Categories
Community Community Partners Spring 2019 summer 2019 The Farm at Stonehill

A Summer Farmer’s Experience – Alex Smoolca

The Farm's summer crew, consisting of five women and a man all standing together by the hoophouse with veggies in hand
Our summer crew: Assistant Farm Manager Celia Dolan, Louisa Rossel, Alex Smoolca, Olivia Reed, Natalie McDonough and Cassie Pavain.

Hello readers, my name is Alex Smoolca and I am a senior at Stonehill College studying psychology with a sociology minor. I spent this past summer working at The Farm at Stonehill. Upon getting hired I had good expectations for the job because one of my best friends, Natalie, has been working there for years and she always gives the farm high praise. My first couple of weeks I worked with Bridget (my boss the farm manager and now director) and Celia (the assistant farm manager). We spent the first few weeks seeding, planting, and laying down irrigation. I enjoyed my first few weeks.

Little lettuce seedlings growing along in trays in the greenhouse
Little lettuce seedlings growing along in the greenhouse!

Bonding with Celia over hard rock and metal music because, at least to me, Celia (at the time) did not seem like the type of girl who would like that type of music. She is just such a sweet, gentle, kind, and caring soul. She knows a lot about a lot, especially when it comes to farming and the environment, and she’s a lot of fun to work with. She’s very easygoing and one of the hardest workers I’ve met my age. After those couple of weeks, I met my other coworkers Natalie (who I already knew), Cassie, Liv, and Louisa. We worked hard all summer growing, nurturing and harvesting a variety of plants/vegetables: lettuce, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, peas, green beans, a variety of flowers, and more.

Nine small buckets of sweet strawberries from the hoop house and permaculture garden gathered in a yellow bucket
Beautiful and sweet strawberries from the hoop house and permaculture garden!
One of the 3 varieties of open pollinated heirloom corn grown at the farm this year, Glass Gem (from Fruition Seeds), a variety of many reds and yellows
One of the 3 varieties of open pollinated heirloom corn we grew at the farm this year – this one is called Glass Gem and is from Fruition Seeds.
A collection of red, yellow, orange, and pink blooms from the field as summer leans towards fall
Beautiful blooms from the field as summer leans towards fall.

I’m not going to lie being an employee at the farm is hard work. There’s a lot of squatting up and down, digging through dirt, and other physically exhausting activities. Not only that we had to worry about the power of the sun. I would come home some days drenched in sweat and caked in dirt just feeling gross.

Two people sit in the dirt fields to plant delicate squash on a sunny day
Natt and Celia taking care to plant the delicate squash.

However, it was more than worth it. The farm has probably been the most positive work environment I’ve been a part of. My coworkers and boss are always supportive, thoughtful, generous, and relaxed. Some days I would come into work exhausted because of my shenanigans the night before and my coworkers would always help pick me up and brought the best out of me even when I didn’t think I had it in me. Plus, on rough days, Bridget would buy us coffee or let us take breaks when she knew we were struggling. My coworkers, boss, and I had such great banter as well. I’ll never forget the amount of wacky conversations and just weirdness that we all displayed on the farm (especially after losing our minds weeding the watermelons and harvesting potatoes for weeks). Throughout the summer all of us got pretty close and honestly it feels weird to call them coworkers or my boss, not to sound too cheesy, but to an extent I consider us a family.

Five women stand joyously in the dirt fields, arms in the air, as they plant winter squash
Louisa, Elaina, Cassie, Natalie and Celia love planting winter squash!

So, the question remains what did we do with all of our crops? Well the whole point of the farm surrounds the idea of food justice. In the neighboring small city of Brockton there is a serious lack of access to organic/healthy food. Brockton is a they say a food desert. So, to help make this situation better we donate most of our produce to organizations like My Brother’s Keeper, Easton Food Pantry, The Evelyn House, and others that deliver and serve fresh food to those in Brockton who desperately need it. The rest of our produce goes to our mobile markets on Wednesdays. During these days we take our harvest to two separate locations in Brockton and hold a market. The residents of the surrounding area get vouchers to purchase food, so they do not have to use their own money.

Four people sit in the bed of a pickup truck next to five yellow buckets of various veggies, ready to deliver to the Easton Food Pantry
Smoolca, Beth Cronin, Celia and Natt prep a delivery to the Easton Food Pantry in August.
Five people stand, arms around each other, in front of the Mobile Market van parked in a lot
Some of the folks who help make the markets great!
A colorful blackboard menu in front of a market table advertises Farm Fresh veggies for sale, from cucumbers to kale, parsley to cilantro, and more
A nice blend of summer and fall veggies at a market in early September.

The markets can be a lot of fun, but very hectic at times. We can run out of favorite vegetables (like watermelons and corn) and if customers do not get in line early enough the vegetables that they were hoping to buy may be gone by the time it’s their turn in line. Sometimes the customers get impatient if they are waiting in line for a long time, think they are paying too much for their vegetables, or a translator is helping another customer so they have to wait. It’s also a struggle because many residents of Brockton are from other parts of the world and English is a second language so we have to rely on our good friends from the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center to help boost communication. At first, their impatience bothered me, but then I thought about it from their perspective. These people deal with a constant struggle to take care of themselves and their families due to a number of stresses that might include some level of poverty. Every day could be a fight to survive due to lack of food security, and if they can’t seize opportunities like the market to the fullest extent it may be difficult or even impossible to find organic, local, nutritious, seasonal produce that week. However, overall, I’d say the market is very successful and helps every customer that comes to our tent.

The summer Farm crew of six enjoy some delicious vegetarian dishes at the end of season farm potluck, sitting at a wooden picnic table underneath the shade of the trees
Our summer crew enjoy some delicious vegetarian dishes at the end of season farm potluck.

I am grateful that I had this opportunity to work at the farm. I’ve made some great friends and learned a lot. I am sad summer has come to an end and my last year in college has started. However, Bridget has rehired me to work on the farm during the year so I will continue to be working throughout the school year. Not going to lie it’s going to be tough to balance applying to grad school, playing rugby, doing schoolwork, and working a job on top of that. However, I think that my job at the farm will help me get into a good routine and a nice way to take a break from the stressors in my life. I’m excited to see what else I’m going to learn and experience in my coming months on the farm.

 

 

Categories
Community Partners Fall 2012 Fall Cultivation 2012 Fall Harvest 2012 Fall Volunteers 2012 Our Vision The Farm at Stonehill

Generosity Fuels The Farm

As the fall arrives, we are filled with thanks for all of the help we receive via the hands of volunteers and donations from foundations or individuals to make the farm a warm, inviting, productive, and restorative space.

photo of volunteers
Jess and a number of volunteers help weed the carrots, which we plan to harvest in October. Photo by Burke Oppenheim

This a wonderful time of the year at the farm, as we harvest a wide variety of veggies including green beans, pumpkins, peppers, onions, basil, tomatoes, turnips, butternut squash and eggplant, as we weed crops like carrots, and as we plant fall greens, like lettuce and kale.

photo of volunteer board
Volunteer tasks on September 7, 2012.

“Farm Friday” volunteer hours have been busy and festive as 20 to 30 students appear and happily get to work.  Thank you volunteers!  We look forward to seeing new and returning farmers every week.

photo of students harvesting
Jess and Lauren pick beans as other students harvest butternut squash and pumpkins.

~~~

This  summer we were delighted to receive generous support from the the Harold Brooks Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustee.  This $15,000 grant will support our operation and help us involve more students, grow more vegetables for our partners, and increase awareness around food desert and food access issues in our nearby communities.

“The Harold Brooks Foundation provides assistance to causes/organizations that help the largest possible number of residents of Massachusetts’ South Shore communities, especially those that support the basic human needs of South Shore residents. The Foundation supports nonprofit organizations that have the greatest impact on improving the human condition and/or that provide the neediest South Shore residents with “tools” that will help them restore their lives. The Foundation focuses on five key areas: Education; Food, Agriculture, & Nutrition; Health; Housing & Shelter; and Mental Health.”

We are so thankful for this gift and look forward to sharing how these funds support our efforts through this blog and in person when we visit with our donors!

photo of Joey and a pumpkin
Joey harvests a Tom Fox pumpkin, which will surely bring a smile to the faces of our partners’ clients.

~~~

This summer we also received a thoughtful and generous gift from David Miller, General Manager of Dining Services here at Stonehill.  He and co-workers of his father donated funds for a space for reflection in loving memory of his wife, Tina Miller.  The words “strength” and “courage”, engraved on 2 of the 3 benches, were chosen by David and his daughters because of the strength and courage that Tina displayed as she lived with and battled breast cancer for three years.  She never let the cancer define her or how she lived her life.

photo of loving memory bench
One of three benches donated in loving memory of Tina Miller at The Farm.

We will be planting blueberry bushes in this area within the next few months, as Tina enjoyed going blueberry picking each year.

photo of courage bench
Courage: as we support all who face cancer and other challenges in our lives.

We at the farm feel privileged to serve as a space for good works and quiet reflection and celebration of all components of our environment. Thank you to David Miller for choosing us as a space where Tina’s life can me honored!

photo of strength bench
We all need a place to restore our strength, and hope that many will use these benches as a place to do so!

~~~

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

~~~

These granite benches were quarried in Vermont and purchased through Swenson Granite Works.  They were engraved with precision and care by Michael Cedrone.

photo of Michael engraving
Michael Cedrone works on the “Gift of the Class of 2011” bench located at the meditation garden.

It was fun to have the opportunity to watch Michael at his craft.  He engraved the bench given by the Class of 2011 in the Meditation Garden (above) and the benches to honor the life of Tina Miller.

photo of Michael working
Michael performs the finishing touches on one of the engraved ribbons.

Zuri enjoyed watching Michael at his craft (and chewing on a nearby stick) as well!

photo of michael's work
Zuri keeps Michael company as he works on the benches.

~~~

photo of tina miller bench
A beautiful bench for all to enjoy.

~~~

Many thanks to all of our generous farm supporters!

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

 

Categories
Community Spring 2012 Spring Cultivation 2012 Spring Harvest 2012 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Students Fill the Fields Rain or Shine

The Farm is bubbling with new life this spring.

The greenhouse is filling with colorful seedlings and student volunteers visit regularly to care for them and ensure that they are getting planted out in the field as soon as possible.

photo of colorful seedlings in the greenhouse
Cabbage, kale, beet, celosia, spinach, and nasturtium seedlings fill the tables in the greenhouse and drink in the mid-April sun.

As you may recall, just over 1 month ago we were experiencing summer-like temperatures and a warm, dry spell, very uncharacteristic of a typical New England Spring.

photo of Bryan and Sean planting onions
Bryan and Sean plant onions in windy, dry weather in the middle of April.

During volunteer hours in early April we were often decked out in our summer best.

photo of volunteers planting fields
Kristen, Andrea, Meaghan, Andrew, Dan, Nick, Maranda, Andrew and Kiera, plant lettuce seedlings and prep more beds with compost to add organic and nutrient rich content to the soil.

Over the past couple of weeks, the weather has shifted a bit and we have been lucky to receive some rain for our newly planted crops.  Between showers we have planted flowers including celosia, snapdragons, salvia, and statice, and vegetables including cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, beets, onions, potatoes, mustard greens, and even some early zucchinis and summer squash out in the field.

Much of this work has been carried out by student volunteers either during volunteer hours or even during class time.

photo of Hannah and Dan
Hannah and Dan - covered in dust and still smiling!

~~~

On the last day of classes, Thursday, May 3rd, I invited students in my class (Environmental Science and the Food Justice LC which I teach with Prof. Sue Mooney) to spend their last Environmental Science class with me at The Farm.

The students weathered the misty, cool weather and got a lot done!

~~~

The early arrivals got right to work harvesting Mesclun Mix and Arugula for My Brother’s Keeper, which was picked up and delivered that day.

photo of Mike harvesting lettuce
Mike helps with our first harvest of the season.

~~~

photo of students with first harvest
Kate, Alyssa, Mike and Kriten display the first harvest of the 2012 season. These greens were picked up by My Brother's Keeper moments later and delivered that day.

~~~

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

 ~~~

The rest of the class kept busy planting winter squash seeds in trays in the greenhouse, beet and red mustard green seedlings and potatoes in the fields, and prepping the beds covered in black plastic mulch for zucchini and summer squash seedlings.

photo of students planting beet seedlings
Becca, Stephanie, Hannah and Emily plant Early Wonder Beet seedlings.

~~~

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

~~~

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

~~~

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

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photo of Food Justice LC
33 Members of the Food Justice LC gather for a group shot after planting, weeding, and harvesting on the last day of classes.

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Volunteers are helping The Farm grow in leaps and bounds.

Thanks to their help, we have already filled twenty-three 125′ beds with a wide variety of early season vegetables and some flowers.  We have even started to harvest some of our greens and made small deliveries to My Brother’s Keeper and the Easton Food Pantry.

The steady stream of student volunteers is allowing us to reach more people with fresh, healthy, nutritious and organic vegetables sooner than expected.

~~~

Over the course of the season I look forward to welcoming new and returning students and staff to help with planting, cultivating and harvesting our crops. 

One day – in 3 years or so – we’ll have new jobs like harvesting apples. For now I am happy to see the young trees coming to life out in the field.

Photo of apple tree
Our apple trees are settling into their new home with us.
Categories
Community Spring 2011 Spring Cultivation 2011 Spring Harvest 2011 Spring Seedlings 2011 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Harvesting and Planting Together

 

It’s the time of year when we start to harvest more varieties of veggies, like beets, and start to see the signs of other bounty to come.

photo of zucchini blossom
Squash Blossom: beautiful indicator of delicious zucchini to come!

 

On Friday, June 10, Brian and I started the day by harvesting over 40 pounds of Early Wonder red beets…

Photo of Early Wonder Beets
Our first beets, washed and ready for delivery to The Table.

 

…Lacinato Kale, Red Russian Kale, Mesclun Greens, Rainbow Chard, Arugula, and a few heads of lettuce for our community partners.

Photo of harvest on June 10, 2011
Harvest on June 10, 2011.

~~~

Later that day we were joined by a number of volunteers who helped us plant seedlings of Deer Tongue Lettuce and Rainbow “Bright Lights” Chard.

photo of seedlings in the greenhouse
Deer Tongue Lettuce seedlings get their last drink in the greenhouse just before we plant them in the field.

 

Marie Kelly (Class of 2000 and Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations), her husband Chris, and their son Ian helped us plant lettuce and stake the tomatoes.

Photo of Marie and Ian Kelly
Marie and her son Ian planting lettuce on Friday, June 10, 2011.

 

photo of Ian with Stakes for tomatoes
Ian helps his dad, Chris, stake the tomatoes.

 

photo of Chris staking tomatoes
Chris stakes the tomatoes to help support them as they grow.

 

On Friday, we were also joined by Janine DiLorenzo (Class of 2011) and her pup Wilson for most of the day. Janine helped Ian prepare spots for the lettuce and Wilson kept a close eye on the spacing between plants for us.

Photo of Ian, Janine and Wilson planting lettuce.
Ian, Janine and Wilson planting lettuce on June 10, 2011.

 

photo of Ian, Janine, and Wilson
Ian, Janine and Wilson pause to show me their healthy lettuce seedlings.

 

That very same day, Nick Howard (Class of 2013) was present to lend a hand to summer farmer Michelle.

photo of Nick and Michelle
Michelle hands Nick some lettuce seedlings to fill up the bed prepared by Tim Watts.

 

We had quite a happy farming crew and at the end of the day we all took a good look at the newest addition to the farm: our storage shed!

photo of our group in the shed entrance
Michelle, Janine, Wilson, Bridget, Nick, Ian and Marie stand in the entrance to our new shed.

 

We welcome you to join us at the farm as we feed the soil with compost, plant, weed, harvest, and continue to grow!

 

 

Categories
Community Green Cabbage: From Seed to Table Our Vision Spring 2011 Spring Harvest 2011 Spring Seedlings 2011 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Lettuce (Let Us) Plant and Harvest

photo of sarah and janine planting
Seniors Sarah and Janine plant red cabbage.

 

The farm is growing in leaps and bounds thanks to help from our community at Stonehill College.  Before the rain of last week Seniors Sarah Bolasevich and Janine DiLorenzo joined me in the fields to plant out red cabbage.  Their help and company provided the ingredients for a fun and productive afternoon.

Photo of Sarah and Janine - yoga at the farm.
Yoga poses and planting cabbage go hand in hand at The Farm.

 

That same week I was joined by Lyn Feeney from the Mission Division, and we planted out beets that were first seeded in the basement of Holy Cross Center on St. Patrick’s Day.

 

Photo of Beets planted out under the row cover
Beets planted with Lyn’s help.

 

The very next day, my friend Dave Kelly, an Easton native, spent his Saturday afternoon with me prepping beds and planting out mustard greens.

photo dave kelly planting red mustard greens
Dave prepares a bed with rich compost for red mustard greens.

The rain started to fall the very next day and did not let up for a week, but the greens were safely in the ground thanks to all of my helpers!

photo of cabbage up close under row cover
The green cabbage enjoys the cool weather.

~~~~~

Under grey skies last week, Senior LucyRose Moller joined me to harvest our first batch of lettuce for The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring.

photo of mesclun greens
Mesclun greens for The Table at Father Bills & MainSpring.

 

Green Romaine, Red Butterhead and Red Leaf Lettuce for Father Bill's & MainSpring.
Green Romaine, Red Butterhead and Red Leaf Lettuce for The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring.

The colors of the mustard greens, tatsoi, and other mesclun greens filled us with joy as we filled our bushel baskets.

Photo of LucyRose with Romaine Lettuce row
LucyRose celebrates as we harvest mesclun greens, romaine and red leaf lettuce.

 

photo of Bridget with first mesclun green harvest
I love lettuce!

 

photo of LucyRose with our first harvest of Mesclun Greens
LucyRose with our first batch of Mesclun Greens.

 

On the morning of Thursday, March 19th, we made our first delivery to Father Bill’s and MainSpring in Brockton, MA just 4 miles from Stonehill campus.  We delivered a variety of Mesclun Greens and Romaine, Red Leaf and Butterhead Lettuce to add local flavor and nutrients to the salad served at the first official lunch meal provided by The Table since they moved over to Father Bill’s from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

 

photo of Kathy, Craig, Dori and Tom at Father Bill's
Kathy, Craig, Dori and Tom happily accept our first gift of Mesclun Greens in the kitchen at Father Bill’s & MainSpring.

 

This was the first of what we plan to be MANY deliveries of fresh vegetables grown by the Stonehill College commumity for our neighbors.

 

 

Categories
Our Vision Spring 2011 Spring Seedlings 2011 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer Welcome

Blessing of The Fields

photo of items used in the Blessing if the field
A Shovel, a Stole, Marigolds and Holy Water used in the Blessing if the Fields

 

The Blessing of the Fields, led by Stonehill College President and Reverend Marc Cregan, included music performed by a student choir, a reading from the Gospel of Marc, poetry by Robert Frost and Mary Oliver, and a history of the all important shovel.

The shovel, which is already an essential tool at the farm and connects us to the history of the college and the Ames Family.  Oliver Ames founded his world-famous shovel company in North Easton in 1803. A century later, his great grandson, Frederick Lothrop Ames (1876-1921), built the mansion and 600-acre estate that would become Stonehill College.

paul daponte in the church
VP of Mission and Professor of Religious Studies Paul Daponte joyfully welcomes members of the community to The Farm.

Prof. Daponte first conceived of the idea to start a farm at Stonehill College in response to participating in an “Into the Streets” day of service last spring in Brockton.  On that day, he was made aware of “food desert” conditions in the neighboring town of Brockton. Less than one year later, his idea to start a farm at the college has come to fruition and The Farm at Stonehill is starting to grow produce to help address these conditions.

photo of the group that came to the blessing
We gathered in the greenhouse for readings, prayers and the blessing.

We were happy to receive students, faculty, staff and members of the nearby community to the farm for the event.  I look forward to seeing all of our attendees back on the farm to enjoy the space as they help to plant, cultivate and harvest the crops.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

– Mary Oliver

Forsythia and the cross: Signs of spring and prayer for fields of plenty this season.

 

Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year. 
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

 

 

 

 

 

– Robert Frost