a petition asking for more “real food” on campus as they await their turn to make a banana split comprised of local, organic, fairly traded, or humanely produced items.

Still housed under the Mission Division and now under the guidance of Father Jim Lies, The Farm is truly a place of community where new volunteers are now welcomed not just by me and Zuri, but by students who have been working at The Farm for almost their entire Stonehill career!

Three of the students who have, much to my delight, made The Farm a second home during their time at Stonehill. Gabby Gobiel (2014), Breanne Penkala (2015), and Sean Davenport (2015).
Three of the students who have, much to my delight, made The Farm a second home during their time at Stonehill. Gabby Gobiel (2014), Breanne Penkala (2015), and Sean Davenport (2015).

Despite the freezing temperatures and frost filled mornings, the work of the farm is far from complete.  We are experimenting with growing some mustard greens, spinach and a few lettuce varieties in our hoop house.  Following the lead of some friends at Langwater Farm, we flipped a few of our seedling tables over, filled them with a rich mix of compost and soil and planted our the seedlings.

Three volunteers help to plant greens on Halloween!
Three volunteers help to plant greens on Halloween!

We also find that we have time to clean the shed, the hoop house, and clean up the tines on our amazing rototiller that does such important work for us all season long.

I heard a clanking as the tiller spun through the soil and crawled under to discover a few wires had gotten tangled in the tines.
I heard a clanking as the tiller spun through the soil and crawled under to discover a few wires had gotten tangled in the tines.

The other place to pour our energy is into helping our community learn how to compost!

If you don't know how to compost, simply read the signs above the bins or ask a friend!
If you don’t know how to compost, simply read the signs above the bins or ask a friend.

Members of the Food Politics LC will join me and our TA, Breanne, to help point out what to compost – fruit, veggie, sandwich and salad scraps – and what not to compost – plastic utensils, paper boats, cereal cups as with our new campaign: “You Know How To Compost, Right!?”

The scraps from the Commons kitchen and from the tri bins near the tray return area are added to this pile daily where they are mixed with leaves and become nutritious compost.
The scraps from the Commons kitchen and from the tri bins near the tray return area are added to this pile daily where they are mixed with leaves and become nutritious compost.

Sometimes we find items in the compost pile that simply don’t belong! Help us to keep our operation clean, productive and functional so that we can grow more nutritious crops in the years to come.

These plastic bottles were pulled out of the compost pile at The Farm the other day.
These plastic bottles were pulled out of the compost pile at The Farm the other day.

Course projects are also involving the farm and our mission. For example, a group in the Climate Change Learning Community is putting a proposal together to suggest that an herb spiral garden be constructed on the main campus.  If installed it will serve as a way for students to have access to fresh, flavorful herbs for meals they prepare and allow more students to learn more about the work of The Farm.

Six students taking the Climate Change Learning Community met me and Zuri outside of the Chapel of Mary last week to discuss where to construct and herb spiral.
Six students taking the Climate Change Learning Community met me and Zuri outside of the Chapel of Mary last week to discuss possible locations for an herb spiral on campus.

Longer nights and shorter days also provide time to meet with our partners to learn which crops to grow next year and strategize about ways to involve more classes and volunteers with the work of the farm in Season 2014!

Our third season draws to a close, but winter projects abound, and Season #4 is just around the corner - you know that summer's coming soon!
Our third season draws to a close, but winter projects abound, and Season #4 is just around the corner – you know that summer’s coming soon!
Categories
Community Reflections Summer 2013 Summer Cultivation 2013 Summer Harvest 2013 Summer Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Productive Plants Weather New England’s Heat and Rain

photo of sunset
Another beautiful and dramatic summer sun sets on a another full and productive day in the fields.

I never cease to be amazed, enthralled, and at times worried by weather patterns that visit us here in New England during the busy growing season.  Farmers in our region typically say that hot, dry weather is much more desirable than cool, wet conditions.  This is because we can usually get water to the crops that need it the most during dry spells – be it through pressure-fed drip irrigation or, if need be, a hose with a water wand – however, we cannot keep the fields dry when heavy clouds pass through and leave puddles in their wake.

Thus far, our plants have not suffered terribly from the heat or from the rain. In fact, quite the opposite is occurring on our 1.5 acre vegetable and flower farm!

photo of summer Straight Neck Summer Squash, Galine Eggplants, and Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes.
Straight Neck Summer Squash, Galine Eggplants, and Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes.

Thanks to hard working summer farmers, Devin, Alphonse, and Jake, our many volunteers and volunteer groups – including individuals participating in Camp Shriver, BostonWise!, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s New England Leadership Conference, an Old Colony YMCA Day Camp: Rise Up!, and students from Whitman-Hanson High School – and our Kubota tractor and Kuhn Rototiller, the plants in our fields are producing beautiful and delicious fruits and flowers!

Camp Shriver participants take a break with Zuri after harvesting over 7 pounds of Green Beans for us!
Camp Shriver participants take a break with Zuri after harvesting over 7 pounds of Green Beans for us!

This year we have harvested over 3,500 pounds of produce thus far – over 1,000 pounds more produce than last year at this time!  Crops include 4 varieties of kale, 5 varieties of lettuce, summer squash, 2 varieties of zucchini, 5 varieties of onions, a number of different kinds of tomatoes (over 1,000 plants are growing away), 5 kinds of potatoes, green beans, sugar snap peas, herbs – including basil, cilantro, dill, and parsley, 2 varieties of eggplants, 2 varieties of cucumbers – one day we harvested over 160 pounds of them, and a number of different kinds of root vegetables.

An organic variety of kale called Ripbor is producing well for us this year!
An organic variety of kale called Ripbor is producing well for us this year!

We couldn’t accomplish all of this without the hard work of volunteers who join us each year from groups like the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s New England Leadership Conference.

An excellent group of volunteers participating in the New England Leadership Conference helped us weed our winter squash and harvest our first row of potatoes on a day with 95 degree heat - no complaints!
An excellent group of volunteers participating in the New England Leadership Conference helped us weed our winter squash and harvest our first row of potatoes on a day with 95 degree heat – no complaints!

In addition, some of the successes of our farm are directly related to the generosity of organizations like the Harold Brooks Foundation who provide funding for important farm equipment like our tractor and rototiller. 

We are excited to share that this support continues!  Just last week, Marie Kelly, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, informed us that we have been awarded a $15,000 grant from The Harold Brooks Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustee for the second year in a row!  We are very thankful for this support and plan to utilize these funds to sustainably produce more vegetables in the fields and increase the number of individuals who participate in and benefit from our central mission: to educate about and to address food desert conditions in our region.

~~~

Please enjoy some of the colorful images captured in the fields over the past few weeks!

photo of A flower on one of our tomato plants - soon to become a sweet, flavorful fruit!
A flower on one of our tomato plants – soon to become a sweet, flavorful fruit!

~~~

photo of An organic plum tomato variety called Granadero is producing beautiful fruit - soon to become red and delicious!
An organic plum tomato variety called Granadero is producing beautiful fruit – soon to become red and delicious!

I enjoy arriving at the farm each day a few minutes bit before the crew to walk the fields with Zuri and plan how we will spend the day – harvesting, cultivating (AKA weeding!), or planting seeds of fall successions of vegetables such as cabbage, kale, lettuce, spinach, carrots, or beets.

Once the students are hard at work harvesting the vegetables, I often find myself in the rows of flowers fulfilling orders for bouquets.

photo of A beautiful variety of Black Eyed Susan - "Cherry Brandy" - adds a sophisticated flare to the bouquets.
A beautiful variety of Black Eyed Susan – “Cherry Brandy” – adds a sophisticated flare to the bouquets.

Surrounded by Black Eyed Susans, Zinnias, Snapdragons, Salvia, Sweet William, Strawflowers, Love in a Mist, and Sunflowers, I snip long stems and hum along with the bees who are busying themselves collecting nectar – pollinating as they go.

photo of A honeybee makes her approach to a radiant zinnia.
A honeybee makes her approach to a radiant zinnia.

~~~

photo of A honeybee - hard at work!
A honeybee – hard at work!

Sometimes the flowers have other exotic looking visitors…

photo of A dragonfly
A dragonfly takes a rest on one of the zinnias.

~~~

The flowers double as our the sole on farm revenue generator, and also attract beneficial insects and their predators, and fill our fields with a cheerful array of colors.

Sweet William - the prettiest smelling perfume in the field!
Sweet William – bearer of the prettiest smelling perfume in the field!

~~~

photo of salvia
Salvia – a honeybee’s heaven on earth!

The fields continue to produce and we zip around like busy bees, attempting to collect and share all of their bounty!

We reap the rewards of the hard work in the fields when we deliver the produce to our partners who often exclaim and smile when they see the diverse and colorful veggies arrive.

Fields of plenty - quietly producing!
Fields of plenty – quietly producing!

We are so very thankful for the opportunity to work with excellent partners at My Brother’s Keeper, The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring, The Family Life Center of The Old Colony YMCA, and The Easton Food Pantry, and for the support we receive from volunteers and organizations like The Harold Brooks Foundation to ensure that this work continues!

Categories
Community Partners Fall 2012 Fall Cultivation 2012 Fall Harvest 2012 Fall Volunteers 2012 Our Vision The Farm at Stonehill

Generosity Fuels The Farm

As the fall arrives, we are filled with thanks for all of the help we receive via the hands of volunteers and donations from foundations or individuals to make the farm a warm, inviting, productive, and restorative space.

photo of volunteers
Jess and a number of volunteers help weed the carrots, which we plan to harvest in October. Photo by Burke Oppenheim

This a wonderful time of the year at the farm, as we harvest a wide variety of veggies including green beans, pumpkins, peppers, onions, basil, tomatoes, turnips, butternut squash and eggplant, as we weed crops like carrots, and as we plant fall greens, like lettuce and kale.

photo of volunteer board
Volunteer tasks on September 7, 2012.

“Farm Friday” volunteer hours have been busy and festive as 20 to 30 students appear and happily get to work.  Thank you volunteers!  We look forward to seeing new and returning farmers every week.

photo of students harvesting
Jess and Lauren pick beans as other students harvest butternut squash and pumpkins.

~~~

This  summer we were delighted to receive generous support from the the Harold Brooks Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustee.  This $15,000 grant will support our operation and help us involve more students, grow more vegetables for our partners, and increase awareness around food desert and food access issues in our nearby communities.

“The Harold Brooks Foundation provides assistance to causes/organizations that help the largest possible number of residents of Massachusetts’ South Shore communities, especially those that support the basic human needs of South Shore residents. The Foundation supports nonprofit organizations that have the greatest impact on improving the human condition and/or that provide the neediest South Shore residents with “tools” that will help them restore their lives. The Foundation focuses on five key areas: Education; Food, Agriculture, & Nutrition; Health; Housing & Shelter; and Mental Health.”

We are so thankful for this gift and look forward to sharing how these funds support our efforts through this blog and in person when we visit with our donors!

photo of Joey and a pumpkin
Joey harvests a Tom Fox pumpkin, which will surely bring a smile to the faces of our partners’ clients.

~~~

This summer we also received a thoughtful and generous gift from David Miller, General Manager of Dining Services here at Stonehill.  He and co-workers of his father donated funds for a space for reflection in loving memory of his wife, Tina Miller.  The words “strength” and “courage”, engraved on 2 of the 3 benches, were chosen by David and his daughters because of the strength and courage that Tina displayed as she lived with and battled breast cancer for three years.  She never let the cancer define her or how she lived her life.

photo of loving memory bench
One of three benches donated in loving memory of Tina Miller at The Farm.

We will be planting blueberry bushes in this area within the next few months, as Tina enjoyed going blueberry picking each year.

photo of courage bench
Courage: as we support all who face cancer and other challenges in our lives.

We at the farm feel privileged to serve as a space for good works and quiet reflection and celebration of all components of our environment. Thank you to David Miller for choosing us as a space where Tina’s life can me honored!

photo of strength bench
We all need a place to restore our strength, and hope that many will use these benches as a place to do so!

~~~

three benches photo
All three benches, soon to be planted with blueberry bushes.

~~~

These granite benches were quarried in Vermont and purchased through Swenson Granite Works.  They were engraved with precision and care by Michael Cedrone.

photo of Michael engraving
Michael Cedrone works on the “Gift of the Class of 2011” bench located at the meditation garden.

It was fun to have the opportunity to watch Michael at his craft.  He engraved the bench given by the Class of 2011 in the Meditation Garden (above) and the benches to honor the life of Tina Miller.

photo of Michael working
Michael performs the finishing touches on one of the engraved ribbons.

Zuri enjoyed watching Michael at his craft (and chewing on a nearby stick) as well!

photo of michael's work
Zuri keeps Michael company as he works on the benches.

~~~

photo of tina miller bench
A beautiful bench for all to enjoy.

~~~

Many thanks to all of our generous farm supporters!

We welcome you to visit anytime and enjoy the farm as we grow together.

 

Categories
Summer 2012 Summer Harvest 2012 Summer Volunteers 2012 The Farm at Stonehill

For the Love of Potatoes

This post was written by one of our summer farmers, Sean Davenport, who loves his potatoes!

photo of potato harvest
Yellow Finn, German Butterball, Red Gold, Kennebec, Katahdin, and Purple Viking Potatoes harvested and awaiting delivery in the shed.

“What I say is that, if a fellow really likes potatoes, he must be a decent sort of fellow.”

– A.A. Milne

photo of potata and plant
A German Butterball Potato emerges from the soil.

The potato is not just your average vegetable. It is, in fact, an extraordinary one. Due to our nation’s obsession with fatty foods, the potato, through the form of French fries, has become the most commonly consumed vegetable in the United States. But who can blame us? French fries are so good!

photo of the group harvesting potatoes
The Sander family, Greg, and Sean search through the soil to find the tubers hiding just below the surface.

Besides fries, potatoes can be prepared in a plethora of delicious ways ways. Roasted potatoes happen to be my favorite style, especially with some onion tossed in. This past week my mom made roasted potatoes twice, using potatoes fresh from the Farm – red golds and German butterballs. The mashed potato remains another popular American preparation, symbolic of the traditional family dinner. Baked potatoes are absolutely amazing too, with or without sour cream.

photo of potato in hand
Potatoes come in all shapes and sizes!

For a fancier affair, try potatoes au gratin – thinly sliced potatoes layered with melted cheese. Home fries are served with almost every meal ordered in an American diner, and potato skins are a staple bar food (and perhaps my favorite appetizer of all). Potatoes are also versatile in how you can use them. Bake them into potato rolls, or make some latkes. Even try a little Italian and whip up some gnocchi.

photo of purple viking potatoes
Potatoes also come in an array of colors: purple, blue, yellow, red, pink, and browns. Purple Viking potatoes pictured here.

No matter how you prepare a potato, it is going to be delicious. I love potatoes. No matter where I go I know that I can find comfort in eating this most glorious of vegetables. – Sean Davenport (Class of 2015)

photo of harvest dog
Zuri helped with the harvest too!

~~~

Do you know potatoes?

 

  • Potatoes were first cultivated 7,000 years ago (but evidence shows they were growing in the wild up to 13,000 years ago) by the Incas in Peru.*
  • According to Dr. Hector Flores, “the most probable place of origin of potatoes is located between the south of Peru and the northeast of Bolivia. The archaeological remains date from 400 B.C. and have been found on the shores of Lake Titicaca…. There are many expressions of the extended use of the potato in the pre-Inca cultures from the Peruvian Andes, as you can see in the Nazca and Chimu pottery.”*
  • When the European diet expanded to include potatoes, not only were farmers able to produce much more food, they also gained protection against the catastrophe of a grain crop failure and periodic population checks caused by famine.*
  • Highly nutritious potatoes also helped mitigate the effects of such diseases as scurvy, tuberculosis, measles and dysentery.*
  • Potatoes became a staple in the Irish diet by 1800.*
  • By the early 1840s, almost one-half of the Irish population had become entirely dependent upon the potato, specifically on just one or two high-yielding varieties.*
  • Potatoes are the leading vegetable crop in the USA and comprise 29% of our vegetable consumption – about 130 pounds per person every year.**
  • More than 1/2 of the annual consumption is processed rather than fresh (ex. fast food french fries or potato chips).**
  • Potatoes are the most important vegetable crop in the USA.**
  • Potatoes are only topped by wheat flour in importance in the American diet.**
  • Potatoes are rich in minerals, vitamins, calories, and protein, and very low in fat.**
  • As well as providing starch, an essential component of the diet, potatoes are rich in Vitamin C, high in Potassium and an excellent source of fiber. In fact, potatoes alone supply every vital nutrient except calcium, Vitamin A and Vitamin D.*

Sources:

*Chapman, Jeff. “The Impact of The Potato” in History Magazine.

**Blatt, Harvey. 2008. “America’s Food: What You Don’t Know About What You Eat”.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Pages 185-6.

~~~

And now a few words from Tom Paxton, an American singer songwriter who playfully shares all of the ways to prepare potatoes in his song below.

“Don’t Slay the Potato”

By, Tom Paxton

How can you do it? It’s heartless, it’s cruel.
It’s murder, cold-blooded, it’s gross.
To slay a poor vegetable just for your stew
Or to serve with some cheese sauce on toast.
Have you no decency? Have you no shame?
Have you no conscience, you cad,
To rip that poor vegetable out of the earth
Away from its poor mom and dad?

CHORUS:
Oh, no, don’t slay that potato!
Let us be merciful, please.
Don’t boil it or fry it, don’t even freeze-dry it.
Don’t slice it or flake it.
For God’s sake, don’t bake it!
Don’t shed the poor blood
Of this poor helpless spud.
That’s the worst kind of thing you could do.
Oh, no, don’t slay that potato
What never done nothing to you!

Why not try picking on something your size
Instead of some carrot or bean?
The peas are all trembling there in their pod
Just because you’re so vicious and mean.
How would you like to be grabbed by your hair
And ruthlessly yanked from your bed
And have done to you God knows what horrible things,
To be eaten with full-fiber bread?
(CHORUS)

It’s no bed of roses, this vegetable life.
You’re basically stuck in the mud.
You don’t get around much. You don’t see the sights
When you’re a carrot or celery or spud.
You’re helpless when somebody’s flea-bitten dog
Takes a notion to pause for relief.
Then somebody picks you and cleans you and eats you
And causes you nothing but grief.
(CHORUS)

There ought to be some way of saving our skins.
They ought to be passing a law.
Just show anybody a cute little lamb
And they’ll all stand around and go “Aw!”
Well, potatoes are ugly. Potatoes are plain.
We’re wrinkled and lumpy to boot.
But give me a break, kid. Do you mean to say
That you’ll eat us because we’re not cute?

Oh, no, don’t slay that potato!
Let us be merciful, please.
Don’t boil it or fry it, don’t even freeze-dry it.
Don’t slice it or flake it.
For God’s sake, don’t bake it!
Don’t shed the poor blood
Of this poor helpless spud.
That’s the worst kind of thing you could do.
Oh, no, don’t slay that potato
What never done nothing to you!

Categories
Spring 2012 Spring Cultivation 2012 Spring Harvest 2012

Summer Blooms

photo of a flower bouquet
Cosmos, snapdragons, zinnias and salvia are among the first of our flowers to bloom.

The sun and rain are working together beautifully this season.

We have already harvested over 450 pounds of produce including zucchini, summer squash, radishes, lettuce, garlic scapes, chard, kale, and collards.

photo of beth from MBK
Beth Sheehan, of My Brother’s Keeper, stopped by last week to pick up lettuce and Nasturtiums – ingredients for a fresh and nutritious salad.

Student farmers, Greg, Gabby, and Sean, enthusiastically plant, weed, harvest, make deliveries, and help lead the staff and student volunteers.  Last week volunteers Lauren, Laura and Hilary spent their Friday afternoon “hilling the potatoes” with nutrient rich compost.

Hilling the potatoes on Friday, June 15th.

In the neighboring field, more volunteers planted our second succession of zucchinis and cucumbers.

Hailey, Greg, and Joanna (from front to back) plant cucumbers on June 15th.

The Farm feels the most alive on these volunteer days – typically Friday afternoons – when the fields are filled with the energy of student and staff volunteers, the ripening vegetables, and the ever-present sun.

photo of volunteers at the farm on 6-15
The zucchini are ready for harvest in field #1 (on the left), as the second succession is planted in field #2 (on the right).

The plants respond quickly to the heat and we are now working hard to keep the tomatoes staked, strung, and supported.  In a few weeks, if all goes well, we will be harvesting cherry tomatoes!

photo of Tim staking the tomatoes
Tim Watts lends a hand staking the cherry tomatoes.

By the close of this week most of our seedlings will have found their home in the fields.  We will then strive to keep up with their needs as we weed and water them until it is time to harvest and deliver the crops to our partners.

photo of greens growing
Collard greens, kale, chard and tomatoes enjoy the warm and long days of sunlight.

In time, the harvest will turn hues of sugar snap pea green to tomato red and pumpkin orange.  For now, we enjoy the rainbow of color afforded by our flowers and invite you to order a bouquet to bring the warmth of the field into your home or office!

photo of flowers
Cosmos and snapdragons drink in the sun – a naturally beautiful arrangement!
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.
Categories
Apple Orchard Community Spring 2012 Spring Cultivation 2012 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Planting the Legacy Orchard

PHOTO of box trees arrived in
Our 35 trees arrive!

 On April 11th, 35 trees arrived from Adam’s County Nursery in Aspers, PA.  These trees were purchased with some of the funds generously donated by the Class of 2011.  We have chosen 4 varieties of apple trees to start our orchard including the heirloom, Pippin, and 3 scab-resistant varieties: Crimson Crisp, Initial, and Querina.  It is our hope that within 3 years these trees will be producing a good amount of local, organic, and delicious fruit for our community partners in Brockton.  The fruit of each variety will ripen at different times over the course of the growing season, providing us with a nice, long apple harvest season.

The instructions from the nursery were the following: keep roots moist, store the box in a cool and dry area, and plant within 2 weeks – at the most! These tasks were easily accomplished with the help of over 50 volunteers. Helpers included students from my Environmental Science class, Professor Corey Dolgon’s Introduction to Sociology class, Professor Tom Balf’s Environmental Science class, and other new and returning students and staff volunteers who joined us during “volunteer hours” on Thursdays and Fridays.

photo of Sheridan and Brian staking out orchard
Sheriden and Brian help with orchard layout.

After assessing our farm’s current footprint, we decided to establish the orchard in the southwest corner of our field.  On April 13th, Sheriden and Brian arrived a bit earlier than the rest of the day’s volunteers and helped me place a stake where each hole would need to be dug.   The trees have been grafted onto a semi-dwarf stock, so the trees will only grow to be about 8 to 10 feet high and 8 feet wide.  This will allow for easy picking – we hope the deer don’t think so too!

phtoto fo volunteers digging holes
A large groups of volunteers makes quick work of digging holes for the apple trees.

 A couple of hours after Brian, Sheriden and I laid out the orchard, a large group of volunteers joined us and quickly dug holes where each stake had been placed.  We even had enough time that afternoon to plant the first 10 trees, and chose the Crimson Crisp variety to be the first to go in the ground.

Photo fo Nick, Tom, Me and Tim planting a Crimson Crisp.
Nick, Tommy, Tim and I plant a Crimson Crisp apple tree together.

The trees seemed to utter sighs of relief as they went from their cramped, dark quarters in the box into the warm soil and compost.  Each tree received 5 gallons of water to help them weather the unseasonably warm, dry days.

~~~

We waited for the warmest days of the following week to pass before planting the remaining trees on April 19th and 20th.

On Thursday afternoon Sean Vermette, the college’s painter, and his two children, Maeve and Will joined us to ensure that one of the Querina apple trees settled nicely into it’s new home.

photo of Sean, Will and Maeve
Sean Vermette and his kids Will and Maeve help us plant a Querina Apple Tree.

Sean held the tree in place while Will and Maeve filled the hole in with soil and compost.

photo of Sean and his kids planting
Will and Maeve - hard at work!

I have a feeling that Will and Maeve will be visiting from time to time to check on the progress of their little tree. I hope they will not be too disappointed by the long wait for their tree’s first apples!

photo of Sean and Maeve
Sean and Maeve work together to plant their tree.

That same afternoon, students from Prof. Tom Balf’s class planted the 9 remaining Querina Apple Trees after learning a little bit about cover crops, crop rotation, drip irrigation and other sustainable farming practices.

photo of Sean, Tom and another student
Prof. Tom Balf (center) plants a tree with 2 of his students.

Many of these students were new to the farm, and I was impressed by their careful and efficient work. I look forward to welcoming them back anytime!

photo of 3 students of Prof Balf.
Three of Prof. Balf's students experience the joy of planting an apple tree.

After planting the trees, these students made quick work of delivering 5 gallons of water to each tree. We will be setting up drip irrigation over the next couple of weeks for each tree to get them through the hottest months of the summer.

photo fo students watering a tree
The incredibly important task of watering the newly planted trees!

It’s hard not to smile as you see the orchard going in.

photo of happy planters
Three students and I enjoy the beautiful, sunny planting weather.

The last few trees were planted on April 20th – well within the 2 week window suggested by Adam’s County Nursery.

photo of Joe Katie and group plant second to last tree
Joe Favazza and Katie Conboy plant one of the last trees!

Under bright blue and sunny skies, Joe Favazza, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of the Faculty, and Katie Conboy, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, joined students Sarah, Erin, Dan, Tim and me to plant the last couple of Pippin apple trees.

photo of planted orchard
All of the tree are in!

It will take a couple of years until the trees bear fruit, but we are already reaping the benefits of growing an orchard as a community. 

A big thank you to the Class of 2011 for donating the trees, and to the students and staff who helped perform orchard layout, dig the holes, plant the trees, apply the compost, and water the trees.

Please visit often to nurture the orchard and watch it grow.