Categories
Community Fall 2014 Reflections The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

The Fall: Blessings, Visitors and Projects Abound

It has been a productive and delicious fall at The Farm!  Thanks to a crew of dedicated volunteers and students studying Sustainable Agriculture and Permaculture our farm is far from sleepy.

photo of farm visitors on nov 11
Ryan, now enrolled at the Coast Guard, visits us and Stonehill friends Jeremy and Marc at The Farm on November 11th.

Though we do not have as many active projects out in the fields these days, Devin and I can often be found checking on our crops in the hoophouses or walking Zuri on the land.

photo zuri is still working hard - on nov 11th looking for field mice
Zuri is never takes a day off – pictured here searching for mice in our spools of drip tape.

On October 24th, we hosted the Blessing of Hoophouse #2 to thank the Class of 1964 for their gift, which covered construction costs of the structure.  This hoophouse is truly a blessing to us – as it has already allowed us to extend the growing season of crops like cherry tomatoes and currently houses spinach and other hardy greens.

pic of Andrew and Colin, farmers and members of the Class of 2015 join in to thank the Class of 1964 for their class gift of Hoophouse #2.
Andrew and Colin, farmers and members of the Class of 2015 join in to thank the Class of 1964 for their class gift of Hoophouse #2.

Members of the Class of 1964 were present on October 24th to witness Father Jim Lies’s blessing of the hoophouse and to hear Devin speak about the benefits of structures like hoophouses.  We are excited about the addition of this growing structure!

photo of Kim and Devin help out at the Blessing of Hoophouse #2 as we thank the class of 1964 for their support - oct 24th.
Kim and Devin help out at the Blessing of Hoophouse #2 as we thank the class of 1964 for their support on October 24th.

This second hoophouse, measuring 30′ x 48′, dwarfs our original (and still very much beloved 18′ x 48′ hoophouse) offers a nutrient rich floor where we will plant cucumbers and tomatoes earlier that we can in the fields next season.  Thus, this structure will help us to make more delicious produce available to our partners for more months of the year!

photo of A view of the farm from the northeast corner on November 13th.
A view of the farm from the northeast corner on November 13th.

The fields are still producing a few hearty greens like kale, baby broccoli and carrots, but most of the land has a nice coat of cover crops like hairy vetch and oats to help fix nitrogen and add organic material to the soils,  respectively.

photo of Yum - local salad on November 15th
Salad from our fields on November 15th.

One of my favorite crops – High Mowing Mesclun Mix – was still producing flavorful greens in mid-November, which I dressed up with our own carrots and a few chunks of Honey Crisp apples from Brookdale Fruit Farm to create a refreshing salad.

photo of Check out the root nodules on the hairy vetch plants - containing a bacteria called rhyzobium that helps to fix nitrogen.
Check out the root nodules on the hairy vetch – containing rhizobium bacteria that fixes nitrogen in our soil to make it available to our crops next spring.

In the hoophouses you can see that a number of crops have already benefited from the slightly warmer temperatures the plastic walls offer.

2 oct 20th
Tomatoes harvested on October 20th from Hoophouse #2.

~~~

photo of Spinach growing along in Hoophouse #2 on November 10th.
Spinach growing along in Hoophouse #2 in December.

~~~

Though our harvests are lighter, we are keeping busy working on projects like building a herb spiral in our permaculture garden on campus – next to Amesbury in the Senior courts – and planting perennials like pear and peach trees, raspberries and blackberries, and hardy kiwis on campus and at The Farm!

picture oDevin, Sean and Christine "harvest" rocks from a pile of field stones at Langwater Farm.
Devin, Sean and Colin “harvest” rocks from a pile of field stones at Langwater Farm.

Langwater Farm was kind enough to allow us to take a few field stones from their pile next to their rt. 138 fields for our herb spiral project.

photo of Christine Moodie arranges the first stones in the herb spiral.
Christine Moodie, Class of 2015, arranges the first stones in the herb spiral.

Projects like this are fun because they offer our students the opportunity to work on farm projects on the main campus.  It is our hope that this garden will serve to produce vegetables and fruit for our campus community and raise awareness about The Farm and how they can get become (or stay) involved.

photo oJeremy, Danielle G., Sean, Christine and Danielle W. - all members of the Sustainable Agriculture class - pitch in to construct our herb spiral on campus.
Jeremy, Danielle G., Sean, Christine and Danielle W. – all members of the Sustainable Agriculture class – pitch in to construct our herb spiral on campus.

The fall/winter is a good time to build growing structures like the herb spirals and is also an excellent time to plan our permaculture gardens and to plant a number of perennials.

photo of Sean (left) and Christine (right), 2 students participating in a Permaculture Directed Study this fall join me and Devin (center) at Massasoit College where we were given a number of perennials including raspberries, mint, and jerusalem artichokes.
Sean (left) and Christine (right), 2 students participating in a Permaculture Directed Study this fall join me and Devin (center) at Massasoit College where we were given a number of perennials including raspberries, mint, and Jerusalem artichokes by Melanie, Professor of Environmental Sciences and manager of campus permaculture and native garden plots.

We spent some time in November planting Dwarf Chojuro Asian Pear and Dwarf Gala Peach Trees, Auburn Homestead Chestnut Trees, 3 different varieties of Blackberries, Koralle Ligonberries, and Issai Hardy Kiwi from Stark Brothers and Raspberries, Mint, and Jerusalem Artichokes from our partners at Massasoit College on campus…

photo of Christine plants a Asian Pear Tree on campus.
Christine plants a Chojuro Asian Pear Tree on campus.

…at The Farm…

photo of Christine plants a Homestead Auburn Chestnut tree at The Farm.
Christine plants a Homestead Auburn Chestnut tree at The Farm.

…in our Apple Orchard…

photo of Devin and Christine plant a couple of pear trees out in our apple orchard.
Devin and Christine plant a couple of Chojuro Asian Pear trees out in our apple orchard.

…and in our permaculture garden at The Farm.

photo of Christine and Devin plant a number of blackberries in our permaculture garden at The Farm.
Christine and Devin plant a number of blackberries in our permaculture garden at The Farm.

~~~

Other projects include getting to know our Best Bees bee keepers. Devin and I visited them at their headquarters in Boston to learn how to extract honey and get the inside scoop on their research projects.

photo of Alia, a beekeeper with Best Bees harvests some honey from our hive on October 29th.
Alia, a beekeeper with Best Bees, holds up a frame with honey they can harvest for us from our hive October 29th.

We were overjoyed to learn that our bees had been productive enough to share some of their bounty with us!

photo of extracting honey #1
First you have to take off the protective wax covering up the honey.

~~~

photo of Devin spinning out some honey!
Then you have to extract it by spinning it – Devin tries this out!

The results are beautiful and delicious!

photo of our honey in a jar
YUM!

We are happy to report that our honey flew of the shelves during a find raiser.  We sold 3 oz jars for $10/jar and all of it was purchased within one day of posting an advertisement on our Facebook and sharing an email about the honey with our Stonehill community.  We hope to be able to share more of this amber treat with more folks next year.

~~~

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – well, Farmhouse – we are cooking up a new program called The Farmhouse Writing Fellows Program. Farmhouse Writing Fellows will be given dedicated writing space on the second floor of the Farmhouse to work on scholarly or pedagogical projects for the semester.

Five Faculty will be joining us this spring: Rachel Hirst, George Piggford, Megan Mitchell, Corey Dolgon, and Candice Smith-Corby.  We will be hosting Farmhouse Conversations every other Friday so that our fellows can share a bit about their work with the community.  We will share invitations via our weekly “This Week at The Farm” community emails and via our Facebook page and we hope to see you there!

~~~

You might be wondering where this mystical farmhouse is located! Don’t worry, we made a sign so that you will be sure to find us!

photo of first we had to choose the wood and sketch out the word
First we had to choose the wood and sketch out the letters.

I knew just the place to create such a sign: my parent’s home in Millerton, NY.  First we chose the right piece of cherry, before sketching out the letters, and then used a router to carve out the word and the little shovel icon.

photo of Jono Meigs, wood worker extraordinaire teaches me how to use the router.
Jono Meigs, wood worker extraordinaire, teaches me how to use the router.

~~~

photo of i tried it out..
Almost done!

After a few hours of work we had our sign!

photo of we had our sign
My Dad and I proudly display our sign!

Now you can find it hanging at the entrance of our Farmhouse: 411 Washington St.

photo of our sign
Our sign hanging up at the entrance to our farm offices and home to the Farmhouse Writing Fellow Program.

~~~

We look forward to your next visit to see us at The Farm or at The Farmhouse as we chip away at our long list of winter projects and order up seeds for our next growing season – which will start earlier now, thanks to Hoophouse #2!

photo of i tried it out..
Local sunset near Wheaton farm – one of our favorite places to walk with Zuri after a long day at The Farm.

Sending you warm wishes for a restful and rejuvenating holiday season!

~Bridget & Zuri

Categories
Community Community Partners Greenhouse Guest Post Our Vision The Farm at Stonehill Winter 2014

Winter Research: From the Lab to the Field

From the Lab to The Field: Cold-Tolerance Gene Research at the Farm

Guest post by, Danielle Garceau, Class of 2015

photo of Cold-hardy crops ready for winter in the hoop house
Cold-hardy crops ready for winter in the hoop house.

Even during the quieter, less hectic winter months, there is still a surprising amount of activity at the farm. From Mesclun mix and other cold weather crops like Spinach growing along in the hoop house, to students learning in their outdoor classroom, the farm is still a happening place.

But what else might be going on? Yes, research! As the temperature begins to drop the farm is the ideal location for an ongoing study that I am conducting with Professor Irvin Pan of the Biology Department with the support of the Farm. Through this research, we are hoping to determine the underlying genetic basis for cold-tolerance in crop species known to be cold-hardy.

Funded by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and the Stonehill Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Program, this project is a continuation of research conducted this past growing season that will shift from the lab to the farm this winter. We are collecting and analyzing field data to better understand how certain tasty plant species can survive in outdoor winter weather environments.

Over this past summer, our group identified the cold tolerance genes Inducer of CBF Expression 1 (ICE1), C-Repeat Binding Factor 3 (CBF3), and Eskimo 1 (ESK1) in known cold-hardy crops such as Broccoli, Bok-Choi, and Kale alongside the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana. We conducted an experiment to compare the expression of the cold-tolerance gene CBF3 in plants incubated at warm and cold temperatures.

This figure represents the changes in CBF3 levels over a 2 hour time period. Red arrows indicate CBF3 levels before the cold exposure and blue arrows indicate CBF3 levels after the cold exposure with numbers below the bands representing expression level as compared to before the cold exposure.
Cold Exposure Experiment: Gel Electrophoresis:   This figure represents the changes in CBF3 levels over a 2 hour time period. Red arrows indicate CBF3 levels before the cold exposure and blue arrows indicate CBF3 levels after the cold exposure with numbers below the bands representing expression level as compared to before the cold exposure.

The picture above is one of many gel electrophoreses ran on the DNA (in this case, cDNA or complementary DNA that is made from mRNA or messenger RNA) of these crop species. The bands above are the actual DNA of a specific gene that we are studying. The brighter the band, the more DNA there is in the plant tissue, meaning the plant is turning on this specific gene. As you can see from this gel picture after a 2 hour long exposure to cold temperatures, the expression level of the cold-tolerance gene CBF3 underwent as much as a 15 fold increase! We think that this may be one reason why plants like Broccoli, Kale, and Bok-Choi don’t mind colder temperatures.

photo of Greenhouse Cold Exposure Experiment in the Greenhouse at Shield Science Center.
Greenhouse Cold Exposure Experiment in the Greenhouse at Shield Science Center.

Through conducting further cold exposure experiments this winter at the greenhouse we hope to confirm these results on a larger scale and over a longer time period of one month while also recording the temperatures that the plants experience every hour using a temperature data logger.

photo of The new cold frame at The Farm.
The new cold frame at The Farm.

In addition to our work in the heated greenhouse this winter, we hope to also grow our cold-hardy plants in the newly built cold frame. Using the cold frame will allow us to gather data in a setting in which not only farmers but home gardeners could grow crops during the colder months of the year. This cold frame will also prove to be a useful learning tool in sustainable agriculture practices to students that use the farm as an outdoor classroom and engage in classes like Sustainable Agriculture – taught by Farm Manager Meigs.

In conducting this research at the farm we hope to ultimately extend the farm’s growing season further into the winter through the selection of crops most suited to colder temperatures. Through extending the farm’s growing season we also hope to enable the farm to provide fresh produce to community partners well into the winter season.

Categories
Community Reflections Summer 2013 Summer Cultivation 2013 Summer Harvest 2013 Summer Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Productive Plants Weather New England’s Heat and Rain

photo of sunset
Another beautiful and dramatic summer sun sets on a another full and productive day in the fields.

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!

photo of summer Straight Neck Summer Squash, Galine Eggplants, and Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes.
Straight Neck Summer Squash, Galine Eggplants, and Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes.

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!

Camp Shriver participants take a break with Zuri after harvesting over 7 pounds of Green Beans for us!
Camp Shriver participants take a break with Zuri after harvesting over 7 pounds of Green Beans for us!

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.

An organic variety of kale called Ripbor is producing well for us this year!
An organic variety of kale called Ripbor is producing well for us this year!

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.

An excellent group of volunteers participating in the New England Leadership Conference helped us weed our winter squash and harvest our first row of potatoes on a day with 95 degree heat - no complaints!
An excellent group of volunteers participating in the New England Leadership Conference helped us weed our winter squash and harvest our first row of potatoes on a day with 95 degree heat – no complaints!

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!

photo of A flower on one of our tomato plants - soon to become a sweet, flavorful fruit!
A flower on one of our tomato plants – soon to become a sweet, flavorful fruit!

~~~

photo of An organic plum tomato variety called Granadero is producing beautiful fruit - soon to become red and delicious!
An organic plum tomato variety called Granadero is producing beautiful fruit – soon to become red and delicious!

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.

photo of A beautiful variety of Black Eyed Susan - "Cherry Brandy" - adds a sophisticated flare to the bouquets.
A beautiful variety of Black Eyed Susan – “Cherry Brandy” – adds a sophisticated flare to the 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.

photo of A honeybee makes her approach to a radiant zinnia.
A honeybee makes her approach to a radiant zinnia.

~~~

photo of A honeybee - hard at work!
A honeybee – hard at work!

Sometimes the flowers have other exotic looking visitors…

photo of A dragonfly
A dragonfly takes a rest on one of the zinnias.

~~~

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.

Sweet William - the prettiest smelling perfume in the field!
Sweet William – bearer of the prettiest smelling perfume in the field!

~~~

photo of salvia
Salvia – a honeybee’s heaven on earth!

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.

Fields of plenty - quietly producing!
Fields of plenty – quietly producing!

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!

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.

~~~

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.

~~~

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.