I first visited the farm at Stonehill during my sophomore year. I had the opportunity to take a course that focused on sustainable agriculture which was quite helpful for my environmental science major. At the beginning of the course, which was taught by Stonehill’s Farm Manager, Bridget Meigs, she asked that we all attend volunteer hours at the farm. Throughout the fall semester, I watched the farm transform as we pulled stakes out from where tomato plants had once thrived and removed dead plants from a row which had once produced beautiful vegetables. After removing and pulling and cleaning, I decided that I wanted to see the farm return to its lively glory, a land full of thriving fruits and vegetables.
Towards the end of my sophomore year, I heard that Bridget was searching for summer interns to assist her at the farm. Thankfully, I, along with three other undergraduate students and one Stonehill alum were given the opportunity to work alongside Bridget and each other to achieve the mission of the Farm at Stonehill. As part of the Mission Division of Stonehill, the farm was established in response to food access issues in the Town of Easton and nearby City of Brockton.
Following Bridget’s Sustainable Agriculture course, I was better equipped with the knowledge of food security, food justice, and simply how our food is grown. Working at the farm gave me the firsthand experience to apply everything I had learned throughout the semester. I was able to help grow, harvest, donate, and sell the produce grown at the farm. Before working at the farm, I never realized how much work really had to be put into growing our food. Now, when I walk around the supermarket and see the produce aisle, I tend to stop and think about how exactly it was grown, whether or not it is certified organic, and where it came from.
One of my favorite parts of working at the farm this summer was being able to help at the Mobile Market. I was able to work directly with people who struggle to maintain food security in the surrounding community. Week after week, I started to recognize those who religiously came to our market, and learned that many of those who did come depended on the produce we grew for something fresh and healthy. Another thing I loved about working on the farm was harvesting. After every harvest, I would look at my fellow farmers and tell them how much satisfaction I felt knowing that my hard work was part of the reason the produce came to be.
Although the summer has come to an end, my work at the Mobile Market and my new knowledge of food and agriculture continue on. I am so thankful for this opportunity and cannot wait to see what comes next.
When entering the 2016-2017 school year, farming was probably one of the last things on my mind. I had signed up to take Sustainable Agriculture with Bridget as an elective, just because I thought it looked interesting. Little did I know, four months later I would be begging to travel join Bridget and Candice in Italy with their Origin of Resources LC, and eventually becoming part of the Summer Farm Team. Becoming part of the Summer Farm Team was one of the best decisions I have ever made and the year could not have played out more perfectly than it did. Things truly do happen for a reason.
When Summer began, I did not know what to expect. I had volunteered at the farm throughout the year, but a full-time position was a whole different ball game. The first few weeks were cold and were filled with hard work. We planted hundreds of crops, made hundreds of holes and pounded hundreds of stakes. While the work sounds tough (it was), it wasn’t at the same time. While accomplishing all of this hard work, I was surrounded by some of the most kind-hearted people you will ever meet. Bridget, Celia, Gianna, Jackie, Melissa and Michelle. These fellow farmers made the work not seem so hard, they made if fun and easy. Bridget’s amazing outlook and attitude towards everyday makes you want to put your heart into everything and it is truly inspiring.
Bridget is no doubt a great leader and an even more incredible person. She would constantly buy us iced coffees or frozen yogurt just to make our days that much better. She brought us to here barre classes and truly made us a part of her daily life. I also am a now a regular attendee of barre, and I am the only male so if males are reading this, support Bridget and come to barre! When Bridget wasn’t around, she left Michelle in charge. Michelle is a graduate and was a great leader for us. I may not act like it Michelle, but I look up to you and you would make an excellent assistant farm manager! The rest of us crew members did various different things and all contributed to the positive attitude and outlook that the team had every day. It really made this year fun and an amazing experience. If you don’t know the farmers, you should get to know them and become one yourself.
Being a Summer farmer also helped me learn many new things. Things I thought I would never know, I now do. I never thought I would learn all of these types of tomatoes, cucumbers or squash. I never thought I would squeeze potato beetles bare hand, but I did and I began to enjoy it. I may have even learned how to cook? The farm included so many questions, so many bugs, so many memories. I am saddened that the Summer has come to a close, but I will return to the farm throughout my senior year (which is bittersweet). To a Summer I will never forget, thank you!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
In the hoophouses you can see that a number of crops have already benefited from the slightly warmer temperatures the plastic walls offer.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…
…at The Farm…
…in our Apple Orchard…
…and 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.
We were overjoyed to learn that our bees had been productive enough to share some of their bounty with us!
The results are beautiful and delicious!
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!
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.
After a few hours of work we had our sign!
Now you can find it hanging at the entrance of our Farmhouse: 411 Washington St.
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!
Sending you warm wishes for a restful and rejuvenating holiday season!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
It won’t be long before these onion seeds have germinated and turn from brown to green (or red and purple)…
…like these beets,
…and these Mesclun Mix seedlings.
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.
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!
Every once and awhile it is important to leave the farm to see what other farmers are producing and how they go about doing it! On the weekend of April 13th, Zuri and I took 8 students up to the beautiful state of Vermont to do just that.
We traveled to Montpelier, the state’s capital, where we were warmly welcomed by Jack’s parents and quickly introduced to the generous hospitality of this small and strong state where local and enticing goods are produced, marketed, consumed, treasured and enjoyed.
Early April equals the “Mud Season” in VT and much of New England, but that doesn’t keep hardy Vermonters (and weekend guests) from walking in the woods.
Over the course of the next couple of days we visited a number of businesses, such as:
…before we headed up to Hardwick to visit Highfields Composting and Claire’s Restaurant.
Our first day was filled with many planned and unplanned lessons on the many ways to be environmentally and economically sustainable and the related challenges. On our drive, we saw fields filled with solar panels and a biodiesel station. Cam Hill reflects on the solar fields here:
While driving through Vermont there were numerous solar fields visible from the roadside. These ranged from small solar panels on the roofs of houses to much larger solar fields of free standing solar panels. Vermont has a commercial production of 8.8 million watts through solar fields, which currently provides 18% of all electricity used in Vermont. The numerous solar fields are due to Vermont’s numerous state programs that incentivize the installation of solar panels through different state programs. For example, a 100% sales tax exemption on renewable energy systems, a 100% property tax exemption for photovoltaics of 10kW or less and a business energy conservation loan program up to $150,000. All these different state level incentives, coupled with an environmentally aware populace have created a situation where it is very beneficial to install renewable energy systems.
At the cider mill, we learned that the solar panels out in the field nearby are owned by Green Mountain Solar. A woman working at the mill informed us that energy they harness feeds back into the grid and is utilized throughout the area.
On our way back to Montpelier for the night, we stopped off at a covered bridge to take a walk and enjoy the cool, spring weather.
The next morning we started the day with a visit to Vermont Compost. It was incredible to see how this operation – that produces the “Fort Vee” mix which we start all of our seeds in at our Farm at Stonehill – works. Upon our arrival, our guide took us right into the center of the operation where we were quickly surrounded by steaming piles of nutrient rich piles of organic material.
The chickens and two working German Shepherds were clearly important components of this operation – as well as bulldozers that run on biodiesel, thermometer gauges, screens to sift the soil, and important soil amendments like sphagnum, kelp, and mica.
We made a quick stop at Morse Maple Farm Sugarworks where we learned about how the syrup is made by boiling down gallons upon gallons of sap from the Sugar Maple trees.
Our last stop of the trip was at Fable Farm in Barnad, VT. A good friend of mine, Chris Piana and his brother started this community focused farm a couple of years ago.
Paige shares a bit about our time with Chris here:
Fable Farm is a CSA Organic Farming Project situated in Barnard, Vermont. At Fable, we talked to Chris and learned about their community partnerships and support and the farm’s commitment to growing healthy, local produce. Though many of the fields we saw were covered in snow, the promise of produce was near. Because of their relationships with Barnard community members, Fable Farm has been able to expand their growing area and now have plots in many places across the town. Chris and Fable Farm are a constant reminder that the promise to live a sustainable, organic lifestyle is attainable with support, dedication and passion. As Chris shared with our class, he does what he loves, and sees farming as a lifestyle, not an occupation.
Many thanks to our hosts for a fun and informative weekend in a beautiful state. It was a wonderful weekend away, made possible in part by funding from Stonehill’s Green Fund.
We learned a number of sustainable farming techniques that we look forward to employing at our farm this season!