Categories
Community Greenhouse Reflections Spring 2019 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Brimming With Hope as the Supermoon Rises

The first day of Spring arrives, and I find myself brimming with hope for another amazing season at The Farm.

My early morning walks with Zuri around the fields are filled with soft, warm light dancing on the frost covered grasses. It is hard to believe that in a few short months the morning dew will offer a welcome coolness compared the blazing midday heat.

A purple crocus flower blooms and peeks out of dead leaves covering the ground, a sign of Spring coming soon
We find a crocus on an early morning walk – a sure sign that Spring is arriving soon.

This is the time of year when we pause to drink in the sun – lifting our chins towards the sky like turtles sunbathing on boulders in a stream – thankful for the warmth the rays bring to our faces and to our sleepy spirits.

A bright circle - the supermoon - shines high above the treeline at the Farm
The full moon in March is also known as the Worm Moon and is a supermoon! Here it is rising above the trees that line the eastern edge of the field and Rt. 138.

Perhaps it is the power of the full moon on the solstice, but there is something intoxicating about the start of this season.  Highs and lows from the previous season are already fading as the fields start to green, the garlic starts to sprout and the seedlings start to grow.

The seeds are the focus this time of year – when will be planting the onions? the kale? the snapdragons? What will thrive and what will bend despite or due to the challenge of drought or disease?  We create our seeding charts and dutifully fill trays with nutrient rich soil.  We provide water and sunlight.

It is then that the magic happens – we watch as the seedlings emerge. Some of them, like onions and leeks are gangly, lean and angular, while others like snapdragons and Matricaria (a member of the Chamomile tribe) are symmetrical and almost glamorous as they dance in their morning or afternoon shower.

Thin, stringy onion sprouts grow up and out from a series of plastic trays
Unruly onions burst from their seeds – the greens grow a bit taller and straighter each day.
A close up on a matricaria flower sprout slowly beginning to sprout in one of the trays, its small green leaves revealing their complex symmetry
A new flower for us this year – Matricaria – has intricate and symmetrical seedlings right from the first days they appear.

I am reminded of the essential living and nonliving components that help our farm thrive: the students and community members who arrive early and stay as long as they can to plant the seeds, the nutrients in the soil, the water that transports the nutrients into the roots of the seedlings, and the sun which beckons our young plants to grow.

A woman works with over a dozen students in the greenhouse to plant thousands of seeds during on crowded tables for volunteer hours
Celia (center in purple t-shirt) and 13 volunteers help to plant thousands of seeds during volunteer hours on Friday, March 15th.

 

It will not be long before the fields are filled with flowers and veggies bending and swaying with the elements as they produce glorious blooms and fruits that fill our hearts and bellies with joy.

These are the magical days of early spring where we dream and hope for a season filled with growth, beauty and joy – I can feel it – can you?

~Bridget

Categories
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
Community Spring 2014 Spring Cultivation The Farm at Stonehill

All A-Buzz at The Farm

Guest Post: All A-Buzz at The Farm

By, Devin Ingersoll (2014)

As the weather warms up there is something new buzzing about among the fruits and veggies at the Farm at Stonehill – Italian Honey Bees!

photo of Some of our honeybees hard at work on June 13th.
Some of our honey bees – hard at work on June 13th.

            In May of this year the Farm began working with The Best Bees Company, a company based out of the South End of Boston, MA offering beekeeping services to over 200 clients throughout New England in rural, suburban, and urban habitats.  All profits fund research to improve honey bee  health at the Urban Beekeeping Laboratory & Bee Sanctuary, also located in the South End.  The company installed our very own beehive stocked with Italian Honey Bees on May 16th. The hive is located near a boggy area (for water) and our Apple Orchard, but the bees can travel up to 5 miles from the hive as they complete their work and will happily pollinate our crops for this season and years to come. 

picture of The bees will help to pollinate many of our crops, including our apples.  Pictured here: Crimson Gold Apple Blossom - located about 100 feet from our hive.
The bees will help to pollinate many of our crops, including our apples. Pictured here: Crimson Gold Apple Blossom – located about 100 feet from our hive.

           Why Italian honey bees, you say?  This species of honey bee is known for its productivity and docile nature – hardworking and friendly (a lot like our farm crew!).  Beekeepers will come out to the hive once a month to check on the bees and at the end of the season harvest the honey and wax for us as well.  The company provides friendly and informative monthly reports like this:

Dear Bridget,

After checking your hive last Thursday, we are happy to report that your hive is very active and healthy.  The queen has been laying, giving your colony around 8 frame sides of brood.  There are nearly 4 frame sides of honey production under way, but nothing fully capped to pull yet.  We added a second box to your hive, giving your bees another 20 frame sides to inhabit. Your colony is utilizing 16 out of the now 40 frame sides currently in place. 

Warm Regards,
Operations at Best Bees

Alia, one of the beekeepers informed us that we may see up to 10-20 lbs of honey this first season.  Depending upon the amount of honey we see we will decide upon where it will be sold or donated – keep an eye on the blog for more information on this as the season progresses!

photo oHoney bees arrive on May 16th. The beekeeper pictured here is looking for the queen.
Honey bees arrive on May 16th. The beekeeper pictured here is looking for the queen.

            Honey bees live in a very well-organized and well-maintained hives usually in small, enclosed spaces.  Humans have used this trait to their advantage and have created boxes where honeybees are usually perfectly happy to create a home. The bees work together to build their geometric honeycombs from wax secreted from their abdomens.  Each individual honeycomb hexagon is used to store pollen, honey, or developing bee larva.  Just as caterpillars turn into butterflies, bees undergo metamorphosis as they transform from the egg to larva to pupa to adult honeybee. 

photo of Alia, a Beekeeper from Best Bees shows me a healthy crew of our honey bees on June 13th - less than 1 month after installation!
Alia, a Beekeeper from Best Bees shows me a healthy crew of our honey bees on June 13th – less than 1 month after installation!

            When you peek into the hive thousands of bees – our hive was started with around 10,000 bees – are busily buzzing about performing their designated tasks.  Each hive has one queen bee that lays all of the eggs for the hive (up to 1,000 a day!). The majority hatch into worker bees who take care of the larvae, build and clean the nest, and leave the hive to forage for food all in their 5-7 week lifespan.  Lastly there are about 100-500 male or drone bees that hatch and subsequently leave the nest to mate with other queens in hives nearby and immediately die.

photo of Rows and rows of tomatoes will soon produce flowers and undoubtedly be visited by the honey bees from the nearby hive.
Rows and rows of tomatoes will soon produce flowers and undoubtedly be visited by the honey bees from the nearby hive.

            As worker bees forage for food (pollen and nectar) from the flowering plants nearby they also act as pollinators for those plants. Without pollination the plants could not complete their life cycle and produce all of the fruits and seeds necessary to continue life as we know it – there would be no fruits or seeds to provide energy to humans and all living things to thrive. We need bees and other beneficial insects, no matter how small, to ensure a healthy ecosystem.

photo of The Lady Bug - especially while in it's larvae stage - is another beneficial and naturally occurring insect thriving at our farm - they are known for their good work of eating soft-bodied pests like aphids.
The Lady Bug – especially while in it’s larvae stage – is another beneficial and naturally occurring insect thriving at our farm – they are known for their good work of eating soft-bodied pests like aphids.

As the summer rolls on we are excited to see the bees buzzing about knowing that without the bees and other pollinators our crops – flowers, veggies, fruits and herbs – would not be as bountiful and delicious as they are today!

photo of The Lady Bug - especially while in it's larvae stage - is another beneficial and naturally occurring insect thriving at our farm - they are known for their good work of eating soft-bodied pests like aphids.
Our first bouquet of the season picked on June 13th. The bees will love these flower and we, in turn, will enjoy all of the colors and perfumes they provide.

~~~

photo of I hold up our first - of many - bouquets that we will harvest this summer!
Farm Manager Bridget holds up our first of many bouquets that we will harvest this summer. Lots of rain last week with sun this week will produce hundreds of blossoms – which will make our bees and customers very happy!

             For more information about the social behavior of bees check out the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium following and Beespotter.

            Maybe you may want to try out beekeeping for yourself next year – check out this site for some information to get you started!

            Next time you are at the Farm check out the hive (next to the compost pile) and watch our bees buzzing about!  

 

 

Categories
Community Spring 2014 Spring Cultivation Spring Volunteers 2014 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Elements of a Living Canvas

Spring is a miraculous time to be a farmer – it is a time of creativity, renewed energy and productivity.

On these cooler days in May the fields appear to be a blank canvas that we are given the opportunity to fill up with colorful, nutritious crops.  We start each growing season with the memory of bountiful fields – thousands of plants producing fruits faster than we can harvest them – as we look out at many open rows waiting to be filled with tiny, seemingly vulnerable seedlings.  With the knowledge that these small, fragile seedlings often grow rapidly into strong, vibrant plants, we forge ahead and begin to paint the farm once again.

photo of Volunteers plant sunflowers and onions in early May.
Volunteers plant sunflowers and onions in early May.

The volunteers are plentiful and eager to help the farm have another successful year!  During the months of April and May we often welcomed 25-30 helpers each Friday who quickly got right to work: planting, mulching, watering and prepping beds.  We have them to thank for the rows and rows of healthy plants that are growing along beautifully now on these longer, warmer days.

photo of so many seedlings to plant
I choose a tray of zinnia seedlings for Ryan and Jeremy to plant on a sunny Farm Friday.

The plants are adapting well to the somewhat harsher environment that lies outside of the protective hoophouse, and with some water and time in the sun they start to grow.  We can’t help but anticipate all of the delicious flavors that our first harvests of High Mowing Mesclun Mix, Shanghi Green Pac Choi and Deer Tongue Lettuce will bring to the table.

photo of busy farm volunteer hours
Busy farm volunteers water and plant flowers, onions, collards and kale.

In addition to careful planting, the light and heat from the sun, and nutrients in the soil, our crops will also require water and some help competing with the weeds to ensure that they achieve their full potential.  Volunteers assist in the important tasks of rolling out the irrigation “lay-flat” tubes and drip tape and delivering mulch to the fields.

photo of tijana and dan unroll the drip lines
Tijana and Dan help unroll the lay-flat that will carry water to the drip tape that will water the plants in the fields.

We are experimenting with doing some more mulching between the rows this season using hay purchased at the end of the last season and newly purchased salt marsh hay.  This mulch will add organic material back to the soil and allow us to cut back on hours spent weeding and weed whacking!

photo of mulching
Sarah, Kaylie and Devin transport seasoned hay out to the field to mulch the areas between the rows.
photo of spreading out the mulch - adding organic content and suppressing weeds
Devin helps to spread the mulch between rows of sunflowers, zinnias and onions.

~~~

In addition to volunteer groups, a number of classes visit the farm regularly to deepen lessons introduced in the classrooms across the street.  The Farm was the subject of this year’s Faculty Focus piece, created by our marketing team to highlight how a number of faculty members are utilizing The Farm as an outdoor learning space.

photo of Father Steve's students help with the grapes
Father Steve’s students help to cultivate the grapes.

Father Steve Wilbricht is one of the faculty who is utilizing the farm as a living classroom. He is committed to growing grapes with the help of his class on the Sacraments and can often be found weeding, watering and monitoring the health of the grapevines at The Farm.

~~~

One strategy to ensure productivity or all of our crops involves supporting our populations of pollinators, both native and imported.  This year we are adding a hive of Italian honeybees to the farm, which will be managed by the beekeepers of The Best Bees Company in Boston.  This addition to The Farm is the result of a Sustainable Agriculture semester long project by students Devin Ingersoll and Jess Lantos – both members of the Class of 2014.

photo of bees arrive Best Bees
10,000 bees arrive at The Farm with a Best Bees Beekeeper on May 16th.

The construction of our second hoophouse is another current exciting activity at The Farm, and is also the result of a student project.  In my Sustainable Agriculture class last spring, Dan Gardiner (Class of 2014) and Jack Bressor (Class of 2013) outlined how we could extend our growing and learning season at The Farm with the addition of a second growing structure like this.  With the help of a second year of funding from the Harold Brooks Foundation we were able to purchase the supplies to make the addition this spring.

photo of hoophouse going in
Chuck and John set the ground posts for Hoophouse #2.

Despite their own busy spring at Freedom Food Farm in Raynham, MA, Farmers Chuck Currie and John White are making some time to put up the hoophouse for us. We plan to grow tomatoes, cucumbers and other warm weather crops in this structure during the summer and then chard, kale, lettuce and other greens during the colder months.

photo of pounding in the stakes
Sledge hammers, bulb augers, a level and pure, hard work are the most important tools for pounding in the ground posts.

One of the unexpected benefits of this construction project includes temporary perching for local tree swallows. Seeing them enjoy this space reminds me of the lessons I teach in the classroom – we are part of a larger ecosystem here at The Farm and have an important duty to be stewards to the land and to support the biodiversity that thrives on the farm and in the fields and trees that surround us.

photo of Sparrows enjoy ground posts
Tree Swallows enjoy the view from the ground posts after construction is done for the day.

We have also seen toads, bees, crickets, robins, bluebirds, nesting killdeer and many other creatures at The Farm this spring, which encourages us to continue to think about ways to provide a diverse habitat as we simultaneously work to grow, harvest and deliver our crops to nurture the human members of our community.

photo of Killdeer in the lettuce
A Killdeer sits on her nest which she chose to build in the shade of a Red Oakleaf Lettuce seedling.

I was relieved to see that this Killdeer (pictured above) decided to lay her eggs in a row after it had been planted it with seedlings.  She actively defends her nest whenever we approach the area to plant or weed in a nearby row.  We are happy to let her have this head of lettuce and hope that she stays in this part of the field out of harms way of the rototiller or a hoe.

photo of Summer Farmer Chris plants onions with Jeremy, our new Farm "Into the Streets" coordinator.
Summer Farmer Chris plants onions with Jeremy, our new Farm “Into the Streets” coordinator.

~~~

photo of Summer farmers planting
Summer Farmers Kayleigh and Andrew plant out the last of the onions in late May.

This summer, 3 summer farmers will be helping to care for our farm: Kayleigh McDonnell, Andrew Curran and Chris Astephen.  Together we will work with the volunteers, visitors, killdeer, bees, community members, and whatever the weather brings us to grow vegetables and flowers.

photo of seedling enjoy the hoophouse head as they prepare for life in the field
A view of The Farm through Hoophouse #1 – thousands of plants that will soon be moved out into the fields to grow.

We are keeping busy moving the seedlings from Hoophouse #1 into the fields and have started to harvest a few things – lettuce and Pac Choi – for our community partners and the people that they serve.

photo of first harvest
First harvest of colorful Mesclun Mix – delivered to the Easton Food Pantry on May 19th.

~~~

Season #4 is officially underway… looking forward to seeing what new elements we can add to this year’s masterpiece.

Visit us at The Farm or on Facebook to see it all unfold.

Categories
Spring 2014 Spring Volunteers 2014 The Farm at Stonehill

Spring’s First Heralds Hum!

With temperatures falling into the teens at night for much of March, it feels like an understatement to say we have had a slow start to spring  here in Easton, MA.  In his poem, “I Have a Rendezvous With Life, ” Countee Cullen includes the line “I have a rendezvous with Life, When spring’s first heralds hum.”  This year it is almost as if Spring is waking up a bit late and almost lackadaisically going about getting herself ready for a very important date with the calendar.  Rest assured, I’m confident that the tilt of the earth and the intensifying sun rays will hurry her along and these colder days will be replaced by warmer days before we know it!

photo of Crocuses burst from the earth despite frigid nighttime temperatures on March 20th.
Crocuses burst from the earth despite frigid nighttime temperatures (March 20, 2014).

At The Farm at Stonehill, we are making good use of this slower start to the season to organize our growing spaces and to plant early crops like onions, greens and flowers to ensure a productive fourth season!  Regular “Farm Friday” volunteer hours will recommence on April 10th promptly at 2:30, but thankfully some of the students have started to appear at The Farm to lend a hand even though they must do so clad in hats, gloves and windbreakers to keep out the chill.

photo of Kraig, Gabby, Dan and Devin use the wind to help them fold up a tarp that was used to protect a sling bag of our seed starting Fort Vee mix from Vermont Compost from the elements during the winter.
Kraig, Gabby, Dan and Devin use the wind to help them fold up a tarp that was used to protect a sling bag of our seed starting Fort Vee mix from Vermont Compost from the elements during the winter.

Volunteers have helped to clean up our hoophouse to make way for trays upon trays of seedlings that are currently germinating in the greenhouse at Shields Science Center.

photo of volunteers
Kaylie Bissonnette and Kayleigh McDonnell (both students in the Sustainable Agriculture class) help to clean up an experimental plot from last year’s Sustainable Agriculture class.

Some of the projects seem small, but to the farmers at Stonehill, an organized hoophouse, is satisfying and beautiful thing to behold – especially when we picture the tables filled with trays teeming with a diverse array of crops!

photo of Chris, Burke and Kraig help to set up seeding tables.
Chris, Burke and Kraig help to set up seeding tables.

It won’t be long before these onion seeds have germinated and turn from brown to green (or red and purple)…

photo of Seeding onions on March 6th under sunny skies in the hoophouse.
Seeding onions on March 6th under sunny skies in the hoophouse.

…like these beets,

photo of Beets seedling drink in the sun in the greenhouse.
Early Wonder Beet seedlings drink in the sun in the greenhouse.

…these lettuce,

photo of two star lettuce seedlings
Two Star Lettuce Seedlings.

…and these Mesclun Mix seedlings.

photo of mesclun mix
My favorite – High Mowing Mesclun Mix!

In addition to our intrepid volunteers, we have had other visitors to The Farm, like Candidate for Lieutenant Governor James Arena-Derosa  in Massachusetts.  One of the main focuses of his campaign is “Ending Hunger While Creating Jobs” and he took some time while he was on campus to visit with me and Professor Chris Wetzel at The Farm and also meet with students in my Sustainable Agriculture class to share his views on the matter.  We all enjoyed his visit and wish him the best of luck with his campaign.

photo of Candidate for Lt. Governor of Massachusetts, James Arena-Derosa visited with me and Chris during his visit to the campus on March 17th.
Candidate for Lt. Governor of Massachusetts, James Arena-Derosa visited with me and Chris at The Farm during his visit to the campus on March 17th.

Unlikely as it may seem, Spring is arriving and bringing the sensation of softer fields underfoot, the lively whooshing of running water in the melting streams, and the cheerful songs of Spring Peepers and Robins.  

It won’t be long before Season #4 is in full swing!

photo of Melissa, Burke, Kaylie, Gabby, Kraig, Devin, Chris, Dan and Kayleigh - basking in the post volunteer hours glow.
Melissa, Burke, Kaylie, Gabby, Kraig, Devin, Chris, Dan and Kayleigh – basking in the post volunteer hours glow.

Stay tuned for updates on the true arrival of spring here – with exciting news about the college’s commitment to Real Food to come in my next post!

photo Zuri is happy that mud season has arrived and is looking forward to welcoming any and all volunteers to The Farm!
Zuri is happy that mud season has arrived and is looking forward to welcoming volunteers to The Farm!

 

Categories
Spring 2013 Spring Cultivation 2013 Spring Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill

It’s Time to Farm!

photo of volunteers
How much do we love Farm Fridays?

It’s time to get to the Farm!

In class, during volunteer hours, or just on a whim, students are starting to arrive at the farm to help plant the seeds of our 2013 Season.

On Friday, April 5th, over 20 students joined me and Zuri to help ready the fields and plant seeds.  We transplanted flowers and prepared a row in the field for Sugar Snap Peas.

photo of Breanne and Sara
Sara and Breanne transplant Statice seedlings in the hoophouse during Farm Friday volunteer hours.

With many willing workers we accomplished a wide array of tasks in a few short and sun-filled hours.

photo of the pea trellis project
Putting up the trellis for the Sugar Snap Peas!

After the flowers were transplanted we moved them over to the heated greenhouse at Shields to ensure a nurturing home to help boost their growth and allow some of them (hoping for the purple zinnias) to possibly bloom by graduation!

photo of seedlings in greenhouse
Zinnia, Statice, Black-eyed Susan, Bok Choi, and Chard seedlings enjoy the warmth of the sun in the greenhouse in Shields.

Some of the heat loving seedlings are enjoying this sauna of sorts, while others that prefer the cooler temperatures, such as lettuce, onions and kohlrabi, are happy to be in our hoophouse at The Farm.

photo of greens in hoophouse
Onions, Kolhrabi and Lettuce seedlings in our hoophouse awaiting their day to be planted in the fields.

~~~

In other news, Gabby Gobiel (2015) is taking our farm to the international stage as she explores vineyards and farms and studies sustainable food systems in Italy this semester!  We are excited to welcome her back this summer and learn how we can integrates ideas she has developed abroad into our own farming practices.

photo of Gabby in italy
Farmer Gabby Gobiel explores vineyards in Italy!

 

Categories
Apple Orchard Spring 2012 Spring Cultivation 2012 Summer 2012 Summer Cultivation 2012 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Simplicity of Summery Spring

  Seedlings start small, but it doesn’t take long before they start to drink in the light, nutrients and water that allow them to take root and grow.

photo of students planting peppers
Bell pepper seedlings move from their cozy trays in the hoop house into the warm soils of the fields with the help of student farmers Dan, Sean, Greg, and Gabby (from left to right) on May 24, 2012.

Some days we focus so much on the tasks at hand – a common occurrence in most any walk of life – and fail to really see how quickly each crop, and the farm as a whole, is changing right before our eyes.

Students sit and stand on either side of a bed covered in biodegradable plastic, working together to poke holes and plant seedlings from trays
Students Gabby, Erin, Rich, Sean, Sheriden and Mike (from left to right) plant Celosia Flowers in late April. Photo taken by George Rizer for “The Boston Globe”.

A few evenings ago I returned to the farm just before sundown to stroll through the fields and take a good look at the crops.

Here is what I found.

photo of summer squash
A Zephyr Summer Squash plant leans into the light.

The summer squash and zucchini dance in earnest with the last of the daylight and lean into each ray emanating from the west.

Lettuce (left bed) and Zephyr Summer Squash (right bed) drink in the sun.

~~~

The apple trees sway in the day’s final rays as a light, early evening breeze rustles their first flush of foliage.

photo of apple tree
A Crimson Crisp apple tree is adjusting well to its new home at The Farm.

~~~

Our sweet corn, truly grass-like at this stage, appears fragile and uncertain, but stands tall and whispers of how it will grow to tower above my head one day.

photo of corn on May 23
Five rows of Sweet Corn settling in for the season.

~~~

There is a simplicity to these early days of warm, sunny weather.

The weeds are not quite capable of challenge.

There is a palpable sense of anticipation in the fields of the bounty and beauty of the productive jungle-like world that will appear – seemingly overnight – as summer takes hold. 

For now we enjoy the simplicity of the early days of the season, and know that it is only a matter of time – hours filling easily with planting and cultivating the fields – before all of the crops will share their sun-kissed flavors with our growing community.

photo of the farm on May 23
The Farm on May 23, 2012.

 

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.

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

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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.

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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
Greenhouse Reflections Spring 2012 Spring Cultivation 2012 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

The Magic of Farming in the Spring

After our brief waltz with summer temperatures, the more seasonal cool nights and blustery, sunny days of early spring have returned.

photo of seedlings in the greenhouse
Our tables are filling up with tough little seedlings.

The seedlings in the greenhouse are holding up well despite the colder temperatures.  Every evening, if it looks like the temperatures will dip into the 30’s, we cover up the seedlings with a thin sheet of row cover to protect them from cold damage.

Some of the seedlings are growing so well that they need to be transplanted into larger “homes” so that their roots can find the moisture and nutrients that they need to grow.

Rosemarie, Sarah, and Breanne – hard at work transplanting greens during volunteer hours on Friday, March 30.

Thanks to the careful work of volunteers, these Mesclun Mix Greens and Arugula are thriving.

photo of transplanted greens
Greens growing strong after 1 week in their new homes!

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Despite the cooler days, volunteers are still filling the fields, and jumping right in to plant seeds in The Sem, transplant seedlings in the greenhouse, and plant  seeds in the field.

volunteers planting seeds
Kyle, Dave and Tommy, plant seeds in the basement of The Sem.

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photo of Volunteers prep first bed
A team of volunteers prep our first bed of the season with ease.

Last week, on March 30th, 18 volunteers arrived at The Farm and got right to work prepping and “pre-weeding”. Before I knew it, the first bed was masterfully prepared and the group was ready to plant two varieties of radish: Rudolf and Pink Beauty.

With this many helping hands, hundreds of seeds are sown in minutes!

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The “magic” of this time of year comes during these bustling times of group activity, and also in the unexpected moments of quiet reflection.

These come early in the morning when the frost is still melting away…

Morning Frost

…and in the early evening when we tuck the seedlings in to protect them from the cold nights.

photo of seedlings tucked in
Onions, cabbage, lettuce, kale and flowers – all tucked in for the night.

Under the cover of night, the seedlings withstand the cold and greet us the next day a little bit stronger, and one day closer to their time to grow to their full potential in the field. 

These seedlings are embracing the sunlight of each day, modeling “Carpe Diem” in a whole new way!

photo of onion seedlings
A sea of onion seedlings – strong after a good night’s rest – greet the morning.

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Outside of the greenhouse, the soils are warming under consistent sunny skies and temperatures in the 50’s. As a result, today was a perfect day to plant peas.

photo of peas
Peas in hand – ready to grow.

I prepped the soil with a rototiller, a rake and a hoe and planted the peas in 2 straight rows, with a string to guide my work.

photo of peas planted
Peas are planted 1 month ahead of our first pea planting in 2011.

We now have 2 beds planted – many more to come!

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I am looking forward to planting our onion and lettuce seedlings next week with the help of our volunteers!

In The Sem we continue to plant our seeds. 

In the greenhouse, you’ll see kale, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, collards, dill, cilantro, parsley, and other greens growing in all shapes and sizes.

At The Farm, the perennials are waking up from their winter’s nap, and will be there to greet you!

Photo of new growth on raspberry canes
New growth on raspberry canes planted last spring.
Categories
Community Community Partners Greenhouse Our Vision Spring 2012 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

That Summer Feeling… in Mid-March!

photo of Garlic on March 23
Garlic’s up in the field!

Spring is here!

It is hard to believe that it is only March 23rd! The plants in the field and in the trays are responding well as they drink in the warm rays and grow towards the sun.

photo of greens
Mesclun Mix Seedlings

 

photo of arugula and onions
Astro Arugula and Candy Onion seedlings drink in the sun in the greenhouse.

 

photo of celosia
Celosia seedlings.

It is a bit strange, to say the least, to have temperatures in the high 70’s and low 80’s in March!

What does this mean about the health of our planet? 

Weather forecasts look to be dropping to more seasonal highs in the 50’s next week, which is a bit of a relief. As much as I enjoy the “summer feeling,” March is a bit early for that to be kicking in already!

Erin, Gabbie and Dan seed zinnias in the greenhouse.

With some luck, the warm weather will allow our seedlings to grow well and hopefully be able to offer our produce to our partners in Brockton much earlier this second season. This year we will deliver produce to The Easton Food Pantry, Father Bill’s and MainSpring, My Brother’s Keeper and the Old Colony YMCA weekly.


Under warm and sunny skies, we quickly got to work at The Farm. 

“Getting to work” was made easier thanks to our new, 2002 Chevy Silverado farm truck…

photo of new farm truck
At the wheel of our new farm truck!

…new greenhouse tables built by Mark Larson, one of the college’s talented carpenters…

photo of greenhouse
Our new greenhouse tables, ready for seedlings!

…and good farming neighbors!

On March 22nd around 6:30PM, Rory O’Dwyer from Langwater Farm arrived with their John Deere tractor and a chisel plow to turn our first field.

photo of Rory tilling
First turn of the fields: March 22

  It only took her a little over 1 hour to work her magic, and turn in some of the winter rye that we planted in the fall.

photo of fields on March 22 pre till
Our front field covered with our cover crop: winter rye.

The very next day, under clear skies and 70 degree weather, over 15 volunteers joined me to do some early weeding in the perennial beds!

First they signed in…

photo of volunteer log
Our Volunteer Log

…then the weeding began in the perennial beds…

volunteers photo
Erin, Sean, Bryan and Dan were just 4 of the over 15 volunteers who helped out at the farm today!

 

photo of volunteers weeding raspberries
Ryan, Michelle and a couple of volunteers weed the raspberries.

 

…planting commenced in window boxes on our shed…

photo of Margaret and Dan
Margaret and Dan plant Morning Glories, Sweet Peas and Zinnias in our shed window boxes.

 

…and planting seeds continued in the greenhouse (and later in the Sem basement).

photo of Bryan w water
Bryan gets ready to bottom water some newly planted seeds.

 

There was even a moment or two to enjoy a snack from the field!

Nick and Tim kale snack photo
Nick and Tim pause for a bite of kale that overwintered in the fields.

We welcome you to join us this season by following us online or working with us in the fields.“Like us” on Facebook by clicking here to keep on top of happenings at The Farm. 

photo of Michell with logbook
Don’t forget to sign in!

Happy Spring! Happy Farming!