At this time of year, with snow layered over cover crop and around the hoop houses, The Farm looks as sleepy as ever.
And Zuri is just as sleepy as the rest of The Farm!
Despite the deep snow settled like a blanket on The Farm, we are anticipating spring and the new growing season that will come with it! We’ve begun preparing for our ninth (!!) season, hosting our first “Farm Friday” volunteer hours last week. Seven volunteers joined us in the greenhouse behind Shields Science Center before leaving campus for spring break and helped to plant onion and snapdragon seeds.
In addition to the first planting of the season, we have been keeping busy in other ways at The Farm. At the end of February, we visited Caffrey Towers in Brockton and had lots of fun with our partners at Brockton Neighborhood Health Center and UMASS Nutrition Education Program. Keryn from UMASS NEP cooked a delicious Haitian soup with a wide array of vegetables, including potatoes and onions from Langwater Farm. Participants enjoyed the soup and took home a bag of ingredients to make their own bowls of this yummy dish!
We welcomed Celia Dolan in mid-February as the new Assistant Farm Manager. She graduated in December with an environmental studies degree, business minor, and a passion for sustainable agriculture. After volunteering and working at The Farm since her freshman year, she was honored to accept this position upon graduating a semester early. She is excited to work with Bridget and the volunteers who make The Farm the inspirational place that it is! While keeping up with the usual winter farm duties, Celia and Bridget are planning a seed saving garden to nurture heirloom seeds and the stories that they hold. Celia spoke on a panel at SEMAP’s Annual Agriculture and Food Conference about The Farm’s efforts to Grow for the Greater Good and described plans for the seed saving garden. Just as she was a voice for The Farm on the panel, Celia is happy be the voice of The Farm on this blog post and more posts to come!
Bridget and Celia look forward to a new season at The Farm. We hope to work with you soon in the spring weather, when the snow has melted and The Farm begins to awaken. Until then, we remain ever-hopeful that sunshine and warmth are around the corner. Stay happy and healthy, friends! ~Celia
It’s been an incredible start to the 2017 season. As usual, we are blessed with a positive and hard working crew. This year’s crew members include Michelle David, Melissa Mardo, Jackie Lerner, Alex Pica, Gianna Desrochers, and Celia Dolan. In addition, Brian Kennedy, C.S.C. – a Holy Cross Seminarian – is joining us for the month of July. We are not always all at the farm together, but when we are there is a festive and productive feeling in the air (weeds weed themselves — ha ha, I jest — but the truth is that a lot of hard work gets done and miraculously the crew keeps smiling). I feel very lucky to have them! I will take the time to introduce each of them more over the next couple of weeks.
One of the reasons for a successful start to the season is our supportive VP for Mission, Father Jim Lies. For the past few years, we have felt his strong support in so many ways and it has allowed us to grow and thrive. He has been with us every step of the way as we cultivate our living classroom by adding the Mobile Market, welcoming groups to the farm, taking good care of our soil, and growing biodiversity along with nutritious and fresh produce for our community partners. We will miss him, but wish him the best of luck as he starts his new position in London with Notre Dame.
Good luck in London, Father Jim! We will miss you!
This remainder of this post will share just a few things we have been up to. More to come soon!
At The Farm:
We have already harvested and delivered ~1,500 pounds of veggies this season.
We are harvesting zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, scallions, pac choi, lettuce, basil, other herbs, peas, a few cherry tomatoes and beautiful flowers (see link below to order your bouquets)!
In the Community:
Our markets at BNHC are going well! Going forward we will offer a market every Wednesday from 3-4:30 and alternate between 63 Main and 1380 Main.
Brockton’s Community Garden Network!
Thanks to the hard work of our Brockton’s Promise Americorp Vista, Sara Morris, the community garden network in Brockton has been strengthening! Please visit: www.brocktonspromisegardens.weebly.com (co-created by Sara and Jackie Gorman) to check out sites and resources for effective community gardening.
Would you like some beautiful flowers? To order your small: $5 (10-15 stems), medium: $10 (~25 stems) or large: $15 (~35 stems) bouquet click here or email: email@example.com
FindThe Farm at Stonehillon Facebook and “like us” of follow us on Instagram (#thefarmatstonehill) to stay connected to Farm happenings.
After one of the snowiest winters on record, the promised and long-awaited spring arrived. As the last of the ice and snow melted away in early April, I looked out at the fields and tried to envision what our fifth season would offer.
Every year, the fields wake up and transform – via the help of volunteers and now, our summer farmers – into neat, and colorful rows of vegetables and flowers – but what will this year bring?
As our fifth season begins, I am keenly aware of all of the people who lend a hand at The Farm and I am filled with gratitude for their enthusiastic support! Here are just a few key relationships that I’d like to highlight as our fifth season shifts into high gear:
For farming advice or to get help with soil tillage I know that I can always turn to our friends at Langwater Farm.
All it takes is a quick call up the street to Kevin or Kate O’Dwyer to set up visits from members of their crew to either arrange for some chisel plowing to help maintain soil health, or to lay plastic beds for full season crops like tomatoes and flowers.
It is important to vary the depth of tillage in our fields in order to avoid creating “hard pan” conditions at 6 inches – the depth that our rototiller reaches.
The plastic mulch is laid with a line of drip tape which helps us provide a consistent amount of moisture to crops like tomatoes, peppers, onions, flowers, eggplants, cucumbers, zucchini, and summer squash. These beds have been especially important this summer with the warm and dry conditions we have been experiencing.
Spring is a time of new life, and it is always exciting to welcome the youngest members of our community to The Farm. Since the first season at The Farm, we have worked very closely with Beth Collins at My Brother’s Keeper to distribute our produce via their 84 weekly home deliveries. As our first greens started to come out of Hoophouse #2 this spring, Beth visited us with her son Teddy to chat about how we can continue to grow desirable and delicious vegetables for the clients of My Brother’s Keeper.
Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and pumpkins are some of the most popular veggies, and we look forward to donating them as the season unfolds.
The Farm also serves as a living classroom for faculty and students at Stonehill College. Some of these projects have been growing with us for years – you might remember posts about Father Steve Wilbricht’s grapes for his Sacraments course, and the honeybee project led by Devin Ingersoll (2014) and Jess Lantos (2014).
This spring, a number of students worked on independent research projects with me at The Farm to see projects they had started last summer or during the their sustainable agriculture course in the fall to fruition. They ranged from permaculture gardens at The Farm and on campus to biochar plots, from edible forest gardens to calculating real food in our dining commons, and from studies on soil health to towergardens. The energy that these students bring to their projects at The Farm is inspiring and is what keeps us strong, vibrant, and productive! Here are images from just a few of the projects to give you a sense of the positive energy that the students bring to their work – a key ingredient to their success.
EDIBLE FOREST GARDEN
REAL FOOD – FOOD TRUTH
Another important relationship to highlight is that of our farm as a home to biodiversity – including native pollinators, toads, honeybees from our Best Bees of Boston hive, and our killdeer families. We strive to create a farm that is as an agroecosystem – an ecosystem under sustainable agricultural management that is both an ecosystem unto itself and connected to the surrounding ecosystem. As such, I am always thrilled to see the killdeer come back every year and to watch them produce healthy broods. This year we think our pair is so pleased with our farm as a home that they are having 2 broods – 4 nestlings hatched on May 11th, and there are currently 3 eggs in a row of onions.
Last, but definitely not least, our student and staff volunteers make our farm what it is – one that grows both vegetables and community. Whether we are planting potatoes or delivering seedlings to community or school gardens in Brockton, it is more common than not for our crew to offer up a smile or two as they work.
As we enter our fifth season, I am looking forward to seeing all of the places that these strong and positive relationships can take us!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
In the hoophouses you can see that a number of crops have already benefited from the slightly warmer temperatures the plastic walls offer.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…
…at The Farm…
…in our Apple Orchard…
…and 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.
We were overjoyed to learn that our bees had been productive enough to share some of their bounty with us!
The results are beautiful and delicious!
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!
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.
After a few hours of work we had our sign!
Now you can find it hanging at the entrance of our Farmhouse: 411 Washington St.
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!
Sending you warm wishes for a restful and rejuvenating holiday season!
Looking out at the fields at the end of the day today I was struck by the jungle of tomato, squash, eggplant and pepper plants that met my gaze. Are the winter squash already ripening – the tomato seeds that we planted back in late March now giant plants busily producing delicious fruits in varying hues?
We are in the fields every day, harvesting, planting and weeding, but it’s easy to forget how these vibrant plants were once fragile seedlings in our propagation hoophouse.
These seedlings grow up quickly and by mid-August THEY are the ones that dictate the rhythm of the days – for everyone knows that if you leave a productive zucchini plant unattended for even one day the fruits will double in size!
Our days are also guided not just by the speed at which the plants produce their fruits, but by our deliveries to our partners: The Easton Food Pantry (Monday), The Table at Father Bill’s and Mainspring (Thursday), and the Family Life Center (Thursday). We visit My Brother’s Keeper a few days throughout the week, as they make deliveries to their clients at least three days per week and we like to try to pick and deliver the same day to ensure freshness and maximize nutritional benefits of the veggies for those who they reach.
We who have been at The Farm all summer have grown accustomed to these rhythms and the full fields, but I have heard from our students who have recently returned from their summers elsewhere that the farm that they returning to barely resembles the one that they left in late April. It is fun and refreshing to take a look back at images throughout the season to track some of the changes and appreciate the fecundity of the plants that have quietly grown and produced delicious vegetables for us all season.
It’s really incredible to think about the speed at which a zucchini or summer squash produces fruit once the plants mature – I almost feel like you could watch them grow right before your eyes. Every once and awhile a few plants go unattended for a couple of days in a row, and the resulting zucchini are as big as our crews calves – and more cut out to become Zucchini Parmesan than a side dish of delicate grilled spears.
One of my favorite places at the moment is the propogation hoophouse where the kale, lettuce, pac choi, and chard seedlings are sharing their growing space with curing Honey Bear Acorn Squash and delicious Delicata Squash. It illustrates the productivity of the season thus far and the promise of a green and flavorful fall.
Another fun place to be is our second hoophouse, constructed through a generous donation by the Class of 1964 and the Harold Brooks Foundation and Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustee, which we are nicknaming the “growhouse.” It is already brimming with life – healthy tomatoes and freshly seeded rows of carrots and turnips – and within the next couple of months we will replace the rows of tomatoes with spinach and other cool weather crops.
Every spring when I look out at our field I feel a bit like a writer staring at a blank manuscript, pen in hand, and hoping that a sudden bought of intense writer’s block does not decide to take up residence in my head. Thankfully, without fail over the past four season, we start to plan and plant our veggies that will include peppers, tomatoes, kale, onions, eggplants, herbs, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, flowers and potatoes his year. Pretty soon we are harvesting, washing, packing and delivering our crops and that worry fades.
Once we till in the winter cover crops and plant our first rows of radishes and peas the worry starts fades and we move through the days prepping beds with compost, filling them with seedlings, and within a month or two the fields are filled once again. And we watch in wonder as the hard work pays off and gives back much more than one could ever expect.
As the cooler nights arrive, we continue to farm, planting crops that will enjoy the fall in the fields or in the “growhouse” as we start to store up images and save seeds to keep us warm in the colder months and well prepared for another bountiful season at The Farm!
Spring is a miraculous time to be a farmer – it is a time of creativity, renewed energy and productivity.
On these cooler days in May the fields appear to be a blank canvas that we are given the opportunity to fill up with colorful, nutritious crops. We start each growing season with the memory of bountiful fields – thousands of plants producing fruits faster than we can harvest them – as we look out at many open rows waiting to be filled with tiny, seemingly vulnerable seedlings. With the knowledge that these small, fragile seedlings often grow rapidly into strong, vibrant plants, we forge ahead and begin to paint the farm once again.
The volunteers are plentiful and eager to help the farm have another successful year! During the months of April and May we often welcomed 25-30 helpers each Friday who quickly got right to work: planting, mulching, watering and prepping beds. We have them to thank for the rows and rows of healthy plants that are growing along beautifully now on these longer, warmer days.
The plants are adapting well to the somewhat harsher environment that lies outside of the protective hoophouse, and with some water and time in the sun they start to grow. We can’t help but anticipate all of the delicious flavors that our first harvests of High Mowing Mesclun Mix, Shanghi Green Pac Choi and Deer Tongue Lettuce will bring to the table.
In addition to careful planting, the light and heat from the sun, and nutrients in the soil, our crops will also require water and some help competing with the weeds to ensure that they achieve their full potential. Volunteers assist in the important tasks of rolling out the irrigation “lay-flat” tubes and drip tape and delivering mulch to the fields.
We are experimenting with doing some more mulching between the rows this season using hay purchased at the end of the last season and newly purchased salt marsh hay. This mulch will add organic material back to the soil and allow us to cut back on hours spent weeding and weed whacking!
In addition to volunteer groups, a number of classes visit the farm regularly to deepen lessons introduced in the classrooms across the street. The Farm was the subject of this year’s Faculty Focus piece, created by our marketing team to highlight how a number of faculty members are utilizing The Farm as an outdoor learning space.
Father Steve Wilbricht is one of the faculty who is utilizing the farm as a living classroom. He is committed to growing grapes with the help of his class on the Sacraments and can often be found weeding, watering and monitoring the health of the grapevines at The Farm.
One strategy to ensure productivity or all of our crops involves supporting our populations of pollinators, both native and imported. This year we are adding a hive of Italian honeybees to the farm, which will be managed by the beekeepers of The Best Bees Company in Boston. This addition to The Farm is the result of a Sustainable Agriculture semester long project by students Devin Ingersoll and Jess Lantos – both members of the Class of 2014.
The construction of our second hoophouse is another current exciting activity at The Farm, and is also the result of a student project. In my Sustainable Agriculture class last spring, Dan Gardiner (Class of 2014) and Jack Bressor (Class of 2013) outlined how we could extend our growing and learning season at The Farm with the addition of a second growing structure like this. With the help of a second year of funding from the Harold Brooks Foundation we were able to purchase the supplies to make the addition this spring.
Despite their own busy spring at Freedom Food Farm in Raynham, MA, Farmers Chuck Currie and John White are making some time to put up the hoophouse for us. We plan to grow tomatoes, cucumbers and other warm weather crops in this structure during the summer and then chard, kale, lettuce and other greens during the colder months.
One of the unexpected benefits of this construction project includes temporary perching for local tree swallows. Seeing them enjoy this space reminds me of the lessons I teach in the classroom – we are part of a larger ecosystem here at The Farm and have an important duty to be stewards to the land and to support the biodiversity that thrives on the farm and in the fields and trees that surround us.
We have also seen toads, bees, crickets, robins, bluebirds, nesting killdeer and many other creatures at The Farm this spring, which encourages us to continue to think about ways to provide a diverse habitat as we simultaneously work to grow, harvest and deliver our crops to nurture the human members of our community.
I was relieved to see that this Killdeer (pictured above) decided to lay her eggs in a row after it had been planted it with seedlings. She actively defends her nest whenever we approach the area to plant or weed in a nearby row. We are happy to let her have this head of lettuce and hope that she stays in this part of the field out of harms way of the rototiller or a hoe.
This summer, 3 summer farmers will be helping to care for our farm: Kayleigh McDonnell, Andrew Curran and Chris Astephen. Together we will work with the volunteers, visitors, killdeer, bees, community members, and whatever the weather brings us to grow vegetables and flowers.
We are keeping busy moving the seedlings from Hoophouse #1 into the fields and have started to harvest a few things – lettuce and Pac Choi – for our community partners and the people that they serve.
Season #4 is officially underway… looking forward to seeing what new elements we can add to this year’s masterpiece.
Visit us at The Farm or on Facebook to see it all unfold.
With temperatures falling into the teens at night for much of March, it feels like an understatement to say we have had a slow start to spring here in Easton, MA. In his poem, “I Have a Rendezvous With Life, ” Countee Cullen includes the line “I have a rendezvous with Life, When spring’s first heralds hum.” This year it is almost as if Spring is waking up a bit late and almost lackadaisically going about getting herself ready for a very important date with the calendar. Rest assured, I’m confident that the tilt of the earth and the intensifying sun rays will hurry her along and these colder days will be replaced by warmer days before we know it!
At The Farm at Stonehill, we are making good use of this slower start to the season to organize our growing spaces and to plant early crops like onions, greens and flowers to ensure a productive fourth season! Regular “Farm Friday” volunteer hours will recommence on April 10th promptly at 2:30, but thankfully some of the students have started to appear at The Farm to lend a hand even though they must do so clad in hats, gloves and windbreakers to keep out the chill.
Volunteers have helped to clean up our hoophouse to make way for trays upon trays of seedlings that are currently germinating in the greenhouse at Shields Science Center.
Some of the projects seem small, but to the farmers at Stonehill, an organized hoophouse, is satisfying and beautiful thing to behold – especially when we picture the tables filled with trays teeming with a diverse array of crops!
It won’t be long before these onion seeds have germinated and turn from brown to green (or red and purple)…
…like these beets,
…and these Mesclun Mix seedlings.
In addition to our intrepid volunteers, we have had other visitors to The Farm, like Candidate for Lieutenant Governor James Arena-Derosa in Massachusetts. One of the main focuses of his campaign is “Ending Hunger While Creating Jobs” and he took some time while he was on campus to visit with me and Professor Chris Wetzel at The Farm and also meet with students in my Sustainable Agriculture class to share his views on the matter. We all enjoyed his visit and wish him the best of luck with his campaign.
Unlikely as it may seem, Spring is arriving and bringing the sensation of softer fields underfoot, the lively whooshing of running water in the melting streams, and the cheerful songs of Spring Peepers and Robins.
It won’t be long before Season #4 is in full swing!
From the Lab to The Field: Cold-Tolerance Gene Research at the Farm
Guest post by, Danielle Garceau, Class of 2015
Even during the quieter, less hectic winter months, there is still a surprising amount of activity at the farm. From Mesclun mix and other cold weather crops like Spinach growing along in the hoop house, to students learning in their outdoor classroom, the farm is still a happening place.
But what else might be going on? Yes, research! As the temperature begins to drop the farm is the ideal location for an ongoing study that I am conducting with Professor Irvin Pan of the Biology Department with the support of the Farm. Through this research, we are hoping to determine the underlying genetic basis for cold-tolerance in crop species known to be cold-hardy.
Funded by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and the Stonehill Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Program, this project is a continuation of research conducted this past growing season that will shift from the lab to the farm this winter. We are collecting and analyzing field data to better understand how certain tasty plant species can survive in outdoor winter weather environments.
Over this past summer, our group identified the cold tolerance genes Inducer of CBF Expression 1 (ICE1), C-Repeat Binding Factor 3 (CBF3), and Eskimo 1 (ESK1) in known cold-hardy crops such as Broccoli, Bok-Choi, and Kale alongside the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana. We conducted an experiment to compare the expression of the cold-tolerance gene CBF3 in plants incubated at warm and cold temperatures.
The picture above is one of many gel electrophoreses ran on the DNA (in this case, cDNA or complementary DNA that is made from mRNA or messenger RNA) of these crop species. The bands above are the actual DNA of a specific gene that we are studying. The brighter the band, the more DNA there is in the plant tissue, meaning the plant is turning on this specific gene. As you can see from this gel picture after a 2 hour long exposure to cold temperatures, the expression level of the cold-tolerance gene CBF3 underwent as much as a 15 fold increase! We think that this may be one reason why plants like Broccoli, Kale, and Bok-Choi don’t mind colder temperatures.
Through conducting further cold exposure experiments this winter at the greenhouse we hope to confirm these results on a larger scale and over a longer time period of one month while also recording the temperatures that the plants experience every hour using a temperature data logger.
In addition to our work in the heated greenhouse this winter, we hope to also grow our cold-hardy plants in the newly built cold frame. Using the cold frame will allow us to gather data in a setting in which not only farmers but home gardeners could grow crops during the colder months of the year. This cold frame will also prove to be a useful learning tool in sustainable agriculture practices to students that use the farm as an outdoor classroom and engage in classes like Sustainable Agriculture – taught by Farm Manager Meigs.
In conducting this research at the farm we hope to ultimately extend the farm’s growing season further into the winter through the selection of crops most suited to colder temperatures. Through extending the farm’s growing season we also hope to enable the farm to provide fresh produce to community partners well into the winter season.