Categories
Community Summer 2014 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Growing Before Our Very Eyes

photo of Golden Nugget and Sakura Cherry Tomatoes - some of the sweet fruits of the season.
Golden Nugget and Sakura Cherry Tomatoes – some of the sweet fruits of the season.

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?

photo of potato harvest
Anna, Christine and Kayleigh harvest potatoes in July.

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.

photo of Seedlings growing along in our "propogation house" (formerly called Hoophouse #1) in August - but the view is much the same in mid-May!
Seedlings growing along in our “propogation house” (formerly called Hoophouse #1) in August – but the view is much the same in mid-May!

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!

photo of Devin and I make a delivery to The Table at Father Bill's & Mainspring on August 21st.
Devin and I make a delivery to The Table at Father Bill’s & Mainspring on August 21st.

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.

photo of Devin and I make a delivery to The Table at Father Bill's & Mainspring on August 21st.
A few of visitors from the Old Colony Y visited us on August 20th to pick their own veggies.

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.

photo fo Field 2, freshly planted in June.
Field 2, freshly planted in June.

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photo of Field 2 in early August
Field 2 in early August!

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photo of Volunteers plant peas in late April.
Volunteers plant peas in late April.

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photo of Peas starting to grow up their trellises (left) in May.
Peas starting to grow up their trellises (left and center) in May.

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photo of Peas start to flower in June.
Peas start to flower in June.

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photo of Finally time to harvest the peas in late June!
Finally time to harvest the peas in late June!

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.

photo A couple of zucchini that we forgot to harvest for a day or 2!
A couple of zucchini that we forgot to harvest for a day or 2!

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photo of Straight Neck, Djuna, Cozelle, and Zephyr Summer Squash that we picked at the right time!
Straight Neck, Djuna, Cozelle, and Zephyr Summer Squash that we picked at the right time!

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.

photo oPac Choi and Broccoli seedlings share space with Honey Bear Acorn Squash and Delicata Squash.
Pac Choi and Broccoli seedlings share space with Honey Bear Acorn Squash and Delicata Squash.

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.

photo of Cucumbers and Tomatoes in the Growhouse in mid-July.
Cucumbers and Tomatoes in the Growhouse in mid-July.

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photo of Cucumbers and Tomatoes in the Growhouse in mid-July.
Tomatoes and freshly seeded rows of turnips in the Growhouse in late August.

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.

photo of Andrew and Chris washing Swiss Chard in July.
Summer Farmers Andrew and Chris washing Swiss Chard in July.

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photo of Summer Farmer Kayleigh ensures that the chard stays cool.
Summer Farmer Kayleigh ensures that the chard stays cool.

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photo of Beautiful Rainbow Chard freshly harvested in July.
Beautiful Rainbow Chard freshly harvested in July.

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photo Summer Farmer Kayleigh ensures that the chard stays cool.
The chard reaches it’s destination: The Table at Father Bill’s & Mainspring.

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.

photo of The joy of the carrot harvest - something my summer farmers will be able to attest to!
The joy of the carrot harvest – something my summer farmers will be able to attest to!

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photo of Farm Fridays Volunteers enjoy freshly made salsa from veggies at The Farm after a couple of hours of work on August 29th. Welcome back!
Farm Fridays Volunteers enjoy freshly made salsa from veggies at The Farm after a couple of hours of work on August 29th. Welcome back!

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!

photo of Students visit The Farm during their First Year Philosophy Seminar with Professor Megan Mitchell and help to save bean seeds to plant next spring.
Students visit The Farm during their First Year Philosophy Seminar with Professor Megan Mitchell and help to save bean seeds to plant next spring.

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A few small arrangements of flowers for a little summer dinner party.
The colors of summer – captured for cooler weather consumption!
Categories
Community Guest Post Reflections Summer 2014 The Farm at Stonehill

Guest Post! — Permaculture: Why Mow When You Can Grow?

Why Mow When You Can Grow?

 By: Christine Moodie (Class of 2015)

photo of Summer Farmers relax in the new Permaculture test plot located at The Farm.
Summer Farmers relax in the new Permaculture test plot located at The Farm.

While the summer harvest is providing us with a bounty of fresh produce for our community partners, a team of students and faculty are actively performing research to create permaculture gardens for the Stonehill College and Massasoit Community College Campuses through funding provided by the Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee!

How did this research take root? In the late spring, two faculty members, Bridget Meigs, Instructor and Farm Manager at The Farm at Stonehill, and Melanie Trecek-King, Assistant Professor and Chair of the Sustainable Landscaping Committee at Massasoit Community College met with Rachel Hirst, Assistant Professor of Biology and Marie Kelly, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, to discuss the potential to work together and with students Jamall Plummer of Massasoit and myself, to create on-campus permaculture gardens at each of the respective colleges.  When I was approached with this research opportunity while I was studying sustainability in Australia, I was thrilled to become involved and be a part of the project.  I became even more excited when I met Jamall Plummer, a passionate student and leader in the garden projects at Massasoit College and active urban farmer at his home in Brockton.

photo of Some of the gardens at the Massasoit College Brockton Campus.
Some of the gardens at the Massasoit College Brockton Campus.

The research project and the resulting gardens will serve as living laboratory spaces, allowing students from both campuses to connect with one another – creating academic and community linkages between Stonehill and Massasoit for years to come.

photo of Jamall Plummer working in the Massasoit gardens!
Jamall Plummer, Massasoit student collaborator, working in the Massasoit gardens!

Now, what is permaculture? Permaculture, also described as “permanent agriculture”, or “permanent culture” (since the two are so often intertwined!) is a regenerative design system that involves observing and mimicking the relationships found in nature to create ecological and edible landscapes and sustainable communities and economies.  Therefore, permaculture incorporates organic growing methods that emphasizes growing polycultures (a number of different kinds of crops) over monocultures (one kind of crop) and planting perennial (plants that come back year after year) rather than annual crops (plants that have just one season) to ultimately create a complete and self-perpetuating system!

An herb spiral is a permaculture design. When you visit The Farm you will see one of these in the middle of the meditation garden.
An herb spiral is a permaculture design. When you visit The Farm you will see one of these in the middle of the meditation garden.

Why have a garden on campus?  I think by having a garden on campus, it begins to change people’s perceptions on how they think about food- from production to consumption. I really want students to think about where their food is coming from, how it is being grown, and who is growing it, so we can all begin to change those norms!  The garden would show a real life example of how to convert underutilized grass lawns on the campus into edible, educational, and biodiverse gardens!

photo of UMASS Amherst has led the way in integrating Permaculture Gardens into their campus's landscape.  Here is a sketch of their flagship garden, located right next to one of their dining facilities on campus in Amherst, MA.
UMASS Amherst has led the way in integrating Permaculture Gardens into their campus’s landscape. Here is a sketch of their flagship garden, located right next to one of their dining facilities on campus in Amherst, MA.

The garden will hopefully also inspire more Stonehill students and staff to visit The Farm at Stonehill and learn more about food desert conditions in parts of Brockton to help to inspire more lasting solutions.  In the future, the garden will also provide educational opportunities and living laboratory spaces for ecological and scientific research.  It will bring together students, faculty, and staff from all different realms and disciplines and offer additional volunteer opportunities while being an outlet and source of inspiration for students during the school year.

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A college campus is a perfect setting for implementing a permaculture garden as they are replicable, low-maintenance, scalable and can be adapted to suit anyone and in any climate!  In addition, all of the food harvested from the garden will be available to the entire Stonehill Community, providing healthy and nutritious food grown from the campus itself!

In the past two weeks, we have been preparing the permaculture garden at the Farm for planting in the fall by outlining the beds with rocks and adding compost and mulch!

Watch the progression below!

photo of Location for the Permaculture Garden test plot at The Farm at Stonehill!
Location for the Permaculture Garden test plot at The Farm at Stonehill.

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photo of Making progress! Thank you to Langwater Farm for the local rocks that we used to outline the beds!
Making progress! Thank you to Langwater Farm for the local rocks that we used to outline the beds.

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photo of     “The Farm at Stonehill” brick at the entrance to the garden for a unique and authentic touch!
“The Farm at Stonehill” brick at the entrance to the garden for a unique and authentic touch!

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photo of Bridget and Chris laying down plastic for the pathways to keep down the weeds!
Farm Manger, Bridget and Summer Farmer, Chris, laying down a plastic ground cloth for the pathways to keep the weeds from taking over!

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Adding mulch to the beds - a big thanks to all of the farmers, Bridget, Devin, Anna, Andrew, Chris, and Kaleigh for helping with the first stages of implementation of the garden!
Adding mulch to the beds – a big thanks to all of the farmers, Bridget, Devin, Anna, Andrew, Chris, and Kaleigh for helping with the first stages of implementation of the garden.

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Ready for planting! Here we will plant some fruit trees, perennial vegetables and flowers as well as some annual crops.
Ready for planting! Here we will plant some fruit trees, perennial vegetables and flowers as well as some annual crops in our test plot at The Farm.

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On another exciting note, the location of the on-campus garden is in the final stages of approval – it is located behind the split rail fence along the southern edge of Duffy Parking Lot behind the senior courts.  We are very excited about this high visibility location that many students will pass on a daily basis! The garden beds will be planted with a variety of annual and perennial plants that will be maintained by students affiliated with the club Food Truth and under the supervision of Bridget Meigs, Farm Manager.

photo of Proposed site for our Permaculture Garden on campus.
Proposed site for our Permaculture Garden on campus.

Once we receive approval, we are excited to begin sheet mulching on campus soon and begin planting our perennial crops in the fall!  Sheet mulching is a no dig, no till gardening technique that reduces labor inputs, improves soil quality, prevents soil erosion, and improves plant health and productivity.  Sheet mulching involves aerating the soil, reducing soil compaction while disturbing it a lot less than using a tractor, then covering the area with compost, organic matter that will improve soil health and add nutrients to the soil.  The compost is then covered with a layer of cardboard or newspapers, which will prevent weeds from growing.  Lastly, the area is covered by a mulch layer, which will hold in moisture and nutrients for the plants!

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We can’t wait to continue the work on this project and begin to watch the garden grow!

Please contact me if you’d like to learn more and get involved in Food Truth or these garden projects: cmoodie2@students.stonehill.edu.