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.

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!