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 is a wintery day in Easton, and as the wind whips and snowflakes fly past the window, I fill my cup with hot tea and my head with vibrant images of our farm on warmer days.
It is hard to believe that 2015 was already our fifth season, and our production (exceeding 15,000 pounds), new programs (the Mobile Market), increase in use as a living classroom (more professors and students learning at the farm), and growing family (volunteers and community gardeners) illustrate a clear shift from “chick to fledgling” stage in our development as a farm community.
Our seed order is almost complete and plans for our next season abound, but pausing to reflect on the past five seasons, I’m amazed at how our farm continues to thrive and extend its reach into Brockton and Easton.
This season we forged new relationships in the community and entered new territory when we piloted our Mobile Market this fall in the parking lot of Trinity Baptist Church and The Family Center (1367 Main St). Starting on September 16, 2015, and for the following six weeks, we drove our farm truck to this address and set up a veggie stand.
This program, supported by a $5,000 grant from Project Bread, allows us to partner more closely with organizations like UMASS Nutrition Services and sell some of our organic produce at or below market prices directly to consumers in parts of Brockton that lack easy access to healthy, fresh produce.
Thanks to a generous donation of a Sprinter Van from Craig and Lisa Hyslip, we will be able to transport our veggies to our Mobile Market locations in an environment that protects them from heat, rain, and other kinds of conditions that can impact freshness. We are currently working with students and staff in Stonehill’s Marketing Department to create a colorful, festive logo that conveys the bounty and health the market will bring wherever it goes! We will share market dates, locations, and times by the springtime – we are hoping to offer markets two days per week at two different locations.
As always, we will continue to donate the majority of our produce to our four main community partners: The Easton Food Pantry, My Brother’s Keeper, The David Jon Louison Center of the Old Colony YMCA and The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring.
Our farm thrives because of the energy brought in by our visitors –the students and staff who volunteer, the insects that pollinate, and the classes that come to learn – and the gifts of the farm – new friendships, honey made from the nectar, and knowledge learned through experiences.
This season, six faculty utilized The Farm as a space to teach about sustainability. Disciplines included Philosophy, Political Science, Art, Environmental Science, Eco-spirituality and Ecology, and the farm hummed with the energy and activity that these classes brought to the fields. In a Learning Community called The Origin of Resources: From Farm to Studio, co-taught by me and Candice Smith Corby, our students learned about sustainable food production and how to create natural pigments and dyes from some of the plants growing at The Farm. With this course, more than any other I have had the opportunity to teach, I learned and subsequently taught about how to preserve the flavors and the beauty of the harvest. This learning occurred in the fields in the company of Candice, our students, and through the teachings of generous guest teachers like Chef Geoff Lukas and Farmer Linda Reinhardt.
These relationships serve to increase my hunger for knowledge about how to sustainably grow food to increase food security, to maintain healthy, biodiverse landscapes, and to understand and celebrate the traditions that support these kinds of connections with the land.
A relationship is growing with the land that surrounds our production fields. We often see monarch butterflies in our fields, pausing in the flower beds before moving on to an abutting field to find their beloved milkweed.
We have also witnessed the hue of the honey produced by our bees deepen over the course of the season. We know this is because they tend to visit more goldenrod in the fall months. With the long, warm fall this past season our bees were so productive that Best Bees of Boston was able to harvest and provide us with over 75 pounds of honey from our hive!
It is our hope that the bees also enjoyed the flowers that we planted in our fields and that also served as bouquets for staff and students – as well as two brides who chose our flowers to help them celebrate on their wedding day.
While productivity of our crops and activity in the fields certainly slows during the colder months of the year, I am pleased to report that spinach planted in our second hoophouse in October is thriving. We will continue to explore other methods of season extension (utilizing more high tunnels, production of micro-greens and maintaining the TowerGarden on campus) in order to learn about the optimum conditions for sweet, nutritious crops at The Farm.
I have come to believe that the success of a farm is tightly linked to the people who choose to spend time elbow deep in the dirt in many different kinds of weather. In our fields each summer I am always impressed by my hard-working and dedicated summer crew and during the school year it is common to welcome twenty to thirty volunteers to work the fields every week. I am so thankful for all of their hard work and also for my growing ties with other local growers like my friends at Langwater, Round the Bend, Brix Bounty, Freedom Food Farm, Tangerini’s, and Second Nature Farm.
I feel lucky to know that students like Madison and Emily will be ready to meet me when the snow and wind abate – to shovel out the hoophouse once again – and pretty soon plant seeds for the 2016 season!
Over the past five seasons, I have come to learn that these students, the faculty and staff who teach and volunteer at the farm, the folks who receive the produce we grow, and the other local farmers and farming networks ARE The Farm at Stonehill.
I have learned so much from you all and I cannot wait to see where we go from here!
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!
Summer Farmers relax in the new Permaculture test plot located at The Farm.
While the summer harvest is providing us with a bounty of fresh produce for our community partners, a team of students and faculty are actively performing research to create permaculture gardens for the Stonehill College and Massasoit Community College Campuses through funding provided by the Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee!
How did this research take root? In the late spring, two faculty members, Bridget Meigs, Instructor and Farm Manager at The Farm at Stonehill, and Melanie Trecek-King, Assistant Professor and Chair of the Sustainable Landscaping Committee at Massasoit Community College met with Rachel Hirst, Assistant Professor of Biology and Marie Kelly, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, to discuss the potential to work together and with students Jamall Plummer of Massasoit and myself, to create on-campus permaculture gardens at each of the respective colleges. When I was approached with this research opportunity while I was studying sustainability in Australia, I was thrilled to become involved and be a part of the project. I became even more excited when I met Jamall Plummer, a passionate student and leader in the garden projects at Massasoit College and active urban farmer at his home in Brockton.
Some of the gardens at the Massasoit College Brockton Campus.
The research project and the resulting gardens will serve as living laboratory spaces, allowing students from both campuses to connect with one another – creating academic and community linkages between Stonehill and Massasoit for years to come.
Jamall Plummer, Massasoit student collaborator, working in the Massasoit gardens!
Now, what is permaculture? Permaculture, also described as “permanent agriculture”, or “permanent culture” (since the two are so often intertwined!) is a regenerative design system that involves observing and mimicking the relationships found in nature to create ecological and edible landscapes and sustainable communities and economies. Therefore, permaculture incorporates organic growing methods that emphasizes growing polycultures (a number of different kinds of crops) over monocultures (one kind of crop) and planting perennial (plants that come back year after year) rather than annual crops (plants that have just one season) to ultimately create a complete and self-perpetuating system!
An herb spiral is a permaculture design. When you visit The Farm you will see one of these in the middle of the meditation garden.
Why have a garden on campus? I think by having a garden on campus, it begins to change people’s perceptions on how they think about food- from production to consumption. I really want students to think about where their food is coming from, how it is being grown, and who is growing it, so we can all begin to change those norms! The garden would show a real life example of how to convert underutilized grass lawns on the campus into edible, educational, and biodiverse gardens!
UMASS Amherst has led the way in integrating Permaculture Gardens into their campus’s landscape. Here is a sketch of their flagship garden, located right next to one of their dining facilities on campus in Amherst, MA.
The garden will hopefully also inspire more Stonehill students and staff to visit The Farm at Stonehill and learn more about food desert conditions in parts of Brockton to help to inspire more lasting solutions. In the future, the garden will also provide educational opportunities and living laboratory spaces for ecological and scientific research. It will bring together students, faculty, and staff from all different realms and disciplines and offer additional volunteer opportunities while being an outlet and source of inspiration for students during the school year.
A college campus is a perfect setting for implementing a permaculture garden as they are replicable, low-maintenance, scalable and can be adapted to suit anyone and in any climate! In addition, all of the food harvested from the garden will be available to the entire Stonehill Community, providing healthy and nutritious food grown from the campus itself!
In the past two weeks, we have been preparing the permaculture garden at the Farm for planting in the fall by outlining the beds with rocks and adding compost and mulch!
Watch the progression below!
Location for the Permaculture Garden test plot at The Farm at Stonehill.
Making progress! Thank you to Langwater Farm for the local rocks that we used to outline the beds.
“The Farm at Stonehill” brick at the entrance to the garden for a unique and authentic touch!
Farm Manger, Bridget and Summer Farmer, Chris, laying down a plastic ground cloth for the pathways to keep the weeds from taking over!
Adding mulch to the beds – a big thanks to all of the farmers, Bridget, Devin, Anna, Andrew, Chris, and Kaleigh for helping with the first stages of implementation of the garden.
Ready for planting! Here we will plant some fruit trees, perennial vegetables and flowers as well as some annual crops in our test plot at The Farm.
On another exciting note, the location of the on-campus garden is in the final stages of approval – it is located behind the split rail fence along the southern edge of Duffy Parking Lot behind the senior courts. We are very excited about this high visibility location that many students will pass on a daily basis! The garden beds will be planted with a variety of annual and perennial plants that will be maintained by students affiliated with the club Food Truth and under the supervision of Bridget Meigs, Farm Manager.
Proposed site for our Permaculture Garden on campus.
Once we receive approval, we are excited to begin sheet mulching on campus soon and begin planting our perennial crops in the fall! Sheet mulching is a no dig, no till gardening technique that reduces labor inputs, improves soil quality, prevents soil erosion, and improves plant health and productivity. Sheet mulching involves aerating the soil, reducing soil compaction while disturbing it a lot less than using a tractor, then covering the area with compost, organic matter that will improve soil health and add nutrients to the soil. The compost is then covered with a layer of cardboard or newspapers, which will prevent weeds from growing. Lastly, the area is covered by a mulch layer, which will hold in moisture and nutrients for the plants!
We can’t wait to continue the work on this project and begin to watch the garden grow!
Please contact me if you’d like to learn more and get involved in Food Truth or these garden projects: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
The other place to pour our energy is into helping our community learn how to compost!
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!?”
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.
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.
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!
It doesn’t seem like so long ago that our fields were filled with snow and the brilliant greens of spring seemed improbable, if not impossible.
Thankfully, the seasons always change in New England, and with the warmer days – filled with planting, weeding and harvesting – the ice and snow are now the distant memories!
In the weeks that led up to Commencement, temperatures soared into the 70’s and 80’s, making for some excellent weather to cultivate the crops.
Volunteers of all ages have already pitched in this season to help make for what we believe will be our most productive season yet!
Sometimes they work in pairs…
…go it solo…
…or work as a boisterous and energetic team.
In addition to the human power, our tractor is also responsible for doing some of the heavy lifting. So far, we have used our Kubota L5030 and Kuhn rototiller to turn the fields and make strategic compost deliveries.
We continue to work with Langwater Farm to get help laying black plastic for our full season crops, such as the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, sweet potatoes and the flowers.
At the start and the end to each day, Zuri and I have taken to walking the fields to note our crops’ progress, observe changes of the season and note any issues – such as leaks in the irrigation or insect pressure.
On these walks we make discoveries like our first flower in bloom…
… Bok Choi ready to be harvested …
…and where to harvest the Mesclun Mix on that particular day – as it is planted in a number of places throughout the fields.
All of time that we spend weeding carrots…
…and thinning beets…
…is time well spent, and results in a bountiful harvest that is already starting to appear on the tables of the clients served by our partners: My Brother’s Keeper, The Family Center at The Old Colony YMCA, The Table at Father Bill’s and MainSpring, and The Easton Food Pantry.
While many projects at the farm happen in the good company of volunteers and summer staff, I still find myself with an hour or two most days to work on projects in contemplative solitude. Sometimes I occupy my mind, puzzling over complex issues and projects: How can I improve the irrigation system? How can I manage the moths that are munching on some of the leaves on our apple trees?
Other times I opt to work my body and rest my mind and simply plant! I fall into the blessed rhythm of it all. I bend and bow, stretch and squat, and kneel and crouch – and look back every so often to take note of the beauty of the rows as they fill. It is during these moments when I become awestruck by the fortitude and beauty of the vegetables quietly growing around me. If I listen carefully imagine that I can hear exclaim in joy as they extend their roots into the soil and strecth their stems and leaves to drink in the sun.
Like the farmers that plant them, the seedlings extend their reach, bend to the elements, drink in the sun and rain, and grow.
Zuri and I will walk the fields and continue to report back on all of the activities in our fields that are already springing into Summer!
The fields at The Farm have been hopping over the past couple of weeks!
We have been enjoying the start of spring by joining in the fun of the Earth Day Party on the quad, welcoming classes and volunteers to the farm to help plant everything from grapes to onions, and participating in the Mentoring Through Art courses’ end-of-year celebrations.
It is exciting to watch the fields and bordering trees fill with all of the pale yellows and greens of early spring.
Our “Farm Fridays” remain popular, and keep me busy putting our energetic volunteers to work!
We have also had the pleasure of participating in events on campus like the Earth Day Party to celebrate sustainability at Stonehill. Students from the Real Food Stonehill group, a sub-group of a new Provisional SGA Group: “Food Truth”, shared kale chips and carrot bread (made with veggies from Langwater Farm) and Great Blue Hill blue cheese from Marion, MA (donated by Sodexo), and encouraged people to think about why what we eat matters for the health of the planet and for the health of those who grow it and eat it!
Students from the Real Food group asked their peers to share why they want Real Food…
…and asked them to sign a petition supporting the Real Food Challenge.
There were over 20 other groups present working on a number of different sustainability initiative including members of the No To-Go campaign, Meatless Monday, Zipcar, Democratic Education, and many more.
Many students visited the tables to learn about how to get involved…
Today we constructed the herb spiral in our meditation garden at the farm. This has been something that I have been wanting to build and plant for years, so I was very excited to have the opportunity to spend the day with stones, gravel, sand, compost, and a good helper: student and farmer Greg (Class of 2014).
Herb spirals are a permaculture* design and offer a good way to grow a diverse array of herbs in a small space that is easy to water and harvest.
Using field stones from Langwater Farm, compost from Clover Valley Stables, sand, and gravel, and cardboard we went to work – a good project for a day with 90+ degree temperatures in the fields.
We started the project by laying cardboard on the ground and sketching out a spiral. We gave the cardboard a good soaking to help boost microbial activity in the sod that lay beneath it and slow weeds from growing in among the rocks. We then started to build the spiral stone wall in a clockwise fashion to mimic the natural way that water drains down a pipe in the northern hemisphere. The gravel went in first to help stabilize the spiral rock wall, and help the water escape in the event of a heavy rainfall.
After the gravel layer was in, we added a couple of inches of sand. The sand and the gravel both help with drainage and help to maintain heat in the soil.
Next we filled the spiral with a healthy planting mix of horse manure based compost.
Next, it was time to plant our herbs!
As the rocks warm, they will help to dehumidify the soil and the extended edge, wrapping in on itself, provides a wide diversity of conditions. We will plant herbs like rosemary, sage, and oregano near the top of the spiral as they require less moisture, and plant mint and other moisture loving herbs near the bottom of the structure.
We still have some important plantings to do around the garden, – perhaps some vibirnums and native grasses – but it is starting to feel more and more like a good space for quiet contemplation or a lively class discussion!
*“Permaculture design emphasizes patterns of landscape, function, and species assemblies. It asks the question, “Where does this element go? How can it be placed for the maximum benefit of the system?” To answer this question, the central concept of permaculture is maximizing useful connections between components and synergy of the final design.
The focus of permaculture, therefore, is not on each separate element, but rather on the relationships created among elements by the way they are placed together; the whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts.
For more information on how to build an herb spiral please visit this site.
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.
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!
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…
…new greenhouse tables built by Mark Larson, one of the college’s talented carpenters…
…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.
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.
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…
…then the weeding began in the perennial beds…
…planting commenced in window boxes on our shed…
…and planting seeds continued in the greenhouse (and later in the Sem basement).
There was even a moment or two to enjoy a snack from the field!
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.