Categories
Community Summer 2017 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Jackie – Growing a Land of Thriving Fruits and Vegetables (at the farm and at the market)

A woman helps to harvest some of onions mid-season, holding one above a yellow bucket
Jackie helps to harvest some of our onions mid-season.

I first visited the farm at Stonehill during my sophomore year. I had the opportunity to take a course that focused on sustainable agriculture which was quite helpful for my environmental science major. At the beginning of the course, which was taught by Stonehill’s Farm Manager, Bridget Meigs, she asked that we all attend volunteer hours at the farm. Throughout the fall semester, I watched the farm transform as we pulled stakes out from where tomato plants had once thrived and removed dead plants from a row which had once produced beautiful vegetables. After removing and pulling and cleaning, I decided that I wanted to see the farm return to its lively glory, a land full of thriving fruits and vegetables.

Four people work together to plant seedlings and hand-lay black plastic over a bed, in order to bring the fields back to their productive bounty
Planting seedlings and hand-laying black plastic – to bring the fields back to their productive bounty.

Towards the end of my sophomore year, I heard that Bridget was searching for summer interns to assist her at the farm. Thankfully, I, along with three other undergraduate students and one Stonehill alum were given the opportunity to work alongside Bridget and each other to achieve the mission of the Farm at Stonehill. As part of the Mission Division of Stonehill, the farm was established in response to food access issues in the Town of Easton and nearby City of Brockton.

Five people gather with their arms around each other to reflect the work they did together as a Mission Division Team
Michelle, Jackie, former VP for Mission Father Jim Lies, Alex and Celia pause to reflect on the season and all of the beautiful produce we have grown and distributed together as a Mission Division Team!

Following Bridget’s Sustainable Agriculture course, I was better equipped with the knowledge of food security, food justice, and simply how our food is grown. Working at the farm gave me the firsthand experience to apply everything I had learned throughout the semester. I was able to help grow, harvest, donate, and sell the produce grown at the farm. Before working at the farm, I never realized how much work really had to be put into growing our food. Now, when I walk around the supermarket and see the produce aisle, I tend to stop and think about how exactly it was grown, whether or not it is certified organic, and where it came from.

Three yellow buckets begin to fill with various green veggies dumped from a burlap sack
Some of the harvest ready for delivery in July.

 

One of my favorite parts of working at the farm this summer was being able to help at the Mobile Market. I was able to work directly with people who struggle to maintain food security in the surrounding community. Week after week, I started to recognize those who religiously came to our market, and learned that many of those who did come depended on the produce we grew for something fresh and healthy. Another thing I loved about working on the farm was harvesting. After every harvest, I would look at my fellow farmers and tell them how much satisfaction I felt knowing that my hard work was part of the reason the produce came to be.

People gather to look at baskets of produce along tables at the Mobile Market
Loving life at our weekly Mobile Market!

Although the summer has come to an end, my work at the Mobile Market and my new knowledge of food and agriculture continue on. I am so thankful for this opportunity and cannot wait to see what comes next.

Two women crouch down and smile in front of two colorful arrangements of harvested flowers that they worked hard to put together
Michelle and Jackie – after some time harvesting and arranging our pollinators’ favorite crops – flowers!

 

 

Categories
Summer 2017

Guest Post: Michelle – The Power of Choice

Michelle David (2017) has been working at The Farm since her freshman year as a volunteer.  We are so lucky to have had her on our team as the Assistant Manager this season. A natural leader with a ready smile and a great work ethic, we are so thankful that she has been able to join us for two seasons in a row.  Below she shares a bit about her time at The Farm over the past 4 years. Enjoy!

A woman kneels with her hands on a yellow bucket of dark harvested "All Blue" potatoes
Michelle with some of our “All Blue” potatoes – post harvest happiness!

The Farm at Stonehill has been a part of my Stonehill experience since freshman year.

 

I first came to the farm as a new freshman, looking for a way to get involved and make new friends.  Little did I know that I would fall in love with the mission of the farm, and find myself as a regular volunteer, a summer farmer as a rising senior, and again now as an alumnus.  The Farm has become a home for myself, where I can see with my own two eyes how much good can come from a small piece of land when people who care about environmental and food justice work together.

Five people gather behind a table at the market to sell yellow buckets of various veggies at the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center.
Melissa, Cris, Jackie, a nutrition educator from UMASS extension and Michelle (left to right) set up the greens at our 63 Main St location at the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center.

As an English major at Stonehill, I was often times asked why I had taken such an interest in the Farm and agriculture as a whole.  The answer was always fairly simple for me: as someone who eats food, I should be concerned about where my food comes from, how it is produced, and how its production affects others.

A couple of the Farm workers show their smiling faces on a busy day at the market
Michelle is an excellent planter, grower, harvester and people person (at the farm and at the market!).

This summer, I have had the privilege of working more closely with the Mobile Market, which brings fresh produce to two different locations within Brockton.  The market has become one of my favorite parts of the week, as I get to actually meet with the people who receive the crops we grow each week.  I feel the recent addition of the mobile market provides something more that we could not provide by donating all of our produce: the power of choice.  The mobile market provides the opportunity for people to actually choose what they want to eat, and to be able to purchase nutritious food at a reasonable price, rather than receiving donations, which can be quite liberating for people.

A close up on some of the yellow trays of fresh veggies for sale at the market, marked by a blackboard sign with colorful chalk
Farm Fresh Veggies at The Mobile Market!

Overall, I feel that my time at the farm has helped shape who I am today.  I appreciate the natural world around me more than I did before starting to volunteer at the farm.  I have also grown an appreciation for all people who work in the agricultural business, as it is hard, laborious work which often times goes unrecognized and unsupported.  I am also much more aware of my role as a consumer, and the power that I hold in my purchases.  When shopping, I often take into consideration how the food was grown (organically, sustainably, or conventionally) and where it was grown in order to understand how the food I purchase effects communities around me and future generations of people.

A woman sits proudly among colorful bouquets on the shed floor
Michelle is also now one of the main bouquet makers at The Farm.

As I prepare myself to move away from Stonehill, I hope to take what I have learned at the Stonehill Farm and bring it either into my future work, or at the very least into my future home, and to continue supporting organizations that work to ensure that all people have access to healthy food.

“Almost certainly, however, the first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind.” – Norman Borlaug  

A few large yellow sunflowers light up the fields
Sunflowers brightly decorate our fields – attracting pollinators who pollinate our crops and also attracting smiles from the crew and visitors to the farm.
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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The team takes lunch!
The team takes lunch!

~~~

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
Spring 2013 Spring Projects 2013 Spring Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill

Sewing the Seeds of Season III

The landscape in Easton is still mostly white, grey and brown, but the sunlight of spring is starting to feed us with stronger rays as the days grow longer.

photo of late winter morning sun
Stronger sun rays are starting to shine on the late winter snow at morning light.

On morning walks with Zuri, the white lab-hound mix who came into my life last June, I catch glimpses of warmer colors as the sun rises on the snow covered fields.

Photo of the apple orchard in the winter
Our Apple Orchard drinks in the sun and rests under a blanket of snow.

The student farmers have kept the farm a lively part of our college culture through the colder months, ever ready to be called in to help with projects – such as rescuing our snowed-in hoop house – or actively participating in our new seminar in Sustainable Agriculture.

photo of snowed in hoop house
Snowed in hoop house – but not for long!
photo of rescued hoop house
Success!

As you can see in the two photos above, seniors Jack Bressor, Lauren Engel and Sean Moran showed their dedication to the farm by effectively removing hundreds of pounds snow from the southern side of the hoop house after the blizzard in early February.

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Our students have also been laying the groundwork to increase the amount of “real food” served on campus by attending a training at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD to join a nationwide campaign.  Perhaps some of this “real food” will include a few items from The Farm at Stonehill – such as winter squash or greens – this year.

photo of students who attended the real food challenge summit
Breanne Penkala, Andrew Curran, Sean Davenport, Catie Barros and Christine Moodie – all members of the Class of 2015 and former Food Politics students – are just a few of the students who want more real food at Stonehill.

Keep an eye out for events on campus where you can learn more about ways to support a local, sustainable and fair food system on campus and in your community!

~~~

For those of you who have driven by the farm recently, you have probably noticed the large trench cutting through our main field perpendicular to Rt 138. Not to worry! This is only a temporary feature that is allowing for water access to a new storage barn for all of the equipment and supplies that Facilities Management maintains.

photo of trench at the farm
Trench for a water line – facing west.

 This trench will be filled back in with care within a few weeks.  When we turn the fields for Season 3 in April we will be careful to add extra nutrient rich compost – composed of decomposed organic materials from our dining commons and Clover Valley Stables –  to ensure that the health and productivity of these soils is not impacted in any major way.

photo of trench at the farm facing east
Trench for water line – facing east.

In our Sustainable Agriculture class we turned the dramatic looking feature into a soil science laboratory (a “teaching moment,” if you will) as we studied soil horizons and learned about the ingredients necessary to create healthy soils.

photo of our soil horizon
Jack points out our the A and B layers in our soil profile.

 

photo of image of soil profile
A basic soil profile diagram.

Jack Bressor and Bryan Tavares co-taught a class with me about soils and asked the class to consider the different features of healthy soils (i.e. sand for drainage, organic material to retain moisture and add vital nutrients) and create a “perfect” seed-starting mix and grow and care for a bean plant.

photo of soil components
Bryan and Jack provide the class with components of healthy soils (vermiculite, stone dust, 2 kinds of compost, and loam) for growing healthy veggies.

 These students will nurture their bean plants over the next couple of months and hopefully plant them in the fields once the weather warms.

photo of making potting mix
Sean, Melissa, Molly, Pat, Tom, Ryan, Michelle and Bryan create their perfect potting mix to give their been seeds a healthy start.

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Despite the snowflakes currently falling from the skies, I am comforted by the knowledge that onions and some of our flowers are germinating under lights in the basement of Holy Cross.

photo of germinating walla walla onions
Sweet Walla Walla Onions successfully germinating!

If all goes according to plan, these seedlings will be growing with gusto in our fields in a few months’ time.

~~~

In other news, our farm dog, Zuri, has enjoyed her first winter immensely – going on adventures, napping with new dog friends or pausing to greet every student or staff member who she meets on campus or in the fields behind the farm!

photo of zuri and harken walking on the pond
Zuri enjoys a stroll with her airedale buddy, Harken.

 

photo of Zuri resting with Bailey
Zuri and Bailey rest together after a wild walk in the winter woods.

Our third season has just begun.

Check back from time to time to watch our fields fill with the colors of spring and summer. It will definitely prove to be an adventure as we put our L5030 Kubota tractor and our Kuhn el53-190 Rototiller to work.

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.

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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
Community Our Vision Summer 2011 Summer Cultivation 2011 Summer Harvest 2011 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Hooray for “Into The Streets” Day!

photo of clourse clearing after the storm
Clearing skies after Hurricane Irene blew through town.

We were lucky at The Farm as Hurricane Irene whipped through the area last weekend. Sadly, many other farms in the northeast cannot say the same.  Many farms in Vermont have suffered a great deal and a number of relief funds have been set up to help them recover.  You can learn more about some of the damages and how to help here.

Our only major damage at our farm occurred out in the rows of German Cavern tomatoes, which were unable to stand up to the wind and rain.  On Monday morning, the most southern row had blown over a bit…

Weighed down by heavy fruit, some of our German Cavern tomato plants were unable to stand up to the heavy winds and rain of Hurricane Irene.

 …but thanks to our visit that afternoon from students participating in Stonehill’s “Into The Streets” (ITS) service program, even that problem was soon remedied.

photo of ITS - tomato stakes
Student volunteers participating in the college’s Into the Streets program helped stand our tomato plants back up.

Student Farmer Michelle and I welcomed over 40 freshmen participating in ITS day.

Our ITS day farmers!

They helped us harvest tomatoes, summer squash, turnips and beets…

Two students spent some of their time picking Sun Gold Tomatoes at The Farm.

…wash freshly harvested produce…

Giving the freshly harvested turnips a good rinse.

…and weed four 200 foot rows of carrots.

Students help us weed many carrots!

We are happy that the students of Stonehill have returned and welcome you all to come join us as we plant, weed, harvest and deliver our organic produce. 

You can fill out the information form found under the “Volunteer” tab on this blog, email us, or stop by.

All of us weeding the carrots.

A huge thank you to all of the organizers and students who participated in ITS Day!

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See you all at the farm soon.

Categories
Spring 2011 Spring Seedlings 2011 The Farm at Stonehill

Seeds Want To Grow

 

Seeds come in all shapes and sizes. Some, like mint, are as fine as dust, while some, like marigolds, look like miniature magic wands.  Regardless of size and shape:

“Drop a seed in the ground and it wants to grow!”

I read this wonderful truth a few months ago in The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman, and suddenly felt much more at ease about the rapidly approaching growing season.  After all, if the seeds WANT to grow, then all we have to do is provide them with the right amount of light, warmth, nutrients, and moisture, and surely they will take root and we will be rewarded with healthy, delicious vegetables and beautiful flowers!

A tray of bell pepper seedlings beginning to grow

 

And yet, the question remains:

How much of each of these elements do different plants need to thrive?

A small tomato seed peeks out of a slot in the tray
A tomato seed on a bed of Fort Vee Potting Mix from Vermont Compost Company.

There are many answers to this question that we can find print, in conversations with friends in the farming community, or through our own careful observations.

A few marigold seedlings show off their leafy stems
Strong, little Marigold seedling (April 8, 2011).

 

We listen, we water, we transplant, we wait, and we watch quietly as the seeds do the bulk of the work and grow into strong little seedlings.

peppers photo up close
Bell pepper seedlings (April 14, 2011).

 

The marigolds in the tray now grow larger as time has passed
Marigolds (April 13, 2011).