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Community Community Partners Spring 2019 summer 2019 The Farm at Stonehill

A Summer Farmer’s Experience – Alex Smoolca

The Farm's summer crew, consisting of five women and a man all standing together by the hoophouse with veggies in hand
Our summer crew: Assistant Farm Manager Celia Dolan, Louisa Rossel, Alex Smoolca, Olivia Reed, Natalie McDonough and Cassie Pavain.

Hello readers, my name is Alex Smoolca and I am a senior at Stonehill College studying psychology with a sociology minor. I spent this past summer working at The Farm at Stonehill. Upon getting hired I had good expectations for the job because one of my best friends, Natalie, has been working there for years and she always gives the farm high praise. My first couple of weeks I worked with Bridget (my boss the farm manager and now director) and Celia (the assistant farm manager). We spent the first few weeks seeding, planting, and laying down irrigation. I enjoyed my first few weeks.

Little lettuce seedlings growing along in trays in the greenhouse
Little lettuce seedlings growing along in the greenhouse!

Bonding with Celia over hard rock and metal music because, at least to me, Celia (at the time) did not seem like the type of girl who would like that type of music. She is just such a sweet, gentle, kind, and caring soul. She knows a lot about a lot, especially when it comes to farming and the environment, and she’s a lot of fun to work with. She’s very easygoing and one of the hardest workers I’ve met my age. After those couple of weeks, I met my other coworkers Natalie (who I already knew), Cassie, Liv, and Louisa. We worked hard all summer growing, nurturing and harvesting a variety of plants/vegetables: lettuce, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, peas, green beans, a variety of flowers, and more.

Nine small buckets of sweet strawberries from the hoop house and permaculture garden gathered in a yellow bucket
Beautiful and sweet strawberries from the hoop house and permaculture garden!
One of the 3 varieties of open pollinated heirloom corn grown at the farm this year, Glass Gem (from Fruition Seeds), a variety of many reds and yellows
One of the 3 varieties of open pollinated heirloom corn we grew at the farm this year – this one is called Glass Gem and is from Fruition Seeds.
A collection of red, yellow, orange, and pink blooms from the field as summer leans towards fall
Beautiful blooms from the field as summer leans towards fall.

I’m not going to lie being an employee at the farm is hard work. There’s a lot of squatting up and down, digging through dirt, and other physically exhausting activities. Not only that we had to worry about the power of the sun. I would come home some days drenched in sweat and caked in dirt just feeling gross.

Two people sit in the dirt fields to plant delicate squash on a sunny day
Natt and Celia taking care to plant the delicate squash.

However, it was more than worth it. The farm has probably been the most positive work environment I’ve been a part of. My coworkers and boss are always supportive, thoughtful, generous, and relaxed. Some days I would come into work exhausted because of my shenanigans the night before and my coworkers would always help pick me up and brought the best out of me even when I didn’t think I had it in me. Plus, on rough days, Bridget would buy us coffee or let us take breaks when she knew we were struggling. My coworkers, boss, and I had such great banter as well. I’ll never forget the amount of wacky conversations and just weirdness that we all displayed on the farm (especially after losing our minds weeding the watermelons and harvesting potatoes for weeks). Throughout the summer all of us got pretty close and honestly it feels weird to call them coworkers or my boss, not to sound too cheesy, but to an extent I consider us a family.

Five women stand joyously in the dirt fields, arms in the air, as they plant winter squash
Louisa, Elaina, Cassie, Natalie and Celia love planting winter squash!

So, the question remains what did we do with all of our crops? Well the whole point of the farm surrounds the idea of food justice. In the neighboring small city of Brockton there is a serious lack of access to organic/healthy food. Brockton is a they say a food desert. So, to help make this situation better we donate most of our produce to organizations like My Brother’s Keeper, Easton Food Pantry, The Evelyn House, and others that deliver and serve fresh food to those in Brockton who desperately need it. The rest of our produce goes to our mobile markets on Wednesdays. During these days we take our harvest to two separate locations in Brockton and hold a market. The residents of the surrounding area get vouchers to purchase food, so they do not have to use their own money.

Four people sit in the bed of a pickup truck next to five yellow buckets of various veggies, ready to deliver to the Easton Food Pantry
Smoolca, Beth Cronin, Celia and Natt prep a delivery to the Easton Food Pantry in August.
Five people stand, arms around each other, in front of the Mobile Market van parked in a lot
Some of the folks who help make the markets great!
A colorful blackboard menu in front of a market table advertises Farm Fresh veggies for sale, from cucumbers to kale, parsley to cilantro, and more
A nice blend of summer and fall veggies at a market in early September.

The markets can be a lot of fun, but very hectic at times. We can run out of favorite vegetables (like watermelons and corn) and if customers do not get in line early enough the vegetables that they were hoping to buy may be gone by the time it’s their turn in line. Sometimes the customers get impatient if they are waiting in line for a long time, think they are paying too much for their vegetables, or a translator is helping another customer so they have to wait. It’s also a struggle because many residents of Brockton are from other parts of the world and English is a second language so we have to rely on our good friends from the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center to help boost communication. At first, their impatience bothered me, but then I thought about it from their perspective. These people deal with a constant struggle to take care of themselves and their families due to a number of stresses that might include some level of poverty. Every day could be a fight to survive due to lack of food security, and if they can’t seize opportunities like the market to the fullest extent it may be difficult or even impossible to find organic, local, nutritious, seasonal produce that week. However, overall, I’d say the market is very successful and helps every customer that comes to our tent.

The summer Farm crew of six enjoy some delicious vegetarian dishes at the end of season farm potluck, sitting at a wooden picnic table underneath the shade of the trees
Our summer crew enjoy some delicious vegetarian dishes at the end of season farm potluck.

I am grateful that I had this opportunity to work at the farm. I’ve made some great friends and learned a lot. I am sad summer has come to an end and my last year in college has started. However, Bridget has rehired me to work on the farm during the year so I will continue to be working throughout the school year. Not going to lie it’s going to be tough to balance applying to grad school, playing rugby, doing schoolwork, and working a job on top of that. However, I think that my job at the farm will help me get into a good routine and a nice way to take a break from the stressors in my life. I’m excited to see what else I’m going to learn and experience in my coming months on the farm.

 

 

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 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!

~~~

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.

~~~

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.

~~~

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
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

~~~

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
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
Community Our Vision Spring 2011 Spring Cultivation 2011 Spring Seedlings 2011 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Busy Bees Help Us Grow The Farm

photo of first 7 rows at The Farm
The Farm, 7 rows strong, in mid-May.

 

It is hard to remember that just a week ago we hadn’t seen the sun in days and the heat of summer seemed like nothing but wishful thinking.   As the sun returned last week, we were happy to receive help from members of our community including Paul Daponte, Father Pinto, Lyn Feeney, Joe Miller, and Father Steve who helped us plant carrots and radishes, and ready the fields for over 400 tomato seedlings.

 

Photo of Paul Daponte Planting Radishes and Carrots
Paul DaPonte helps us plant radishes and carrots.

 

photo of Father Pinto prepping a bed
Father Pinto hard at work prepping a bed for tomatoes.

 

photo of michelle and lyn laying plastic
Miichelle and Lyn secure our biodegradable black plastic for tomato and pepper cultivation.

 

photo of Joe planting tomatoes
Joe helps us make a dent in our planting out some of our first round of tomato seedlings.

 

photo of Father Steve and Michelle hard at work!
Father Steve and Michelle deliver nutrient rich compost to help our tomato seedlings grow strong.

 

I have two students helping me grow the farm this summer, Brian Switzer and Michelle Kozminski.  With the help of their constant, hard work and the energetic visits of our volunteers we saw the farm grow from 7 to 16 rows last week!  Thank you to all of our busy bees!

photos of tomatoes as far as the eye can see
5 rows of over 400 tomato seedling planted last week with the help of our volunteers.

 

As we plant, we also continue to harvest and share our bounty with member of our community at Father Bill’s & MainSpring, The Old Colony YMCA, and My Brother’s Keeper.

Photo of Lettuce ready for delivery
Lettuce, ready for delivery!

 

Paul Ricci, The Associate Director of Grounds, and many members of his team have supported The Farm from Day 1. We are happy to have them as our neighbors at The Clock Farm.

photo of Paul Ricci and Lettuce
Paul Ricci holds a bountiful basket of Green Romaine Lettuce bound for The Table at Father Bill's & MainSpring.

 

Photo of Brian with the Lettuce in the Kitchen of The Table at Father Bill's & MainSpring.
Brian delivers the lettuce to the Kitchen of The Table at Father Bill's & MainSpring.

 

photo of Art with red leaf lettuce at The Table
One of the head Chefs at The Table, Art, happily receives 15 heads of red leaf lettuce to prepare a fresh salad that day.

 

From The Field at The Farm to The Table. We are already looking forward to our next harvest and delivery.

 

Categories
Reflections Spring 2011 Spring Seedlings 2011 The Farm at Stonehill

Witnessing Spring

To be a farmer in the spring is to be presented with an endless list of projects and the opportunity to witness countless  moments of beauty.

photo of Peach Blossoms at Brookdale Fruit Farm
Peach Blossoms at Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis, NH (May 7, 2011).

 

 

Passing thundershowers duel with gusty breezes and warm sun rays. The seedlings respond to all of these cues and grow.

 

photo of Mesclun Mix seedlings
Mesclun seedlings thrive out in the elements and await their day to be planted in the field.

 

Sun rays warm the fields in the magic light of sundown and paint the Farm in the springtime.  The palate is full of shades that highlight the new life growing there: yellow-greens, soft yellows and light blues – tentative and seemingly shy.  I watch each day as they deepen and develop a necessary toughness to weather life in the field.

photo of beets and mustard Greens
Beets and Mustard Greens growing and toughening as their green color deepens.

 

We plan, we build, we plant and before we know it the sun is going down on another day that has been filled with important and endless decisions that will help us to create a growing, living world at The Farm.

photo fo sky in the spring
Cirrocumulus clouds fill part of the sky as sundown’s magic light warms the field.