Categories
Community Summer 2015 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Season Five Arrives – Our Community Thrives!

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.

Zuri enjoys a sunny spring day at The Farm on April 15th - the fields finally in view after feet of snow melt away.
Zuri enjoys a sunny spring day at The Farm on April 15th – the fields finally in view after feet of snow melt away.

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?

Tulips brightened up The Farm early on as we await the reds of tomatoes, the yellows of summer squash, and the deep green of cucumbers.
Tulips brightened up The Farm early on as we await the reds of tomatoes, the yellows of summer squash, and the deep green of cucumbers.

~~~

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.

Jim Lawrence from Langwater Farm chisel plows our field on April 23rd.
Jim Lawrence from Langwater Farm chisel plows our field on April 23rd.

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 tines of the Chisel Plow go down about 12-14 inches.
The tines of the Chisel Plow go down about 12-14 inches.

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.

Justin Clark of Langwater Farm works with me on May 4th to lay out plastic mulch beds.
Justin Clark of Langwater Farm works with me on May 4th to lay out plastic mulch beds.

~~~

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.

Beth and Teddy Collins visit The Farm on April 28th to discuss production and delivery goals for the season.
Beth and Teddy Collins visit The Farm on April 28th to discuss production and delivery goals for the season.

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).

father steve grapes2
Father Steve Wilbricht visits on May 20th to prune and feed his Concord and Niagara grapes.

~~

Our bees survived the winter and are more productive than ever!
Our bees survived the winter and are more productive than ever! The folks from Best Bees of Boston visit us monthly to give us updates on their productivity and health.

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.

PERMACULTURE

Christine Moodie (2015) and Zuri planting strawberries in the on campus permacutlure garden near Amesbury.
Christine Moodie (2015) and Zuri planting strawberries in the on campus permacutlure garden near Amesbury.
Christine plants Garden of Eden Pole Beans in a Three Sisters Plot in the permaculture garden at The Farm.
Christine plants Garden of Eden Pole Beans in a Three Sisters Plot in the permaculture garden at The Farm.

BIOCHAR

Colin Walker (2015) (left) gets a hand from Melissa Mardo (2017) setting up his biochar test plots.
Colin Walker (2015) (left) gets a hand from Melissa Mardo (2017) setting up his biochar test plots.

EDIBLE FOREST GARDEN

Hayley Bibaud (2017) plants a peach tree in the edible forest garden she created in the northeast corner of The Farm.
Hayley Bibaud (2017) plants a peach tree in the edible forest garden she created in the northeast corner of The Farm.

TOWER GARDEN

e and a towergarden
Ellen Edgerton (2017) and Abby Bongaarts (2015) offer a smoothie making workshop at in the Atrium at Shields with kale produced on the Tower Garden.

REAL FOOD – FOOD TRUTH

Melissa Mardo (2017), also serving as a summer farmer this season, started to calculate how much Real Food (local, sustainably, fairly traded or humanely raised) food Stonehill currently purchases (second from right in the back row).
Melissa Mardo (2017), also serving as a summer farmer this season, started to calculate how much Real Food (local, sustainably, fairly traded or humanely raised) food Stonehill currently purchases (second from right in the back row).

~~~

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.

A killdeer parent actively protects her eggs in early May.
A killdeer parent actively protects her eggs in early May.
Happy bees - hard at work on
Happy bees – hard at work on May 6th.

~~~

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.

Anna Tallmadge (2015) helps to hoe a row for potatoes on May 1st.
Anna Tallmadge (2015) helps to hoe a row for potatoes on May 1st.
Devin preps a few trays of seedlings to support some community gardens in Broctkon.
Devin preps a few trays of seedlings to support some community gardens in Broctkon.

~~~

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!

The fields are filling up with seedlings! Chris Landfield, one of our summer farmers, pauses to take it in with me after staking a couple of rows of sugar snap peas on May 27th.
The fields are filling up with seedlings! Chris Landfield (2016), one of our summer farmers, pauses to take it in with me after staking a couple of rows of sugar snap peas on May 27th.

~~~

Three new born killdeer chicks start out life at The Farm at Stonehill.
Three newly hatched Killdeer chicks start out life at The Farm at Stonehill.
Categories
Community Summer 2014 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Growing Before Our Very Eyes

photo of Golden Nugget and Sakura Cherry Tomatoes - some of the sweet fruits of the season.
Golden Nugget and Sakura Cherry Tomatoes – some of the sweet fruits of the 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?

photo of potato harvest
Anna, Christine and Kayleigh harvest potatoes in July.

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.

photo of Seedlings growing along in our "propogation house" (formerly called Hoophouse #1) in August - but the view is much the same in mid-May!
Seedlings growing along in our “propogation house” (formerly called Hoophouse #1) in August – but the view is much the same in mid-May!

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!

photo of Devin and I make a delivery to The Table at Father Bill's & Mainspring on August 21st.
Devin and I make a delivery to The Table at Father Bill’s & Mainspring on August 21st.

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.

photo of Devin and I make a delivery to The Table at Father Bill's & Mainspring on August 21st.
A few of visitors from the Old Colony Y visited us on August 20th to pick their own veggies.

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.

photo fo Field 2, freshly planted in June.
Field 2, freshly planted in June.

~~~

photo of Field 2 in early August
Field 2 in early August!

~~~

photo of Volunteers plant peas in late April.
Volunteers plant peas in late April.

~~~

photo of Peas starting to grow up their trellises (left) in May.
Peas starting to grow up their trellises (left and center) in May.

~~~

photo of Peas start to flower in June.
Peas start to flower in June.

~~~

photo of Finally time to harvest the peas in late June!
Finally time to harvest the peas in late June!

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.

photo A couple of zucchini that we forgot to harvest for a day or 2!
A couple of zucchini that we forgot to harvest for a day or 2!

~~~

photo of Straight Neck, Djuna, Cozelle, and Zephyr Summer Squash that we picked at the right time!
Straight Neck, Djuna, Cozelle, and Zephyr Summer Squash that we picked at the right time!

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.

photo oPac Choi and Broccoli seedlings share space with Honey Bear Acorn Squash and Delicata Squash.
Pac Choi and Broccoli seedlings share space with Honey Bear Acorn Squash and Delicata Squash.

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.

photo of Cucumbers and Tomatoes in the Growhouse in mid-July.
Cucumbers and Tomatoes in the Growhouse in mid-July.

~~~

photo of Cucumbers and Tomatoes in the Growhouse in mid-July.
Tomatoes and freshly seeded rows of turnips in the Growhouse in late August.

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.

photo of Andrew and Chris washing Swiss Chard in July.
Summer Farmers Andrew and Chris washing Swiss Chard in July.

~~~

photo of Summer Farmer Kayleigh ensures that the chard stays cool.
Summer Farmer Kayleigh ensures that the chard stays cool.

~~~

photo of Beautiful Rainbow Chard freshly harvested in July.
Beautiful Rainbow Chard freshly harvested in July.

~~~

photo Summer Farmer Kayleigh ensures that the chard stays cool.
The chard reaches it’s destination: The Table at Father Bill’s & Mainspring.

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.

photo of The joy of the carrot harvest - something my summer farmers will be able to attest to!
The joy of the carrot harvest – something my summer farmers will be able to attest to!

~~~

photo of Farm Fridays Volunteers enjoy freshly made salsa from veggies at The Farm after a couple of hours of work on August 29th. Welcome back!
Farm Fridays Volunteers enjoy freshly made salsa from veggies at The Farm after a couple of hours of work on August 29th. Welcome back!

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!

photo of Students visit The Farm during their First Year Philosophy Seminar with Professor Megan Mitchell and help to save bean seeds to plant next spring.
Students visit The Farm during their First Year Philosophy Seminar with Professor Megan Mitchell and help to save bean seeds to plant next spring.

~~~

A few small arrangements of flowers for a little summer dinner party.
The colors of summer – captured for cooler weather consumption!
Categories
Community Fall 2013 Fall Cultivation 2013 Fall Harvest 2013 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Students Make Light Work of Fall Harvest

My calendar tells me that it still summer, yet the start of classes and the ripening winter squash in the field indicate that the fall is upon us!

photo of I work with some of the volunteers who joined us at The Farm this Friday to help bring in our first round of Butternut and Spaghetti Squash.
I join some of the volunteers in our field of winter squash this Friday to help bring in our first round of Butternut and Spaghetti Squash.

We have been lucky to host a number of groups during this busy time of the year who enthusiastically jump right in to help harvest ripe vegetables at their peak.

Farmers Gabby, Breanne and Sean with Rocky Ford Melon Smiles.
Farmers Gabby, Breanne and Sean display their Rocky Ford Melon Smiles.

Some of the groups include students and staff participating the Resident Assistant and Moreau Student Minister day of service, freshmen involved in the Into The Streets day of service, students enrolled in The Food Politics Learning Community, and students and staff volunteering during “Farm Fridays” – offered every Friday from 2:30-5:00pm, weather permitting.

Photo of student harvesting veggies
Summer Farmer Alphonse picks tomatoes with RAs and Moreau Student Ministers.

It is a busy time of year and I am happy to have the help with the harvest, while Zuri is very pleased to bask in the attention of her admirers.

Conner and Tom, take a break from their work in the fields to visit with Zuri.
Conner and Tom, take a break from their work in the fields to visit with Zuri.

Some of the crops we are currently harvesting include 9 different varieties of tomatoes, 2 varieties of eggplant, 2 varieties of sweet peppers, 3 varieties of hot peppers, 4 varieties of winter squash.

photo of Rose de Berne tomatoes
Rose de Berne Tomatoes – my favorite heirloom variety.

Our community partners at My Brother’s Keeper, The Easton Food Pantry, The Table an Father Bill’s and MainSpring, and The Family Life Center of the Old Colony YMCA tell us that everything is being enjoyed in countless ways – salsas, sauces, salads, and pasta dishes to name a few dishes.

Tomatoes - sorted and boxed up for delivery.
Tomatoes – sorted and boxed up for delivery.

~~~

Some of the veggies picked by the RAs and Moreau Student Ministers went to The Easton Food Pantry.
Some of the veggies picked by the RAs and Moreau Student Ministers went to The Easton Food Pantry.

~~~

To date we have harvested and delivered over 8,500 pounds of organic produce – and some of the heavier and nutrient packed crops such as winter squash and sweet potatoes are just starting to come in.

Candy and Red Baron Onions cure in the hoop house.
Candy and Red Baron Onions cure in the hoophouse.

Our onions and winter squash are curing up well in the hoophouse next to trays filled with spinach and lettuce seedlings for fall production.  I love walking into the hoophouse this time of year and seeing the fruits of season long care and labor lined up next to young plants that are only just beginning to make the move out to the fields where they will grow to their full potential.

photo ofGreens growing on the left and harvested Spaghetti and Waltham Butternut Squash curing on the right.
Greens growing on the left and harvested Spaghetti and Waltham Butternut Squash curing on the right.

This past Farm Friday, on August 30th, Breanne Penkala (2015), a seasoned farmer and the TA for the Food Politics Learning Community suggested that we make salsa at The Farm to invite our farm volunteers to literally enjoy some of the fruits of their labor.

photo of chefs
Chris and Chanel jumped right in and got to work chopping up the tomatoes, cilantro, habanero and jalapeno peppers, garlic, and onions for the salsa party.

The chefs prepared hot and mild versions to please the palates of all present. The mild version also included diced pieces of Rocky Ford Melon – an heirloom musk melon variety – also grown at The Farm.

Father Jim, VP for Mission, joined us to sample the salsa!
Father Jim, VP for Mission, joined us to sample the salsa!

The Fiesta during Farm Fridays was a huge success – over 35 volunteers came over to help with the harvest – and I’m looking forward to doing more events like this to reward the many helpers who make light work of harvesting hundreds, if not thousands of pounds of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, winter squash, and greens with us!

photo of Some of the volunteers who came out for our first Farm Friday to help harvest veggies and to enjoy farm fresh salsa!
Some of the volunteers who came out for our first Farm Friday to help harvest veggies and to enjoy farm fresh salsa!

We will continue to harvest a wide range of veggies as we weed and cultivate fall crops for the next couple of months. We look forward to seeing you in the fields!

photo of flowers
Flower bouquets lined up and awaiting delivery to customers on the main campus.
Categories
Community Guest Post Summer 2013 Summer Cultivation 2013 Summer Harvest 2013 Summer Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Sun Gold Cherry, Indigo Rose, and the Pleasures of The Farm at Stonehill

Guest Post by Stephen Siperstein, Adjuct Professor at Stonehill College, Writing Program

A glorious fall-like day in August at The Farm.
A glorious fall-like day in August at The Farm. A great day for picking, planting, weeding, and simply enjoying the fresh air filtering down the rows of ripe veggies and colorful flowers out in the fields.

Was yesterday the first day of autumn?  The calendar said no, but the Farm at Stonehill shone brightly in the crisp, cool air.  A cloudless sky, a strong breeze, the smell of pine duff wafting over rows of ripening vegetables: I was glad that I had picked this day to volunteer.  However, once I got into the tomato rows, which were significantly warmer than the rest of the farm, I could tell that it would not be as enjoyable working here during the dog days of summer.  The rows heat up like an oven, and, as a former student of mine and former farm intern pointed out, the tomato plants are covered in a fine, nettle-like fuzz: not fun for hours of picking.

 Even with the realization that this was not a cool paradise but an environment requiring hard, hot work, I was nevertheless a little disappointed in myself that it had taken until August for me to make it across Washington Street.  Should have been here all summer long, I thought to myself.

As I walked through the rows, Jake Gillis, a rising senior and one of this summer’s interns, cheerfully called out to me and offered up a handful of Sun Gold cherry tomatoes.

Tomatoes in all of the colors of the rainbow!
Tomatoes in all of the colors of the rainbow! Tomatoes pictured here from upper right, going clockwise are Big Beef Tomato, Sun Gold Cherry Tomato, Indigo Rose Tomato, Red Pearl Red Grape Tomato – and Rose de Berne Tomatoes in the center.

“You should try these,” he said.  “We snack on them while we’re out in the fields harvesting.”

So I tried.  And I thanked him, because the name is apt; I suddenly had a mouth filled with golden sunshine.  Glorious.  I have always loved tomatoes, but these were some of the best and sweetest I had ever tasted.  Amazing that there can be so much pleasure in a tiny orange fruit.  Orange, you wonder.  I have come to learn that most tomatoes are not actually just red; they are infinite shades of red, yellow, green, purple, pink, and orange.  And usually, the ones that aren’t the expected shade of red are the ones filled with the most pleasure.

Big Beet Tomatoes - a variety we are accustomed to seeing.
Big Beet Tomatoes – a variety we are accustomed to seeing. They are delicious, don’t get us wrong, but trying all of the different varieties is a real treat.

Big chain grocery stores and fast food burger commercials might have us believe otherwise, but they are misleading.  Tomatoes grown in a place like The Farm aren’t the perfectly red, spherical, plastic-looking items you can pick up in the produce aisle.  They are multi-hued, oddly shaped, and sometimes, like in the case of the heirloom variety called Indigo Rose, they look and taste a little strange.  Strange, but pleasurable.

Nubia Eggplant - not as purple as those we are used to seeing in most grocery stores, but more tender and definitely delicious!
Nubia Eggplant – not as purple as those we are used to seeing in most grocery stores, but more tender and definitely a tasty alternative. Hooray for diversity!

The great poet and agriculturalist Wendell Berry has written about the pleasure that comes from knowing, and eating, one’s own food.  He explains that “A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one’s accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes,” and that “[those] people who know the garden in which their vegetables have grown…and remember the beauty of the growing plants” will more easily attain such consciousness.  The Farm at Stonehill is a haven where such consciousness, and such pleasure, is possible.  Just try a Sun Gold cherry or an Indigo Rose (which some say tastes like licorice when slightly under ripe) while standing in the hot but beautiful fields, and you will taste it.  Or ask the interns and volunteers who have been working here through the summer.

Red Pearl Red Grape Tomatoes - ready to be weighed and then delivered.
Red Pearl Red Grape Tomatoes – ready to be weighed and then delivered.

You might protest that I’m making a big deal out of a little fruit, freighting it with a kind of pastoral, agricultural fantasy, or imagining that it is only by being at The Farm (which is a great privilege for those of us at Stonehill and our guests who visit from surrounding communities) and standing in its fields, that one can enjoy a tomato.  Such a fantasy would belie the hard work that goes into the fruit.  Furthermore, it would belie the fact that people depend on it.  It’s just food, you might say.  And I would agree.  First and foremost, a tomato is food, not a bucolic charm.

Later that afternoon, after the interns, Bridget, and I had harvested over 150 pounds (a good haul for an early season harvest) of tomatoes of various varieties, we hopped into the farm’s pickup truck to bring the multi-colored bounty to the nearby Easton Food Pantry and My Brother’s Keeper.  As we were unloading boxes outside the Food Pantry, an older couple walked out with a few bags of food.  We offered them some of the fresh tomatoes to add to what they had, and though they were at first hesitant, they eventually accepted.  We made sure that they tried a few different varieties.  At My Brother’s Keeper, we chatted with Beth Collins, who organizes the food distribution there.  Anyone in the Easton and Brockton area who is having trouble getting food for the week can call up My Brother’s Keeper and get a box of food, no questions asked.  Beth makes sure also to include info in those boxes about the different kinds of produce, with recipes and suggestions about how to prepare them, just in case someone doesn’t know what to do with a purple tomato or potato (as few of us would).

Rocky Ford Muskmelon - an Heirloom Variety that we found in The High Mowing Organic Seed company's catalog.
Rocky Ford Muskmelon – an heirloom variety that we found in The High Mowing Organic Seed company’s catalog.  These are still ripening up, but we are looking forward to sharing these sweet melons soon.

            Berry writes, “The pleasure of eating should be an extensive pleasure, not that of the mere gourmet.”  Berry thinks that the pleasure of eating should be extensive, meaning that it should extend out from plants to people, from fruits to taste buds (and not just the taste buds of the foodies or the gourmands, but everyone’s taste buds), from farm to community.  In such a vision, a farm and the food that is grown there becomes, like the tomato plant’s roots that bind the soil, the connective tissue that bonds the community.  Extensive becomes another word for democratic, and the farm embodies democracy in the most radical way: having to do with roots.

With Bridget, the interns, and volunteers working through both the glorious and sometimes more humid or rainy days, The Farm at Stonehill flourishes with its partners, weaving the roots of community.  And by so doing its pleasures are not confined to the rows of plants themselves, but are tasted in many homes.  The Farm connects so many of us through its food and its pleasures, because really, why should the two be separate?

 

Categories
Community Reflections Summer 2013 Summer Cultivation 2013 Summer Harvest 2013 Summer Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Productive Plants Weather New England’s Heat and Rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

Sometimes the flowers have other exotic looking visitors…

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

~~~

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Community 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.

~~~

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!

~~~

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.

~~~

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.

~~~

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.

~~~

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.

~~~

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

~~~

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!

~~~

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 Spring 2013 Spring Cultivation 2013 Spring Harvest 2013 Spring Projects 2013 Spring Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Springing into Summer

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.

Ben, Ian and Jake Kelly harvest our first radishes!
Ben, Ian and Jake Kelly harvest our first radishes!

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!

Our fields are filling with hundreds of veggie, flower and fruit seedlings.
Our fields are filling with hundreds of veggie, flower and fruit seedlings.

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.

Students help to weed and thin a row of beets.
Students help to weed and thin a row of beets.
thinning beets
Thinning and weeding a row a beets.

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…

Andrew and David Rogers plant Snapdragons on Friday, May 17th.
Andrew and David Rogers plant Snapdragons on Friday, May 17th.

…go it solo…

Hunter weeds a row of Hakurei Turnips in the week leading up to his graduation from Stonehill.
Hunter weeds a row of Hakurei Turnips in the week leading up to his graduation from Stonehill.

…or work as a boisterous and energetic team.

A team of Res Life Staff provide invaluable help planting rows and rows of tomato seedlings on May 20th.
A team of staff from Residence Life provide invaluable help planting rows and rows of tomato seedlings on May 20th.

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.

The initial turn of Field #2 on April 22nd.
The initial turn of Field #2 on April 22nd.

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.

Justin of Langwater Farm lays black plastic for some of our crops.
Justin of Langwater Farm lays black plastic.

~~~

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.

Zuri looks on as Killdeer nesting in our fields dart about.
Zuri looks on as Killdeer, attempting to nest in our fields, dart about.
Killdeer like to nest in open fields like our. Here, a family enjoys a field near San Francisco, CA.
Killdeer like to nest in open fields like our. Here, a family enjoys a field in Ontario, Canada.

On these walks we make discoveries like our first flower in bloom…

Zinnia in bloom on May 22nd.
Zinnia in bloom on May 22nd.

… Bok Choi ready to be harvested …

A variety of Bok Choi called Mei Qing Choi is ready to be picked and delivered!
A variety of Bok Choi called Mei Qing Choi is ready to be picked and delivered!

…and where to harvest the Mesclun Mix on that particular day – as it is planted in a number of places throughout the fields.

Mesclun Mix, washed, dried and about to be packed for our partners at My Brother's Keeper.
Mesclun Mix, washed, dried and about to be packed for our partners at My Brother’s Keeper.

All of time that we spend weeding carrots…

Alphonse Riang, one of three part-time summer farmers weeds a row of carrots.
Alphonse Riang, one of our three summer student farmers, weeds a row of carrots.

…and thinning beets…

Jake Gillis, another essential student farmer, weeds beets.
Jake Gillis, another essential student farmer, weeds 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.

Jake and Alphonse wash and pack greens.
Jake and Alphonse wash and pack greens.

~~~

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?

A Plato Zucchini seedling enjoys it's new home in the field.
A Plato Zucchini seedling enjoys it’s new home in the field.

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.

Sugar Snap Peas climb the trellis.
Sugar Snap Peas climb the trellis carefully constructed by volunteers weeks before.

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!

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

Beautiful Summer Bounty!

Hard working summer farmers, volunteers, and  warm summer days have helped us grow delicious and plentiful vegetables and herbs for our partners. We thought you would enjoy a few images of this season’s bounty.

photo of black krim tomato
A delicious Black Krim Tomato.

~~~

photo of harvest cortland onions
Hundreds of Cortland Onions curing in the greenhouse.

~~~

photo of butternut squash
Sweet Waltham Butternut Squash.

~~~

photo of delicata squash
Delicious Delicata Squash… ready to be sauteed and devoured!

~~~

photo rows of tomatoes
Hundreds of feet of tomato plants producing flavorful, sweet tomatoes.

~~~

photo of a smiling Black Krim tomtato
This smirking Black Krim Tomato made all of us smile.

~~~

photo of tomatoes on the vine
Big Beef Tomatoes ready for the picking!

~~~

photo of eggplant in the field
A Galine Globe Eggplant ready to be harvested.

~~~

photo of redwing onions
Stunning Redwing Onions.

~~~

photo of volunteers
Volunteers bring in some of the pumpkins on August 31, 2012.

~~~

photo of Gabby, Greg and Bryan
Gabby, Greg and Bryan bring in pumpkins.. smiling all the way!

~~~

photo of Baby Pam pumpkins
Baby Pam Pumpkins – perfect for pumpkin pie or a nice curry dish – curing in the greenhouse.

~~~

photo of truck with veggies for a delivery
Off to the Easton Food Pantry and My Brother’s Keeper!
Categories
Community Community Partners Our Vision Summer 2012 Summer Cultivation 2012 Summer Harvest 2012 Summer Volunteers 2012 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Natural Fireworks

photo of bouquet
Rainbow colored bouquets are lighting up the sky at the farm.

It is already the 4th of July, and the warm summer days are working well with intermittent thunderstorms and rainfall to produce lots of delicious vegetables and beautiful flowers.

photo of produce at the easton food pantry
Volunteers arrange produce from our fields and Langwater Farm at The Easton Food Pantry on Monday, July 2nd.

It is exciting to see the colors of the fields filling the shelves at The Easton Food Pantry and My Brother’s Keeper.  This past Monday some of our offerings included summer squash, zucchini and snap peas.

photo of harvested veggies
Veggies harvested and delivered on July 3rd to The Old Colony YMCA.

Yesterday we harvested our most diverse crop yet – including Farao Cabbage, Early Wonder Beets, Zephyr Summer Squash, Raven Zucchini, Sugar Snap Peas, Bright Light Rainbow Chard, Pearl Drop Onions, Northern Pickling Cucumbers, Genovese Basil, Santo Cilantro and Evergreen Bunching Onions – and delivered them by noon to The Family Center at The Old Colony YMCA.

photo of zuri, Gabby and Greb planting squash
Zuri attempts to dig a hole for pumpkin seedlings – or maybe fill them back in (!) – as Gabby and Greg apply compost.

There have been some other changes at the farm lately, including the addition of a new farm hand: Zuri.  Zuri – which means “beautiful” in Swahili – is a 6 month old lab mix, who I adopted last Monday from Forever Homes Shelter in Medfield, MA. While her 4 legs make it difficult for her to help harvest, plant and weed our crops, her company has been great for our farm spirit!

photo of volunteers weeding onions
A crew of volunteers weed a bed of onions last Friday, June 29th as Zuri stays cool in the shade.

Zuri splits her time between finding shade and sticking close by. Harvesting Pearl Drop Onions was exciting, as it brought some of the cooler soil to the surface and created a nice place to lie down in the field.

photo of zuri with harvested onions
Zuri and some recently harvested Pearl Drop Onions.

By the end of the day she’s pretty tuckered out, and happy to find a place in the field to rest next to the newly planted pumpkin seedlings.

photo of zuri with irrigation and squashes
Catching some z’s as we put the finishing touches on drip irrigation for the pumpkin seedlings.

~~~

In other news, the college welcomed the class of 2016 to campus last week for orientation.  Sean, Gabby, Greg and I worked with Facilities Management to ensure that the incoming class understands how to compost on campus.

photo of me with Gabby and compost bucket
Gabby and I taped signs to the garbage, recycling and compost bins during orientation last week.

We welcome the incoming class and invite them to help us to strengthen our composting efforts in the Dining Commons and at The Sem.

photo of Sean with bins set up
THIS is what good waste management practices look like!

With the help of this organic material we will continue to feed our soils and grow more nutritious crops for our partners and flowers for our community!

Cosmos, calendulas, zinnias, snapdragons, straw flowers, and savia come together to create a summery arrangement.

 

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!