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Spring 2019 The Farm at Stonehill

A Snowy, Sleepy Farm

At this time of year, with snow layered over cover crop and around the hoop houses, The Farm looks as sleepy as ever.

A circle of benches with snow sitting on top and a snow-surrounded hoop house in the background. Grey snow clouds in the sky give a foreboding appearance.
Although this area may not seem warm and welcoming right now, we anxiously await the time when volunteers will gather here in the spring to learn about The Farm.
Snow has been shoveled aside to clear a path to The Farm shed and hoop houses. A blue clear sky promises spring weather soon.
These snow-surrounded hoop houses will soon be a home for seedlings and sprouts!

The two hoop houses are surrounded by a layer of snow as they are slowly but surely shoveled out

The white Mobile Market Van with deep snow on its roof
The Mobile Market Van waits out the winter until our first Market in June!
Large orange tractor resting in the hoop house for storage.
It’s quite possible that our tractor may be the warmest thing on The Farm right now! Nestled in one hoop house to stay out of the snow, it sleeps until the first field is plowed in the spring.

And Zuri is just as sleepy as the rest of The Farm!

White dog yawning in The Farmhouse
Yawning Zuri, The Farm’s happy (but sleepy) hound.

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.

A group of six smiling volunteers pose in the greenhouse after helping to plant seedlings
(Left to Right) Marissa Beachell, Daniel Farnworth, Natalie McDonough, Brett Smith, Jillian Tavares, and Celia Dolan.

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!

A pile of Campus Farmer Summit bags holding the soup ingredients.
Soup ingredients were gathered in bags for participants to recreate the soup they’d tasted.

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!

Assistant Farm Manager, Celia Dolan, holding a heart-shaped potato in the dirt fields
Celia hopes to share her love of farming and food justice with volunteers. Apparently this potato has similar aspirations!

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

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!

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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.

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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
Fall 2011 Fall Harvest 2011 Fall Projects 2011 Fall Volunteers 2011 Reflections Spring 2011 Summer 2011 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Symmetry of the Seasons

Symmetry of the Seasons

photo of cabbage in the spring
Cabbage in the spring.
Spring.
We plant lettuce seedlings under lights,
and when we think the time is right,
we move them in the thawing earth,
and hope they will survive late frost.
Much tougher than their small leaves suggest,
They take root and grow in sun and in rain.
photo of lettuce seedlings
Lettuce seedlings under the lights.
Summer.
We harvest;
Not just lettuce.
Loads of zucchini and summer squash threaten to break our backs.
Tomatoes: so plentiful that some fall to the ground,
Never making it to the table for which they were intended.
Instead they feed the Earth that lies below.
photo of zucchini and summer squash
Zucchini and Summer Squash harvested in July.
photo of Juilet tomatoes
Juliet Tomatoes ripening on the vine in July.
photo of tomatotes
Tomatoes: So plentiful that we cannot harvest them all.
Fall.
Greens rule again.
Kohlrabi, with it’s alien appearance, with its pleasing spice
warms our cooling bodies.
We find ourselves planting and harvesting lettuce once again.
Confident now, that it will brave first frost.
Knowing now, that each plant possesses a resilient core,
And a drive to survive.
photo of kohlrabi and parsnips
Kohlrabi and Parsnips harvested on October 26th.
photo fo patrick harvesting lettuce
Patrick Brazel harvests lettuce on October 26 in the rain.
photo of today's harvest
Fall harvest: eggplant, lettuce, collard greens, kohlrabi, parsley, and kale.
Winter.
The snow starts to fall,
and the wind cuts through our layers of wool, fleece and down.
Attempts are made to erase the warmth of long summer days from our memories.
To combat the cold, we mirror the might of the smallest seedlings,
Drawing on the heat stored in our cores,
until the Sun of next season beats down.
To warm us from the outside in,
Once again.

photo of sunflower

 

Categories
Spring 2011 Spring Seedlings 2011 The Farm at Stonehill

Greenhouse Construction Commences

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.

Photo of Chuck setting the first corner post
Day 1: Chuck Currie, our greenhouse contractor, runs a line between corner posts on the west end of the greenhouse to help set the all important first corner post.

 

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.

 

A hand holds a leveling tool above some gravel
This simple tool, a line level, helped us set the height of each of our 26 ground posts.

 

photo of Chuck Currie and our first wooden ground post
Day 1: Chuck stands astride our first set ground post… only 25 more to go!

 

photo of 12 posts in, end of day 1
End of Day 1: 12 posts in, 14 to go…

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.

photo of 26 ground posts in the ground
Day 2: 26 ground posts in by mid-day.

 

photo of assembled greenhouse bows
Day 2: 13 bows assembled and ready to go up tomorrow.

 

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.