At this time of year, with snow layered over cover crop and around the hoop houses, The Farm looks as sleepy as ever.
And Zuri is just as sleepy as the rest of The Farm!
Despite the deep snow settled like a blanket on The Farm, we are anticipating spring and the new growing season that will come with it! We’ve begun preparing for our ninth (!!) season, hosting our first “Farm Friday” volunteer hours last week. Seven volunteers joined us in the greenhouse behind Shields Science Center before leaving campus for spring break and helped to plant onion and snapdragon seeds.
In addition to the first planting of the season, we have been keeping busy in other ways at The Farm. At the end of February, we visited Caffrey Towers in Brockton and had lots of fun with our partners at Brockton Neighborhood Health Center and UMASS Nutrition Education Program. Keryn from UMASS NEP cooked a delicious Haitian soup with a wide array of vegetables, including potatoes and onions from Langwater Farm. Participants enjoyed the soup and took home a bag of ingredients to make their own bowls of this yummy dish!
We welcomed Celia Dolan in mid-February as the new Assistant Farm Manager. She graduated in December with an environmental studies degree, business minor, and a passion for sustainable agriculture. After volunteering and working at The Farm since her freshman year, she was honored to accept this position upon graduating a semester early. She is excited to work with Bridget and the volunteers who make The Farm the inspirational place that it is! While keeping up with the usual winter farm duties, Celia and Bridget are planning a seed saving garden to nurture heirloom seeds and the stories that they hold. Celia spoke on a panel at SEMAP’s Annual Agriculture and Food Conference about The Farm’s efforts to Grow for the Greater Good and described plans for the seed saving garden. Just as she was a voice for The Farm on the panel, Celia is happy be the voice of The Farm on this blog post and more posts to come!
Bridget and Celia look forward to a new season at The Farm. We hope to work with you soon in the spring weather, when the snow has melted and The Farm begins to awaken. Until then, we remain ever-hopeful that sunshine and warmth are around the corner. Stay happy and healthy, friends! ~Celia
After one of the snowiest winters on record, the promised and long-awaited spring arrived. As the last of the ice and snow melted away in early April, I looked out at the fields and tried to envision what our fifth season would offer.
Every year, the fields wake up and transform – via the help of volunteers and now, our summer farmers – into neat, and colorful rows of vegetables and flowers – but what will this year bring?
As our fifth season begins, I am keenly aware of all of the people who lend a hand at The Farm and I am filled with gratitude for their enthusiastic support! Here are just a few key relationships that I’d like to highlight as our fifth season shifts into high gear:
For farming advice or to get help with soil tillage I know that I can always turn to our friends at Langwater Farm.
All it takes is a quick call up the street to Kevin or Kate O’Dwyer to set up visits from members of their crew to either arrange for some chisel plowing to help maintain soil health, or to lay plastic beds for full season crops like tomatoes and flowers.
It is important to vary the depth of tillage in our fields in order to avoid creating “hard pan” conditions at 6 inches – the depth that our rototiller reaches.
The plastic mulch is laid with a line of drip tape which helps us provide a consistent amount of moisture to crops like tomatoes, peppers, onions, flowers, eggplants, cucumbers, zucchini, and summer squash. These beds have been especially important this summer with the warm and dry conditions we have been experiencing.
Spring is a time of new life, and it is always exciting to welcome the youngest members of our community to The Farm. Since the first season at The Farm, we have worked very closely with Beth Collins at My Brother’s Keeper to distribute our produce via their 84 weekly home deliveries. As our first greens started to come out of Hoophouse #2 this spring, Beth visited us with her son Teddy to chat about how we can continue to grow desirable and delicious vegetables for the clients of My Brother’s Keeper.
Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and pumpkins are some of the most popular veggies, and we look forward to donating them as the season unfolds.
The Farm also serves as a living classroom for faculty and students at Stonehill College. Some of these projects have been growing with us for years – you might remember posts about Father Steve Wilbricht’s grapes for his Sacraments course, and the honeybee project led by Devin Ingersoll (2014) and Jess Lantos (2014).
This spring, a number of students worked on independent research projects with me at The Farm to see projects they had started last summer or during the their sustainable agriculture course in the fall to fruition. They ranged from permaculture gardens at The Farm and on campus to biochar plots, from edible forest gardens to calculating real food in our dining commons, and from studies on soil health to towergardens. The energy that these students bring to their projects at The Farm is inspiring and is what keeps us strong, vibrant, and productive! Here are images from just a few of the projects to give you a sense of the positive energy that the students bring to their work – a key ingredient to their success.
EDIBLE FOREST GARDEN
REAL FOOD – FOOD TRUTH
Another important relationship to highlight is that of our farm as a home to biodiversity – including native pollinators, toads, honeybees from our Best Bees of Boston hive, and our killdeer families. We strive to create a farm that is as an agroecosystem – an ecosystem under sustainable agricultural management that is both an ecosystem unto itself and connected to the surrounding ecosystem. As such, I am always thrilled to see the killdeer come back every year and to watch them produce healthy broods. This year we think our pair is so pleased with our farm as a home that they are having 2 broods – 4 nestlings hatched on May 11th, and there are currently 3 eggs in a row of onions.
Last, but definitely not least, our student and staff volunteers make our farm what it is – one that grows both vegetables and community. Whether we are planting potatoes or delivering seedlings to community or school gardens in Brockton, it is more common than not for our crew to offer up a smile or two as they work.
As we enter our fifth season, I am looking forward to seeing all of the places that these strong and positive relationships can take us!
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Sometimes the flowers have other exotic looking visitors…
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.
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.
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!
This post was written by one of our summer farmers, Sean Davenport, who loves his potatoes!
“What I say is that, if a fellow really likes potatoes, he must be a decent sort of fellow.”
– A.A. Milne
The potato is not just your average vegetable. It is, in fact, an extraordinary one. Due to our nation’s obsession with fatty foods, the potato, through the form of French fries, has become the most commonly consumed vegetable in the United States. But who can blame us? French fries are so good!
Besides fries, potatoes can be prepared in a plethora of delicious ways ways. Roasted potatoes happen to be my favorite style, especially with some onion tossed in. This past week my mom made roasted potatoes twice, using potatoes fresh from the Farm – red golds and German butterballs. The mashed potato remains another popular American preparation, symbolic of the traditional family dinner. Baked potatoes are absolutely amazing too, with or without sour cream.
For a fancier affair, try potatoes au gratin – thinly sliced potatoes layered with melted cheese. Home fries are served with almost every meal ordered in an American diner, and potato skins are a staple bar food (and perhaps my favorite appetizer of all). Potatoes are also versatile in how you can use them. Bake them into potato rolls, or make some latkes. Even try a little Italian and whip up some gnocchi.
No matter how you prepare a potato, it is going to be delicious. I love potatoes. No matter where I go I know that I can find comfort in eating this most glorious of vegetables. – Sean Davenport (Class of 2015)
Do you know potatoes?
Potatoes were first cultivated 7,000 years ago (but evidence shows they were growing in the wild up to 13,000 years ago) by the Incas in Peru.*
According to Dr. Hector Flores, “the most probable place of origin of potatoes is located between the south of Peru and the northeast of Bolivia. The archaeological remains date from 400 B.C. and have been found on the shores of Lake Titicaca…. There are many expressions of the extended use of the potato in the pre-Inca cultures from the Peruvian Andes, as you can see in the Nazca and Chimu pottery.”*
When the European diet expanded to include potatoes, not only were farmers able to produce much more food, they also gained protection against the catastrophe of a grain crop failure and periodic population checks caused by famine.*
Highly nutritious potatoes also helped mitigate the effects of such diseases as scurvy, tuberculosis, measles and dysentery.*
Potatoes became a staple in the Irish diet by 1800.*
By the early 1840s, almost one-half of the Irish population had become entirely dependent upon the potato, specifically on just one or two high-yielding varieties.*
Potatoes are the leading vegetable crop in the USA and comprise 29% of our vegetable consumption – about 130 pounds per person every year.**
More than 1/2 of the annual consumption is processed rather than fresh (ex. fast food french fries or potato chips).**
Potatoes are the most important vegetable crop in the USA.**
Potatoes are only topped by wheat flour in importance in the American diet.**
Potatoes are rich in minerals, vitamins, calories, and protein, and very low in fat.**
As well as providing starch, an essential component of the diet, potatoes are rich in Vitamin C, high in Potassium and an excellent source of fiber. In fact, potatoes alone supply every vital nutrient except calcium, Vitamin A and Vitamin D.*
How can you do it? It’s heartless, it’s cruel. It’s murder, cold-blooded, it’s gross. To slay a poor vegetable just for your stew Or to serve with some cheese sauce on toast. Have you no decency? Have you no shame? Have you no conscience, you cad, To rip that poor vegetable out of the earth Away from its poor mom and dad?
CHORUS: Oh, no, don’t slay that potato! Let us be merciful, please. Don’t boil it or fry it, don’t even freeze-dry it. Don’t slice it or flake it. For God’s sake, don’t bake it! Don’t shed the poor blood Of this poor helpless spud. That’s the worst kind of thing you could do. Oh, no, don’t slay that potato What never done nothing to you!
Why not try picking on something your size Instead of some carrot or bean? The peas are all trembling there in their pod Just because you’re so vicious and mean. How would you like to be grabbed by your hair And ruthlessly yanked from your bed And have done to you God knows what horrible things, To be eaten with full-fiber bread? (CHORUS)
It’s no bed of roses, this vegetable life. You’re basically stuck in the mud. You don’t get around much. You don’t see the sights When you’re a carrot or celery or spud. You’re helpless when somebody’s flea-bitten dog Takes a notion to pause for relief. Then somebody picks you and cleans you and eats you And causes you nothing but grief. (CHORUS)
There ought to be some way of saving our skins. They ought to be passing a law. Just show anybody a cute little lamb And they’ll all stand around and go “Aw!” Well, potatoes are ugly. Potatoes are plain. We’re wrinkled and lumpy to boot. But give me a break, kid. Do you mean to say That you’ll eat us because we’re not cute?
Oh, no, don’t slay that potato! Let us be merciful, please. Don’t boil it or fry it, don’t even freeze-dry it. Don’t slice it or flake it. For God’s sake, don’t bake it! Don’t shed the poor blood Of this poor helpless spud. That’s the worst kind of thing you could do. Oh, no, don’t slay that potato What never done nothing to you!
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.
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.
During volunteer hours in early April we were often decked out in our summer best.
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.
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.
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.
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.
… and other, larger varieties, sweetly satisfy the saying that “Good things come to those who wait!”
We have three sweet, delicious varieties of cherry tomatoes – Sun Gold, Be My Baby, and Red Pearl – that we are currently harvesting and 7 larger varieties that will be coming out of the fields and appearing on the tables of our partners very soon.
In July we harvested and delivered over 3,000 pounds of fresh vegetables to our partners in Brockton from our fields. We are excited to see what August brings!
We have had some extra help from volunteer groups over the past few weeks including student leaders from the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA).
They helped weed beans and flowers to ensure healthy harvests of those two crops, and also picked a few veggies for us including cucumbers and zucchini.
There are many other mid-season veggies and even fruits that are coming out of the fields these days.
They include Islander (Purple) Peppers…
… Apple Pimento Peppers …
… “Luscious” and “Brocade” bi-color Sweet Corn …
… and after many months: Green Cabbage. These seeds were among our first planted on March 17, 2011 in the basement of the Holy Cross Center. One more step – to the table – for this crop, and we’ll have tracked its entire progression from seed to table!
This past week we also harvests 4 varieties of potatoes including Yukon Gold, Purple, Kennebec, and Dark Red Norland. It was a lot of work, but rewarding as we weighed our harvest and learned that we had pulled just over 150 pounds from a 125 foot row that day!
It is hard to believe that many veggies, like lettuce, fall root crops, fall broccoli, baby bok choy and others are just starting to grow into healthy, field worthy seedlings in our greenhouse. We will continue to monitor them and plant them when the time comes to ensure a continued, and plentiful harvest into October.
We are excited to also be pulling sweet, refreshing, Watermelon from the fields over the next couple of weeks to share some fresh, summer treat with our partners at Father Bill’s and Mainspring, the Old Colony YMCA and My Brother’s Keeper.