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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These students will nurture their bean plants over the next couple of months and hopefully plant them in the fields once the weather warms.
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.
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!
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.
There is nothing quite like building something from the ground up. You plan, you order parts, you organize your materials, you read the instruction manual (if there is one), you make a plan, you assemble a team, and then the day comes when you start to build.
With indispensable help from Chuck Currie, a seasoned organic grower and experienced greenhouse installer, those parts are starting to fall – or be pounded – into place and our 18’x48′ greenhouse is starting to take shape.
Chuck and I took turns swinging sledge hammers to pound the ground posts 24 inches into the ground. By the end of Day 1, we had set 12 of the 26 posts. These ground posts, set 4 feet apart, will hold the bows that will form the skeleton of the greenhouse. This spacing should provide the structural strength necessary for the greenhouse to hold up to the ice, snow and winds that can come with winters in New England.
We were back at The Farm bright and early the next morning to set the remaining ground posts and assemble the bows.
After assembling the bows, we decided to let the wind – blowing a steady 15 to 20 mph with gusts close to 30 mph- guide our work and found other projects to fill the rest of the day.
Tomorrow we’ll be back, and the greenhouse will be one step closer to a haven for the seedlings that will grow to produce tomatoes, cucumbers, and countless other nutritious vegetables that we hope will help to alleviate some of the food desert conditions just miles away.