Categories
Community Community Partners Greenhouse Guest Post Our Vision The Farm at Stonehill Winter 2014

Winter Research: From the Lab to the Field

From the Lab to The Field: Cold-Tolerance Gene Research at the Farm

Guest post by, Danielle Garceau, Class of 2015

photo of Cold-hardy crops ready for winter in the hoop house
Cold-hardy crops ready for winter in the hoop house.

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.

This figure represents the changes in CBF3 levels over a 2 hour time period. Red arrows indicate CBF3 levels before the cold exposure and blue arrows indicate CBF3 levels after the cold exposure with numbers below the bands representing expression level as compared to before the cold exposure.
Cold Exposure Experiment: Gel Electrophoresis:   This figure represents the changes in CBF3 levels over a 2 hour time period. Red arrows indicate CBF3 levels before the cold exposure and blue arrows indicate CBF3 levels after the cold exposure with numbers below the bands representing expression level as compared to before the cold exposure.

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.

photo of Greenhouse Cold Exposure Experiment in the Greenhouse at Shield Science Center.
Greenhouse Cold Exposure Experiment in the Greenhouse at Shield Science Center.

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.

photo of The new cold frame at The Farm.
The new cold frame at The Farm.

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.

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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 Community Partners Summer 2013 Summer Cultivation 2013 Summer Harvest 2013 Summer Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Long (mostly) Sunny Days Yield Bountiful Fields

The fields are producing veggies and flowers galore for us this summer. We’ve already harvested and donated over 800 pounds of our organic veggies – mostly lettuce, greens like kale, collards, and chard, onions, zucchini, and summer squash.  Our yields are higher than last year, due to careful cultivation and applications of rich compost, and we expect them to really explode now that the heavier crops like cucumbers and summer squash as starting to appear.

Beth of My Brother's Keeper picks up summer squash and kale on June 27th for their clients in Brockton.
Beth Sheehan of My Brother’s Keeper picks up summer squash and kale on June 27th for their clients in Brockton.

The veggies are all finding homes with our partners: The Easton Food Pantry, My Brother’s Keeper, The Family Life Center of the Old Colony YMCA, and The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring.

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So far, the rain has not impacted our production in a negative way, but we are keeping an eye out for any sign of Early Blight on our tomatoes or Downy Mildew in the squash.

Raised Beds help to keep the tomatoes and eggplants dry - reducing the possible spread of diseases like Early Blight.
Raised Beds help to keep the tomatoes and eggplants dry – reducing the possible spread of diseases like Early Blight.

Raised beds are helping to keep any flooding in fields from damaging the plants.

Squash, Pepper and Zucchini Plants - healthy and starting to produce fruits and flowers.
Squash, Pepper and Zucchini Plants – healthy and starting to produce fruits and flowers.

When the sun does shine, honeybees return to the fields and love the clover that grows around the shed and greenhouse. This is MOSTLY a good thing, except for bare or flip flop clad feet of unaware farmers – namely, Farmer Manager Meigs. I managed to get 2 stings this past week, one on my right pinkie toe and the other, a few days later on the arch of my left foot. Here is what I learned:

1. Remove the stinger ASAP.

2. If you work on a farm, grab an onion, break it open and rub it on the effected area!

I was much better at these steps the second time around!

(I suppose I could also wear close-toed shoes… but that’s a bit extreme, don’t you think?)

Honeybee hard at work - beware barefooted farmers!
Honeybee hard at work – beware barefooted farmers!

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We are happy to bear witness to the changing colors of the fields – from greens to golds in the rows of summer squash, and a wide array colors in our flower beds.

Early bouquets arranged for a celebration for Father Mark Creagan in Boston in early June.
Early bouquets arranged for a celebration for Father Mark Cregan in Boston in early June.

There is something magical about the way that seemingly overnight the yellow flowers appear on the squash, cucumber and tomato plants and white and purple flowers bloom on the eggplant and potato plants.

Summer Squash ready for the picking on June 28th.
Summer Squash ready for the picking on June 28th.

The nutrients and moisture in the soil and the energy from the sun provide most of the fuel for the bounty appearing in the fields, but some of the credit also goes to my 3 hard working summer farmers, Devin, Jake, and Alphonse, and to the volunteers.

Jake and Alphonse - on the hunt for Colorado Potato Beetles.
Jake and Alphonse – on the hunt for Colorado Potato Beetles in one of the rows of eggplant.
"Harvested" Colorado Potato Beetles - before they were disposed of.
“Harvested” Colorado Potato Beetles – before they were disposed of.

On Friday afternoons, a number of students working in Admission and some of our college staff  appear on the scene to help us tackle larger projects like hilling the potatoes.

Volunteers hill 5 rows of potatoes with us on Friday afternoon.
Volunteers hill 5 rows of potatoes with us on Friday afternoon.

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Abbey, Christina, Tom, and Anthony pause for a quick smile before going back to work.
Abbey, Christina, Tom, and Anthony pause for a quick smile before going back to work.

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Our youngest volunteer this season, Liam, plays in the compost while mom, Kim Wheeler, works in the fields.
Our youngest volunteer so far this season, Liam, plays in the compost while mom, Kim Wheeler (in blue), works in the field with Lisa Gualtieri.

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Alphonse makes sure that Liam doesn't eat too much compost ;).
Alphonse makes sure that Liam doesn’t eat too much compost!

Sometimes we are lucky enough to receive an extra hand on weekdays or on a Saturday from Stonehill alums or from local groups looking to lend a hand.

Farmer Devin and Volunteer Evan Sorgi (2013) weed a row of beets.
Farmer Devin and Volunteer Evan Sorgi (2013) weed a row of beets.

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A welcome surprise visit from Nick Howard (2013) - still growing smiles!
A welcome surprise visit from Nick Howard (2013) – still growing smiles!

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Two members of a Loyola University Alumni volunteer group help us stake "Tomatoes 2".
Two members of a Loyola University Alumni volunteer group help us stake “Tomatoes 2”.

Zuri keeps busy protecting our tender greens by warding off bunnies.  She then enjoys joining us for a rest during lunch before heading out for her afternoon rounds.

The team takes lunch!
The team takes lunch!

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On my morning and afternoon strolls around the fields, it’s easy to feel like I can actually SEE the squash and cukes growing right before my eyes.

Marie helps to hill and feed the potatoes.
Marie helps to hill and feed the potatoes.

With the help of rich compost our crops and flowers are flourishing!

Devin and Jake help fill up a van from My Brother's Keeper.
Devin and Jake help fill up a van from My Brother’s Keeper.

~~~

Flower bouquets out for delivery on campus.
Flower bouquets out for delivery on campus.

We invite you to come join us for a visit or a quick hour or two of planting, harvesting or… you guessed it… weeding!

If you would like to place a flower order, please email me and we’ll create an arrangement filled with Snapdragons, Cosmos, Zinnias, Black Eyed Susan, Sweet William, Salvia and Statice (bmeigs@stonehill.edu).

Early flower bouquets.
Early flower bouquets.
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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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Many thanks to all of our generous farm supporters!

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

 

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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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photo of greens
Students harvested, washed and packed 3 pounds of this delicious Mesclun Mix and Arugula for My Brother's Keeper.

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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.

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photo of Catie, Alexa and Jill planting potatotes
Catie, Alexa and Jill plant Red Gold Potatoes.

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photo of Adriana and Sydney planting potatoes
Adriana and Sydney get ready to plant German Butterball Potatoes.

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photo of group planting potatoes
Potato planters: Catie, Adriana, Sydney, Jillian, Alexa, Rosemarie, Sarah and Nick.

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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.

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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
Greenhouse Reflections Spring 2012 Spring Cultivation 2012 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

The Magic of Farming in the Spring

After our brief waltz with summer temperatures, the more seasonal cool nights and blustery, sunny days of early spring have returned.

photo of seedlings in the greenhouse
Our tables are filling up with tough little seedlings.

The seedlings in the greenhouse are holding up well despite the colder temperatures.  Every evening, if it looks like the temperatures will dip into the 30’s, we cover up the seedlings with a thin sheet of row cover to protect them from cold damage.

Some of the seedlings are growing so well that they need to be transplanted into larger “homes” so that their roots can find the moisture and nutrients that they need to grow.

Rosemarie, Sarah, and Breanne – hard at work transplanting greens during volunteer hours on Friday, March 30.

Thanks to the careful work of volunteers, these Mesclun Mix Greens and Arugula are thriving.

photo of transplanted greens
Greens growing strong after 1 week in their new homes!

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Despite the cooler days, volunteers are still filling the fields, and jumping right in to plant seeds in The Sem, transplant seedlings in the greenhouse, and plant  seeds in the field.

volunteers planting seeds
Kyle, Dave and Tommy, plant seeds in the basement of The Sem.

 ~~~

photo of Volunteers prep first bed
A team of volunteers prep our first bed of the season with ease.

Last week, on March 30th, 18 volunteers arrived at The Farm and got right to work prepping and “pre-weeding”. Before I knew it, the first bed was masterfully prepared and the group was ready to plant two varieties of radish: Rudolf and Pink Beauty.

With this many helping hands, hundreds of seeds are sown in minutes!

~~~

The “magic” of this time of year comes during these bustling times of group activity, and also in the unexpected moments of quiet reflection.

These come early in the morning when the frost is still melting away…

Morning Frost

…and in the early evening when we tuck the seedlings in to protect them from the cold nights.

photo of seedlings tucked in
Onions, cabbage, lettuce, kale and flowers – all tucked in for the night.

Under the cover of night, the seedlings withstand the cold and greet us the next day a little bit stronger, and one day closer to their time to grow to their full potential in the field. 

These seedlings are embracing the sunlight of each day, modeling “Carpe Diem” in a whole new way!

photo of onion seedlings
A sea of onion seedlings – strong after a good night’s rest – greet the morning.

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Outside of the greenhouse, the soils are warming under consistent sunny skies and temperatures in the 50’s. As a result, today was a perfect day to plant peas.

photo of peas
Peas in hand – ready to grow.

I prepped the soil with a rototiller, a rake and a hoe and planted the peas in 2 straight rows, with a string to guide my work.

photo of peas planted
Peas are planted 1 month ahead of our first pea planting in 2011.

We now have 2 beds planted – many more to come!

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I am looking forward to planting our onion and lettuce seedlings next week with the help of our volunteers!

In The Sem we continue to plant our seeds. 

In the greenhouse, you’ll see kale, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, collards, dill, cilantro, parsley, and other greens growing in all shapes and sizes.

At The Farm, the perennials are waking up from their winter’s nap, and will be there to greet you!

Photo of new growth on raspberry canes
New growth on raspberry canes planted last spring.
Categories
Community Community Partners Greenhouse Our Vision Spring 2012 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

That Summer Feeling… in Mid-March!

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

Spring is here!

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

photo of greens
Mesclun Mix Seedlings

 

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

 

photo of celosia
Celosia seedlings.

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

What does this mean about the health of our planet? 

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

Erin, Gabbie and Dan seed zinnias in the greenhouse.

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


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

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

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

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

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

…and good farming neighbors!

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

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

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

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

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

First they signed in…

photo of volunteer log
Our Volunteer Log

…then the weeding began in the perennial beds…

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

 

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

 

…planting commenced in window boxes on our shed…

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Happy Spring! Happy Farming!

 

Categories
Community Community Partners Fall 2011 Fall Harvest 2011 Fall Projects 2011 Fall Volunteers 2011 Our Vision Summer Harvest 2011 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Harvest Time Made Easy by Volunteers

We are still very busy bringing in the harvest at The Farm! 

photo of carrots and carnival squash
Carrots and carnival squash, freshly picked and ready for delivery.

Thanks to up to 50 weekly student and staff volunteers leek, tomatoes, carrots, kale, bok choi, kale and even sweet potatoes are filling up our harvest bins and the tables of our partners.

photo of students washing carrots
Three students, many carrots!

Last week when Beth came to pick up for My Brother’s Keeper we filled every last bit of space – even the front passenger seat – in her cargo van with our vegetables. We are happy to see veggies like winter squash, kale and leeks all being sent out together and have high hopes that they will soon be cooked together into a delicious and healthy soup.

Harvesting Leeks photo
Fall harvest of our Tandora Leeks.
photo of a leek
Many roots to grow a healthy leek. A couple of leeks to cook a flavorful dish.

We welcome students and staff to join us on Thursday mornings and Friday afternoons to ensure a plentiful and diverse mix of produce for The Table at Father Bill’s and MainSpring and the Old Colony YMCA.

photo of volunteers
Sun or showers, the volunteers are an essential ingredient to our healthy farm.

After we harvest, we weigh, wash and pack the produce… smiling all the way.

Sorting Sugar Pie Pumpkins
Volunteers Weighing and Sorting Sugar Pie Pumpkins

We were happy to welcome a few Stonehill Alumni this past Saturday and welcome all local Alums, Staff and Students to consider joining us on Friday afternoons between 2:00 PM and 5:30 PM until the frost of fall arrives.

photo of group bagging greens
Baby Bok Choi and Kale: Weighed and packed up for delivery to Old Colony YMCA.

See you soon at The Farm!

For more information on how you can volunteer at the farm please email our volunteer coordinator Erin: ecobb@students.stonehill.edu

 

Categories
Community Community Partners Summer 2011 Summer Cultivation 2011 Summer Harvest 2011 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Committed Volunteers and Partners Help us Prepare for Hurricane Irene

photo of grey skies at the farm
Stormy skies at The Farm as we harvest before Hurricane Irene arrives this morning.

Since news of Hurricane Irene started to circulate we have been joined by numerous volunteers to help harvest all produce that is ripe for the picking. Over the past couple of days new faculty have taken time from their busy days of orientation to harvest some Striped German and German Cavern Tomatoes with us. Today longterm volunteers Marie Kelly, Lyn Feeney, and Tim Watts, and a couple of new volunteers from facilities joined me in the fields to pick any remaining Juliet, Bellstar and New Girl tomatoes before the rains began to fall.  We laid them out with care in the greenhouse to allow their morning dew to evaporate before weighing and boxing them up for our partners.

photo of tomatoes rescued
Tomatoes picked this morning by volunteers.

As the volume of tomatoes increases, we continue to deliver to The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring and Old Colony YMCA. We are so thankful for our partnership with My Brother’s Keeper who not only continue to pick up and share our produce with those who receive home deliveries, but also ensure that any extra produce is shared with other organizations in Brockton addressing hunger and nutrition including Catholic Charities and the Charity Guild.   In addition, we are happy to be working with the Salvation Army who have started to pick up tomatoes from us on a weekly basis.

photo of tomatoes ready for pick up
Tomatoes picked up and delivered by My Brother's Keeper.

Knowing that our tomatoes and other produce will be distributed and shared efficiently and with care incites us to pick any and all ripe produce without the concern that it will go to waste.   The willingness of these partners to ensure timely delivery of perishable produce like tomatoes is a wonderful thing to witness and displays a deep level of commitment to the people they serve.  This distribution link is often the most challenging piece in food systems work, and we enjoy working with partners who recognize this and work hard to ensure delivery from farm to table.

photo of ripe rose de berne tomatoes
One of our heirloom, and somewhat fragile tomato varities, Rose de Berne, ripen up on the windowsill.

We are committed to sharing fresh produce with our partners into October which is why you will see young greens dotting the fields when you visit us online or in person.

photo of young greens
Young beets, mustard greens, chard, and baby bok choi. Their low profile should help keep them safe during tomorrow's storm.

~~~

So, back to Hurricane Irene.  Am I worried about the approaching storm? A bit, but I have learned a great deal this summer about the resilience of the plants growing at The Farm.  During a thunderstorm this summer I sat in my car, windshield wipers on high, and watched in horror as the wind and rain pelted and shook our tomato and pepper plants.  I wish I had known at that moment that I had little to worry about, as a few hours later the pepper plants that had tumbled over in the wind had bounced back and only a couple of tomato stakes needed to be reset.  I harvested ripe tomatoes and peppers from these plants just yesterday!

photo of turnips
Purple Top and Red Stem Scarlet QueenTurnips harvested this week.

We also have a good crop of carrots, turnips, beets, and radishes that are naturally taking cover below the surface. Our kale, lettuce, leeks, flowers, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and other high profile crops may get quite a work out tomorrow during the storm, but I will be very surprised if they don’t bounce back and appear in harvest and donation bins within a week.

farm on august 27
Lacinato Kale stands tall this morning, in the calm before the storm.