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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 Summer 2017 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Melissa Mardo – Learning By Doing

A woman stands at the open back of the Mobile Market van to help pack it up with produce and spread the word
As a Farm and Mobile market Intern, Melissa often helped to pack up our van and spread the word about our Mobile Market – and how to prepare healthy and delicious meals with our produce.

I am so grateful to have spent four years volunteering at The Farm At Stonehill and two full summers as an intern. Each day there was a new experience, new plant ready to be harvested, and a new lesson to learn. There are three stories that stand out to me from the summer.

A bunch of students pose with Farm workers and a yellow bucket full of the beans they helped pick at Camp Shriver
Happy bean pickers – participants in Camp Shriver!

Every summer, The Farm At Stonehill hosts Camp Shriver kids that attend a camp on Stonehill’s campus. There is a new theme each year such as composting, planting, etc. and the kids get to visit the farm each week and help with harvesting. One week kids came to harvest green beans, which is back-breaking work and seems never ending. The entire group was so excited about the size of the green beans they had handfuls of beans they were putting into our bins. Some kids had eaten green beans before, others had never seen the plant, yet all of them were willing to try this mysterious new vegetable and they loved it! We had to fight with these elementary school kids not to eat all the green beans in order to weigh the harvest before they could take some home. I’ve seen kids go crazy for candy, but it was so rewarding to see their genuine excitement over vegetables.

Three women in matching shirts stand ready for customers by a table of yellow buckets full of broccoli and leafy greens under a white tent by the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center
Michelle, Jackie and Melissa are ready for customers to arrive at our 63 Main St. (Brockton Neighborhood Health Center) location in late June.

This summer we geared up for the second year of our Mobile Market and launched a new location at an assisted elderly home. Just like with the campers, these residents could not contain their excitement each Wednesday afternoon when our van rolled up with fresh fruits and veggies. We were greeted with happiness, curiosity for our new weekly vegetables, and inundated with thank you’s. Each week there was one woman who visited our market stand telling us the recipes she created the previous week from the produce she bought from the market. I was so thankful to see her each week, and hear her story (and recipes) about how the farm’s produce impacted her directly. I’m used to seeing The Farm truck drive off with veggies to be delivered to our partners, but I don’t often get to talk with the people who eat them.

Rows of plants growing through the layer of biodegradable plastic, covering long adjacent beds stretching across the Farm
Farming is a lot of work – but it is rewarding!

Finally, I’m so happy I’ve had the opportunity to be able to work in nature. To measure my success from the day based on how much dirt I had piled up under my fingernails. To remember how many zucchini I harvested based on the red scratched on my legs from the leaf prickles. To have my back ache in the evening because I spent the morning picking strawberries. Not everyone gets a work day outside in the sun (and rain), moving around instead of seated at a desk, and able to breath fresh air. I’ve spent so many years learning inside at a desk in a classroom, that the farm was one of the first learning experiences I had outside of four walls and learning by doing. I am passionate about experiential learning based on how The Farm has impacted my learning experience and so many others. I encourage you all, to spend some time outside and see who you can meet and what you can learn out there.

 

Three young children hold small buckets as they learn the joys and hard work of farming in the leafy green beds
Come on out to the farm this fall and next season to join us in the field and learn more about the joys (and hard work) of farming.
Categories
Community Summer 2017 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Jackie – Growing a Land of Thriving Fruits and Vegetables (at the farm and at the market)

A woman helps to harvest some of onions mid-season, holding one above a yellow bucket
Jackie helps to harvest some of our onions mid-season.

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.

Four people work together to plant seedlings and hand-lay black plastic over a bed, in order to bring the fields back to their productive bounty
Planting seedlings and hand-laying black plastic – to bring the fields back to their productive bounty.

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.

Five people gather with their arms around each other to reflect the work they did together as a Mission Division Team
Michelle, Jackie, former VP for Mission Father Jim Lies, Alex and Celia pause to reflect on the season and all of the beautiful produce we have grown and distributed together as a Mission Division Team!

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.

Three yellow buckets begin to fill with various green veggies dumped from a burlap sack
Some of the harvest ready for delivery in July.

 

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.

People gather to look at baskets of produce along tables at the Mobile Market
Loving life at our weekly Mobile Market!

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.

Two women crouch down and smile in front of two colorful arrangements of harvested flowers that they worked hard to put together
Michelle and Jackie – after some time harvesting and arranging our pollinators’ favorite crops – flowers!

 

 

Categories
Summer 2017 The Farm at Stonehill

Alex – Things Truly Do Happen For A Reason

Three people stand in the grassy fields, the middle one holding two bundles of bright flowers
Alex, Brian Kennedy, C.S.C, and Gianna enjoy a little break post harvest during the warm summer days.

 

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.

Four Camp Shriver visitors join an older worker to harvest cucumbers and gather them into a yellow bucket
Alex and some of our Camp Shriver visitors harvest cucumbers on a cool day in July.

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.

A yellow bucket fill of yellow squash sits among rows of large leafy green crops in the Farm
Lots of good lifting gets done at the farm!  Come on by to get a work out anytime!

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.

A panorama of three team members working together on the floor of the shed to gather veggies in yellow buckets and pack them for the market
The Summer Team harvests and packs veggies for the market.

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!

-Alex Pica

Two people use scuffle hoes to weed the Blue Corn plants
Michelle and Alex use scuffle hoes to weed our Blue Corn – brought to us by Prof. Warren Dahlin who participated in an H.O.P.E. trip in the Southwest.
Categories
Summer 2017

Guest Post: Michelle – The Power of Choice

Michelle David (2017) has been working at The Farm since her freshman year as a volunteer.  We are so lucky to have had her on our team as the Assistant Manager this season. A natural leader with a ready smile and a great work ethic, we are so thankful that she has been able to join us for two seasons in a row.  Below she shares a bit about her time at The Farm over the past 4 years. Enjoy!

A woman kneels with her hands on a yellow bucket of dark harvested "All Blue" potatoes
Michelle with some of our “All Blue” potatoes – post harvest happiness!

The Farm at Stonehill has been a part of my Stonehill experience since freshman year.

 

I first came to the farm as a new freshman, looking for a way to get involved and make new friends.  Little did I know that I would fall in love with the mission of the farm, and find myself as a regular volunteer, a summer farmer as a rising senior, and again now as an alumnus.  The Farm has become a home for myself, where I can see with my own two eyes how much good can come from a small piece of land when people who care about environmental and food justice work together.

Five people gather behind a table at the market to sell yellow buckets of various veggies at the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center.
Melissa, Cris, Jackie, a nutrition educator from UMASS extension and Michelle (left to right) set up the greens at our 63 Main St location at the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center.

As an English major at Stonehill, I was often times asked why I had taken such an interest in the Farm and agriculture as a whole.  The answer was always fairly simple for me: as someone who eats food, I should be concerned about where my food comes from, how it is produced, and how its production affects others.

A couple of the Farm workers show their smiling faces on a busy day at the market
Michelle is an excellent planter, grower, harvester and people person (at the farm and at the market!).

This summer, I have had the privilege of working more closely with the Mobile Market, which brings fresh produce to two different locations within Brockton.  The market has become one of my favorite parts of the week, as I get to actually meet with the people who receive the crops we grow each week.  I feel the recent addition of the mobile market provides something more that we could not provide by donating all of our produce: the power of choice.  The mobile market provides the opportunity for people to actually choose what they want to eat, and to be able to purchase nutritious food at a reasonable price, rather than receiving donations, which can be quite liberating for people.

A close up on some of the yellow trays of fresh veggies for sale at the market, marked by a blackboard sign with colorful chalk
Farm Fresh Veggies at The Mobile Market!

Overall, I feel that my time at the farm has helped shape who I am today.  I appreciate the natural world around me more than I did before starting to volunteer at the farm.  I have also grown an appreciation for all people who work in the agricultural business, as it is hard, laborious work which often times goes unrecognized and unsupported.  I am also much more aware of my role as a consumer, and the power that I hold in my purchases.  When shopping, I often take into consideration how the food was grown (organically, sustainably, or conventionally) and where it was grown in order to understand how the food I purchase effects communities around me and future generations of people.

A woman sits proudly among colorful bouquets on the shed floor
Michelle is also now one of the main bouquet makers at The Farm.

As I prepare myself to move away from Stonehill, I hope to take what I have learned at the Stonehill Farm and bring it either into my future work, or at the very least into my future home, and to continue supporting organizations that work to ensure that all people have access to healthy food.

“Almost certainly, however, the first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind.” – Norman Borlaug  

A few large yellow sunflowers light up the fields
Sunflowers brightly decorate our fields – attracting pollinators who pollinate our crops and also attracting smiles from the crew and visitors to the farm.
Categories
Summer 2017 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Guest Post: Celia Sees

Six of the Farm helpers gather at one end of the picnic table and use freshly harvested veggies to put together a meal

This summer, we were lucky to have (from left to right) Melissa Mardo (2017), Michelle David (2017), Jackie Lerner (2019), Gianna Desrochers (2019), Alex Pica (2018) and Celia Dolan (2019) on our summer farmer crew – quite the dream team!  For the next few weeks, we will give you and inside peek into what these summer farmers experience working at The Farm through guest posts. 

We will begin with Celia Dolan (2019) who has been an essential member of our team for two growing seasons!

 

One of the Farm crew members enjoys a plate of veggies at sunset on the Farm
Celia and the crew enjoyed a delicious veggie feast together at The Farm in July.

 

 

“Farming is in your blood,” he said.

 

I nodded my head in agreement with Jay McHugh, my distant cousin, whose pig farm I went to visit last weekend.  Well, I’m not sure that it can be called a pig farm considering pigs no longer live there.  In fact, it is hardly even a farm.  Weeds have taken over, the barns have dilapidated, and equipment has rusted.  For decades, miserly developers tried to buy the land from Jay and his father; a few times they stooped low enough to attempt to burn them out.  After putting up such a big fight, it seems a shame to sell the land.  Yet, that is what Jay decided to do.  And it does not take much imagination to wonder why.

Three people sit in the back of the truck among stacked baskets of wrapped up veggies, ready for delivery on a rainy day
Celia (on the right) helps Jackie and Gianna load up the truck for a delivery to one of our community partners in mid-May.

 

The farmer who once worked the land seems to have fallen apart alongside his fields.  He is tired, needs knee replacements, and is anxious to move off his family farm.  While we talked, he recalled times when his neighbors called to complain about his livestock grazing.  In his area, there is little support of local farmers or open land.  People push for progress, with money and bulldozers to do the pushing for them.

 

As I gazed at the drooping pasture gates and thriving weeds, I was reminded of how nature dictates our actions and how we are so closely tied to the land.  However, I would never have recognized such a connection if I did not recently start working on a farm myself.  In fact, I probably never would have visited my cousin’s pig farm in the first place.

Seven people gather on each side of a bed of stringy plants as the sun sets on the Farm
Celia (in red) volunteers on a regular basis throughout the school year and took an IDEAS class about our food system taught by Jeremy and Mark (both members of the Class of 2017).

Last summer, I volunteered at the Farm at Stonehill often enough to apply for a full-time position working there this summer.  I loved it last summer and I have continued to love it this season.  It seems that each day I learn something new at the farm.

 

We’ve eradicated potato beetles with the organic finger-pinching method.  We’ve discussed blossom-end rot on tomatoes, types of mildew that attack plants, how to store seeds – we were even lucky enough to have a crash-course in rototiller tractor driving (though we have not actually done and driving or tilling)!

A hand shows off three bright red tomatoes harvested from hoophouse 2
Beautiful tomatoes from Hoophouse 2 – definitely worth the effort!

We learned about which battles you should choose to fight.  Do you make a third attempt to grow produce in a hydroponic garden?  Do you pull up weeds in an area that will soon be tilled, or simply till them under?  Do you grow tomatoes next season when tomato blight seems to have a strong hold in the soil?  Often, it seems there are no right or wrong answers.  Rather, Bridget demonstrates how we take signs from the farm.  She once said that unlike people, plants don’t tell you what they need.  While this is true, I have learned that plants communicate in other ways.

A red basket filled with loads of harvested green beans picked by Camp Shriver campers
Green Beans picked with Camp Shriver campers.

They show us when they are thirsty, or hungry for nutrients.  The plants communicate with each other, helping each other grow as the Three Sisters – beans, corn, squash – do.  Or they try to tear each other apart, as weeds compete for nutrients, sun, and water.  In this way, plants are not very different than people; they know what they want and they aren’t afraid to show it.  When they do show it, we farmers act accordingly.  We work for and with the plants.

 

We also work for and with each other.  As a result, we have also learned a lot about human connections.  Each farmer has asked questions, made suggestions, or offered ideas about the farm and how it operates.  We divide up tasks and have our go-to harvest crops.  For example, I usually meander through the summer squash rows, while Michelle proclaims that she is going to zucchini land and Alex peeks under prickly leaves to find cucumbers.  Gianna gathers hundreds of cherry tomatoes and Jackie searches for eggplant.  We share our knowledge with each other.  If one of us notices something, like a new bug or suspicious mildew on a plant, we ask Bridget.

A line of young Camp Shriver campers work with the Farm managers to plant sunflower seedlings in a dirt bed
Some of the Camp Shriver campers who Celia and our crew welcomed a number of times this summer. Pictured here planting sunflower seedlings they planted from seed 4 weeks earlier.

Our learning extends beyond the work day, as well.  Bridget shares farm newsletters and emails that she receives from other local farmers.  She helps us stay active, leading barre class every week.  We’ve cooked and shared food with each other using fresh veggies from the farm.  With all that we do, we see our hard work come full circle.  From seeding, to transplanting, to harvesting to cooking, we have helped plants grow, and we have also grown alongside each other throughout the season.  Walking through the farm and connecting with nature, I feel completely satisfied with our hard work.

 

Knowing what a healthy farm looks like made the dereliction of my cousin’s farm even more painful.  I found myself teary-eyed over losing a farm that was never mine to begin with.  I imagined what it must have been, could see what it looked like now, and feared what it would look like in a year.  Pristine and identical houses would stand where pigs once roamed and where nettles grew now.

 

I wondered how someone could so easily give up on a farm that he had worked hard on his entire life.  Working at the farm with Bridget and the other summer interns taught me so many valuable lessons that I could not learn anywhere else.  I cannot thank her enough for sharing that with us and I would not trade a day that I have worked there for anything else.

A colorful seasonal bouquet colored with pinks, reds, purples, and yellows contrasts against the gray gravel path
It’s always fun to visit the farm – or take some home with you (ex. seasonal bouquets and honey).

So, if you have yet to visit the Farm at Stonehill, I highly recommend stopping by.  Who knows what you might learn!

~Celia Dolan,  Summer Farmer Extraordinaire!

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
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
Community Guest Post Summer 2013 Summer Cultivation 2013 Summer Harvest 2013 Summer Volunteers 2013 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Sun Gold Cherry, Indigo Rose, and the Pleasures of The Farm at Stonehill

Guest Post by Stephen Siperstein, Adjuct Professor at Stonehill College, Writing Program

A glorious fall-like day in August at The Farm.
A glorious fall-like day in August at The Farm. A great day for picking, planting, weeding, and simply enjoying the fresh air filtering down the rows of ripe veggies and colorful flowers out in the fields.

Was yesterday the first day of autumn?  The calendar said no, but the Farm at Stonehill shone brightly in the crisp, cool air.  A cloudless sky, a strong breeze, the smell of pine duff wafting over rows of ripening vegetables: I was glad that I had picked this day to volunteer.  However, once I got into the tomato rows, which were significantly warmer than the rest of the farm, I could tell that it would not be as enjoyable working here during the dog days of summer.  The rows heat up like an oven, and, as a former student of mine and former farm intern pointed out, the tomato plants are covered in a fine, nettle-like fuzz: not fun for hours of picking.

 Even with the realization that this was not a cool paradise but an environment requiring hard, hot work, I was nevertheless a little disappointed in myself that it had taken until August for me to make it across Washington Street.  Should have been here all summer long, I thought to myself.

As I walked through the rows, Jake Gillis, a rising senior and one of this summer’s interns, cheerfully called out to me and offered up a handful of Sun Gold cherry tomatoes.

Tomatoes in all of the colors of the rainbow!
Tomatoes in all of the colors of the rainbow! Tomatoes pictured here from upper right, going clockwise are Big Beef Tomato, Sun Gold Cherry Tomato, Indigo Rose Tomato, Red Pearl Red Grape Tomato – and Rose de Berne Tomatoes in the center.

“You should try these,” he said.  “We snack on them while we’re out in the fields harvesting.”

So I tried.  And I thanked him, because the name is apt; I suddenly had a mouth filled with golden sunshine.  Glorious.  I have always loved tomatoes, but these were some of the best and sweetest I had ever tasted.  Amazing that there can be so much pleasure in a tiny orange fruit.  Orange, you wonder.  I have come to learn that most tomatoes are not actually just red; they are infinite shades of red, yellow, green, purple, pink, and orange.  And usually, the ones that aren’t the expected shade of red are the ones filled with the most pleasure.

Big Beet Tomatoes - a variety we are accustomed to seeing.
Big Beet Tomatoes – a variety we are accustomed to seeing. They are delicious, don’t get us wrong, but trying all of the different varieties is a real treat.

Big chain grocery stores and fast food burger commercials might have us believe otherwise, but they are misleading.  Tomatoes grown in a place like The Farm aren’t the perfectly red, spherical, plastic-looking items you can pick up in the produce aisle.  They are multi-hued, oddly shaped, and sometimes, like in the case of the heirloom variety called Indigo Rose, they look and taste a little strange.  Strange, but pleasurable.

Nubia Eggplant - not as purple as those we are used to seeing in most grocery stores, but more tender and definitely delicious!
Nubia Eggplant – not as purple as those we are used to seeing in most grocery stores, but more tender and definitely a tasty alternative. Hooray for diversity!

The great poet and agriculturalist Wendell Berry has written about the pleasure that comes from knowing, and eating, one’s own food.  He explains that “A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one’s accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes,” and that “[those] people who know the garden in which their vegetables have grown…and remember the beauty of the growing plants” will more easily attain such consciousness.  The Farm at Stonehill is a haven where such consciousness, and such pleasure, is possible.  Just try a Sun Gold cherry or an Indigo Rose (which some say tastes like licorice when slightly under ripe) while standing in the hot but beautiful fields, and you will taste it.  Or ask the interns and volunteers who have been working here through the summer.

Red Pearl Red Grape Tomatoes - ready to be weighed and then delivered.
Red Pearl Red Grape Tomatoes – ready to be weighed and then delivered.

You might protest that I’m making a big deal out of a little fruit, freighting it with a kind of pastoral, agricultural fantasy, or imagining that it is only by being at The Farm (which is a great privilege for those of us at Stonehill and our guests who visit from surrounding communities) and standing in its fields, that one can enjoy a tomato.  Such a fantasy would belie the hard work that goes into the fruit.  Furthermore, it would belie the fact that people depend on it.  It’s just food, you might say.  And I would agree.  First and foremost, a tomato is food, not a bucolic charm.

Later that afternoon, after the interns, Bridget, and I had harvested over 150 pounds (a good haul for an early season harvest) of tomatoes of various varieties, we hopped into the farm’s pickup truck to bring the multi-colored bounty to the nearby Easton Food Pantry and My Brother’s Keeper.  As we were unloading boxes outside the Food Pantry, an older couple walked out with a few bags of food.  We offered them some of the fresh tomatoes to add to what they had, and though they were at first hesitant, they eventually accepted.  We made sure that they tried a few different varieties.  At My Brother’s Keeper, we chatted with Beth Collins, who organizes the food distribution there.  Anyone in the Easton and Brockton area who is having trouble getting food for the week can call up My Brother’s Keeper and get a box of food, no questions asked.  Beth makes sure also to include info in those boxes about the different kinds of produce, with recipes and suggestions about how to prepare them, just in case someone doesn’t know what to do with a purple tomato or potato (as few of us would).

Rocky Ford Muskmelon - an Heirloom Variety that we found in The High Mowing Organic Seed company's catalog.
Rocky Ford Muskmelon – an heirloom variety that we found in The High Mowing Organic Seed company’s catalog.  These are still ripening up, but we are looking forward to sharing these sweet melons soon.

            Berry writes, “The pleasure of eating should be an extensive pleasure, not that of the mere gourmet.”  Berry thinks that the pleasure of eating should be extensive, meaning that it should extend out from plants to people, from fruits to taste buds (and not just the taste buds of the foodies or the gourmands, but everyone’s taste buds), from farm to community.  In such a vision, a farm and the food that is grown there becomes, like the tomato plant’s roots that bind the soil, the connective tissue that bonds the community.  Extensive becomes another word for democratic, and the farm embodies democracy in the most radical way: having to do with roots.

With Bridget, the interns, and volunteers working through both the glorious and sometimes more humid or rainy days, The Farm at Stonehill flourishes with its partners, weaving the roots of community.  And by so doing its pleasures are not confined to the rows of plants themselves, but are tasted in many homes.  The Farm connects so many of us through its food and its pleasures, because really, why should the two be separate?

 

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

Long (mostly) Sunny Days Yield Bountiful Fields

The fields are producing veggies and flowers galore for us this summer. We’ve already harvested and donated over 800 pounds of our organic veggies – mostly lettuce, greens like kale, collards, and chard, onions, zucchini, and summer squash.  Our yields are higher than last year, due to careful cultivation and applications of rich compost, and we expect them to really explode now that the heavier crops like cucumbers and summer squash as starting to appear.

Beth of My Brother's Keeper picks up summer squash and kale on June 27th for their clients in Brockton.
Beth Sheehan of My Brother’s Keeper picks up summer squash and kale on June 27th for their clients in Brockton.

The veggies are all finding homes with our partners: The Easton Food Pantry, My Brother’s Keeper, The Family Life Center of the Old Colony YMCA, and The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring.

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So far, the rain has not impacted our production in a negative way, but we are keeping an eye out for any sign of Early Blight on our tomatoes or Downy Mildew in the squash.

Raised Beds help to keep the tomatoes and eggplants dry - reducing the possible spread of diseases like Early Blight.
Raised Beds help to keep the tomatoes and eggplants dry – reducing the possible spread of diseases like Early Blight.

Raised beds are helping to keep any flooding in fields from damaging the plants.

Squash, Pepper and Zucchini Plants - healthy and starting to produce fruits and flowers.
Squash, Pepper and Zucchini Plants – healthy and starting to produce fruits and flowers.

When the sun does shine, honeybees return to the fields and love the clover that grows around the shed and greenhouse. This is MOSTLY a good thing, except for bare or flip flop clad feet of unaware farmers – namely, Farmer Manager Meigs. I managed to get 2 stings this past week, one on my right pinkie toe and the other, a few days later on the arch of my left foot. Here is what I learned:

1. Remove the stinger ASAP.

2. If you work on a farm, grab an onion, break it open and rub it on the effected area!

I was much better at these steps the second time around!

(I suppose I could also wear close-toed shoes… but that’s a bit extreme, don’t you think?)

Honeybee hard at work - beware barefooted farmers!
Honeybee hard at work – beware barefooted farmers!

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We are happy to bear witness to the changing colors of the fields – from greens to golds in the rows of summer squash, and a wide array colors in our flower beds.

Early bouquets arranged for a celebration for Father Mark Creagan in Boston in early June.
Early bouquets arranged for a celebration for Father Mark Cregan in Boston in early June.

There is something magical about the way that seemingly overnight the yellow flowers appear on the squash, cucumber and tomato plants and white and purple flowers bloom on the eggplant and potato plants.

Summer Squash ready for the picking on June 28th.
Summer Squash ready for the picking on June 28th.

The nutrients and moisture in the soil and the energy from the sun provide most of the fuel for the bounty appearing in the fields, but some of the credit also goes to my 3 hard working summer farmers, Devin, Jake, and Alphonse, and to the volunteers.

Jake and Alphonse - on the hunt for Colorado Potato Beetles.
Jake and Alphonse – on the hunt for Colorado Potato Beetles in one of the rows of eggplant.
"Harvested" Colorado Potato Beetles - before they were disposed of.
“Harvested” Colorado Potato Beetles – before they were disposed of.

On Friday afternoons, a number of students working in Admission and some of our college staff  appear on the scene to help us tackle larger projects like hilling the potatoes.

Volunteers hill 5 rows of potatoes with us on Friday afternoon.
Volunteers hill 5 rows of potatoes with us on Friday afternoon.

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Abbey, Christina, Tom, and Anthony pause for a quick smile before going back to work.
Abbey, Christina, Tom, and Anthony pause for a quick smile before going back to work.

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Our youngest volunteer this season, Liam, plays in the compost while mom, Kim Wheeler, works in the fields.
Our youngest volunteer so far this season, Liam, plays in the compost while mom, Kim Wheeler (in blue), works in the field with Lisa Gualtieri.

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Alphonse makes sure that Liam doesn't eat too much compost ;).
Alphonse makes sure that Liam doesn’t eat too much compost!

Sometimes we are lucky enough to receive an extra hand on weekdays or on a Saturday from Stonehill alums or from local groups looking to lend a hand.

Farmer Devin and Volunteer Evan Sorgi (2013) weed a row of beets.
Farmer Devin and Volunteer Evan Sorgi (2013) weed a row of beets.

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A welcome surprise visit from Nick Howard (2013) - still growing smiles!
A welcome surprise visit from Nick Howard (2013) – still growing smiles!

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Two members of a Loyola University Alumni volunteer group help us stake "Tomatoes 2".
Two members of a Loyola University Alumni volunteer group help us stake “Tomatoes 2”.

Zuri keeps busy protecting our tender greens by warding off bunnies.  She then enjoys joining us for a rest during lunch before heading out for her afternoon rounds.

The team takes lunch!
The team takes lunch!

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On my morning and afternoon strolls around the fields, it’s easy to feel like I can actually SEE the squash and cukes growing right before my eyes.

Marie helps to hill and feed the potatoes.
Marie helps to hill and feed the potatoes.

With the help of rich compost our crops and flowers are flourishing!

Devin and Jake help fill up a van from My Brother's Keeper.
Devin and Jake help fill up a van from My Brother’s Keeper.

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Flower bouquets out for delivery on campus.
Flower bouquets out for delivery on campus.

We invite you to come join us for a visit or a quick hour or two of planting, harvesting or… you guessed it… weeding!

If you would like to place a flower order, please email me and we’ll create an arrangement filled with Snapdragons, Cosmos, Zinnias, Black Eyed Susan, Sweet William, Salvia and Statice (bmeigs@stonehill.edu).

Early flower bouquets.
Early flower bouquets.