Categories
Spring 2019 The Farm at Stonehill

A Snowy, Sleepy Farm

At this time of year, with snow layered over cover crop and around the hoop houses, The Farm looks as sleepy as ever.

A circle of benches with snow sitting on top and a snow-surrounded hoop house in the background. Grey snow clouds in the sky give a foreboding appearance.
Although this area may not seem warm and welcoming right now, we anxiously await the time when volunteers will gather here in the spring to learn about The Farm.
Snow has been shoveled aside to clear a path to The Farm shed and hoop houses. A blue clear sky promises spring weather soon.
These snow-surrounded hoop houses will soon be a home for seedlings and sprouts!

The two hoop houses are surrounded by a layer of snow as they are slowly but surely shoveled out

The white Mobile Market Van with deep snow on its roof
The Mobile Market Van waits out the winter until our first Market in June!
Large orange tractor resting in the hoop house for storage.
It’s quite possible that our tractor may be the warmest thing on The Farm right now! Nestled in one hoop house to stay out of the snow, it sleeps until the first field is plowed in the spring.

And Zuri is just as sleepy as the rest of The Farm!

White dog yawning in The Farmhouse
Yawning Zuri, The Farm’s happy (but sleepy) hound.

Despite the deep snow settled like a blanket on The Farm, we are anticipating spring and the new growing season that will come with it!  We’ve begun preparing for our ninth (!!) season, hosting our first “Farm Friday” volunteer hours last week.  Seven volunteers joined us in the greenhouse behind Shields Science Center before leaving campus for spring break and helped to plant onion and snapdragon seeds.

A group of six smiling volunteers pose in the greenhouse after helping to plant seedlings
(Left to Right) Marissa Beachell, Daniel Farnworth, Natalie McDonough, Brett Smith, Jillian Tavares, and Celia Dolan.

In addition to the first planting of the season, we have been keeping busy in other ways at The Farm.  At the end of February, we visited Caffrey Towers in Brockton and had lots of fun with our partners at Brockton Neighborhood Health Center and UMASS Nutrition Education Program.  Keryn from UMASS NEP cooked a delicious Haitian soup with a wide array of vegetables, including potatoes and onions from Langwater Farm.  Participants enjoyed the soup and took home a bag of ingredients to make their own bowls of this yummy dish!

A pile of Campus Farmer Summit bags holding the soup ingredients.
Soup ingredients were gathered in bags for participants to recreate the soup they’d tasted.

We welcomed Celia Dolan in mid-February as the new Assistant Farm Manager.  She graduated in December with an environmental studies degree, business minor, and a passion for sustainable agriculture.  After volunteering and working at The Farm since her freshman year, she was honored to accept this position upon graduating a semester early.  She is excited to work with Bridget and the volunteers who make The Farm the inspirational place that it is!  While keeping up with the usual winter farm duties, Celia and Bridget are planning a seed saving garden to nurture heirloom seeds and the stories that they hold.  Celia spoke on a panel at SEMAP’s Annual Agriculture and Food Conference about The Farm’s efforts to Grow for the Greater Good and described plans for the seed saving garden.  Just as she was a voice for The Farm on the panel, Celia is happy be the voice of The Farm on this blog post and more posts to come!

Assistant Farm Manager, Celia Dolan, holding a heart-shaped potato in the dirt fields
Celia hopes to share her love of farming and food justice with volunteers. Apparently this potato has similar aspirations!

Bridget and Celia look forward to a new season at The Farm.  We hope to work with you soon in the spring weather, when the snow has melted and The Farm begins to awaken.  Until then, we remain ever-hopeful that sunshine and warmth are around the corner.  Stay happy and healthy, friends!  ~Celia

Categories
Community Summer 2017 The Farm at Stonehill

Gianna – The Mindful Gardener

Gianna Desrochers was one of our hardworking summer farmers this season! She shares here about the highlights of her summer – and why you should grow some veggies with us or on your own.

The biggest thing I learned from working on the farm is how much work is put into growing produce.

A woman with orange flowers from the field in her hair sits next to the white dog to relax in the fields
Gianna, decked with flowers from the field, relaxes with Zuri after a long a few hours of planting and weeding.

Personally, I didn’t think much about how that plump, red tomato made it’s way on the grocery store’s shelves nor how much labor it took just to make it possible to be grown.

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

You start by making a hospitable environment for the seed, which means starting with fertile soil. This soil is put into seeding trays and the seeds then pushed into it, and are then watered until germination occurs. When the seedlings become strong enough to be grown in the crop beds, they are carefully taken out of the seeding trays and planted in the soil.

A woman holds the first round of harvested zucchini in between rows of crops
Gianna helping to harvest our first round of zucchini in July.

We made sure that the plants that need regular watering had drip tape in the soil of each of the rows, and we would patch them if a leak sprung out. These seedlings are checked on a daily basis, where we make sure they’re all happy in their new home.

A panorama shows off the many long and populated rows of growing green crops
Creating these beautiful and productive fields take a lot of time and effort!

Daily weeding of these areas is also necessary because the weeds would overwhelm the seedlings and would lead to competition of resources. When one area of weeding was finished, another area would be ready to be weeded, making it a never-ending cycle. I found this work to be difficult and time-consuming, especially on the hot summer days. I would have never realized this amount of work that is put into produce unless I personally experienced it, like I did here on the farm.

 

My favorite part of working on the farm was harvesting the produce we had successfully grown. I find it so rewarding to be able to see what we have worked so hard to get all season by harvesting. I also get to examine the plants, checking for any possible disease or pest issues, knowing that if I have a problem or a question, Bridget would be able to give me a great answer.  I loved learning about the wildflowers and weeds that grew around the farm. Bridget would answer my constant questioning of what’s what from everything I found around the farm, whether it was a weed or a bug I found on one of the crops.

Two yellow baskets are full of leafy green crops, wrapped and packed for delivery
Some of our crops all packed up and ready for deliver – after weeks of care in the fields.

I really enjoyed working on the Farm at Stonehill because of the huge amount of things I have learned, varying from the mindfulness on how that tomato has made its way onto the supermarket’s shelves and all the knowledge of the plants we tended or grew freely on the farm.

It’s an experience that I ask everyone to try themselves because it really makes you think more about our food system and how that tomato really made its way into your grocery basket.

Categories
The Farm at Stonehill

Summer 2017 is Here!

A few bright yellow sunflowers held with some other smaller, duller ones
A few of our glorious sunflowers.

It’s been an incredible start to the 2017 season. As usual, we are blessed with a positive and hard working crew.  This year’s crew members include Michelle David, Melissa Mardo, Jackie Lerner, Alex Pica, Gianna Desrochers, and Celia Dolan.  In addition, Brian Kennedy, C.S.C. – a Holy Cross Seminarian – is joining us for the month of July.  We are not always all at the farm together, but when we are there is a festive and productive feeling in the air (weeds weed themselves — ha ha, I jest —  but the truth is that a lot of hard work gets done and miraculously the crew keeps smiling). I feel very lucky to have them! I will take the time to introduce each of them more over the next couple of weeks.

The second hoophouse is filled with tall leafy cuke plants growing up trellises
Cukes growing up their trellises in Hoophouse 2.

One of the reasons for a successful start to the season is our supportive VP for Mission, Father Jim Lies. For the past few years, we have felt his strong support in so many ways and it has allowed us to grow and thrive. He has been with us every step of the way as we cultivate our living classroom by adding the Mobile Market, welcoming groups to the farm, taking good care of our soil, and growing biodiversity along with nutritious and fresh produce for our community partners.  We will miss him, but wish him the best of luck as he starts his new position in London with Notre Dame.

Two people pose alongside some beds of plants in the Farm

Good luck in London, Father Jim! We will miss you!

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This remainder of this post will share just a few things we have been up to. More to come soon!

At The Farm:

We have already harvested and delivered ~1,500 pounds of veggies this season.

We are harvesting zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, scallions, pac choi, lettuce, basil, other herbs, peas, a few cherry tomatoes and beautiful flowers (see link below to order your bouquets)!

In the Community:

Our markets at BNHC are going well! Going forward we will offer a market every Wednesday from 3-4:30 and alternate between 63 Main and 1380 Main.

A poster advertises the Wednesday afternoons, 3:00-4:00 time slot for "The Farm at Stonehill Mobile Market" with a series of dates and locations above pictures of various veggies
Mobile Market Dates, Times and Locations.

Brockton’s Community Garden Network!

Thanks to the hard work of our Brockton’s Promise Americorp Vista, Sara Morris, the community garden network in Brockton has been strengthening! Please visit: www.brocktonspromisegardens.weebly.com (co-created by Sara and Jackie Gorman) to check out sites and resources for effective community gardening.

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Flowers

Would you like some beautiful flowers? To order your small: $5 (10-15 stems), medium: $10 (~25 stems) or large: $15 (~35 stems) bouquet click here or email: bmeigs@stonehill.edu

A collection of purple and white flowers mixed together to make beautiful bouquets
Flowers abound!

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Find The Farm at Stonehill on Facebook and “like us” of follow us on Instagram (#thefarmatstonehill) to stay connected to Farm happenings.

The Farm at Stonehill is a community effort and we invite you to stop by to visit and lend a hand.

Categories
Community Summer 2016 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Mobile Market, Fall Crops, Volunteers and more

This Week at The Farm…

At The Farm…

RA, MSM and ABS leaders

Our RA, ABS, and MSM volunteers helped out on Tuesday!

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We are welcoming RA, MSM, and ABS student leaders to help with some projects in the fields including weeding onion beds, removing black plastic, weeding raspberries, and planting greens in the hoophouse.

We are planting a late succession of squash and cukes in the field and in hoophouse 2 and caring for our kale and lettuce seedlings in hoophouse 1.

We are making the last of our flower bouquets are we start to harvest winter squash and melons in earnest.

In the Community…

Our Mobile Market was featured in the Boston Globe South!

Many thanks to Martin and Marie (our behind the scenes team!) for working with journalist at the Globe to share information about this new project of our farm with our surrounding community.

mobile market

Tim, Father Jim and Sara pause for a smile at the Mobile Market.

Father Jim visited us at our Mobile Market and chatted with some of the clients enjoying the market!

We continue to deliver veggies to our Community Partners!

delivery

Emily and Pat made our deliveries today to MBK, The Table and the Old Colony YMCA.

VOLUNTEER HOURS

Farm Fridays are Back!

Come see us tomorrow, Friday, August 26th from 3-5pm.

Categories
Winter 2016

Five Years and Growing Strong

Zuri and I visited the farm - Friday, February 5th.
The fields are bundled in a layer of white insulation – Zuri welcomes the snow on February 5th, 2016.

It is a wintery day in Easton, and as the wind whips and snowflakes fly past the window, I fill my cup with hot tea and my head with vibrant images of our farm on warmer days.

It is hard to believe that 2015 was already our fifth season, and our production (exceeding 15,000 pounds), new programs (the Mobile Market), increase in use as a living classroom (more professors and students learning at the farm), and growing family (volunteers and community gardeners) illustrate a clear shift from “chick to fledgling” stage in our development as a farm community.

Our seed order is almost complete and plans for our next season abound, but pausing to reflect on the past five seasons, I’m amazed at how our farm continues to thrive and extend its reach into Brockton and Easton.

Bringing in a healthy garlic harvest with helpers Christine, John, Michelle and Melissa, July 2015.
Bringing in a bountiful garlic harvest with helpers Christine, John, Michelle and Melissa, July 2015.

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Tim and Alana help to polit our Mobile Market - Fall 2015.
Tim and Alana help to pilot our Mobile Market – Fall 2015.

This season we forged new relationships in the community and entered new territory when we piloted our Mobile Market this fall in the parking lot of Trinity Baptist Church and The Family Center (1367 Main St).  Starting on September 16, 2015, and for the following six weeks, we drove our farm truck to this address and set up a veggie stand.

partnering up with UMASS Nutrition services - Ratatouille
We enjoyed partnering up with UMASS Nutrition Services who prepared ratatouille from our veggies and shared the easy and healthy recipe with customers who could then purchase all of the necessary fresh ingredients from our market to make the dish.

This program, supported by a $5,000 grant from Project Bread, allows us to partner more closely with organizations like UMASS Nutrition Services and sell some of our organic produce at or below market prices directly to consumers in parts of Brockton that lack easy access to healthy, fresh produce.

Mobile Market Sprinter Van donation.
This Sprinter Van, donated by Stonehill parents Craig and Lisa Hyslip, will become our Mobile Market van during the 2016 growing season.

Thanks to a generous donation of a Sprinter Van from Craig and Lisa Hyslip, we will be able to transport our veggies to our Mobile Market locations in an environment that protects them from heat, rain, and other kinds of conditions that can impact freshness.  We are currently working with students and staff in Stonehill’s Marketing Department to create a colorful, festive logo that conveys the bounty and health the market will bring wherever it goes!  We will share market dates, locations, and times by the springtime – we are hoping to offer markets two days per week at two different locations.

1 of our 4 main partners
The Easton Food Pantry receives about one-quarter to one-third of all of the produce that we grow at The Farm. I always enjoy dropping off our veggies to Glen on Monday mornings.

As always, we will continue to donate the majority of our produce to our four main community partners: The Easton Food Pantry, My Brother’s Keeper, The David Jon Louison Center of the Old Colony YMCA and The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring.

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Our farm thrives because of the energy brought in by our visitors – the students and staff who volunteer, the insects that pollinate, and the classes that come to learnand the gifts of the farmnew friendships, honey made from the nectar, and knowledge learned through experiences.

some fall harvesters!
It was such a productive year – here two volunteers help to harvest produce and keep Zuri company (or course!) on a warm October afternoon.

This season, six faculty utilized The Farm as a space to teach about sustainability.  Disciplines included Philosophy, Political Science, Art, Environmental Science, Eco-spirituality and Ecology, and the farm hummed with the energy and activity that these classes brought to the fields.  In a Learning Community called The Origin of Resources: From Farm to Studio, co-taught by me and Candice Smith Corby, our students learned about sustainable food production and how to create natural pigments and dyes from some of the plants growing at The Farm.  With this course, more than any other I have had the opportunity to teach, I learned and subsequently taught about how to preserve the flavors and the beauty of the harvest.  This learning occurred in the fields in the company of Candice, our students, and through the teachings of generous guest teachers like Chef Geoff Lukas and Farmer Linda Reinhardt.

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 These relationships serve to increase my hunger for knowledge about how to sustainably grow food to increase food security, to maintain healthy, biodiverse landscapes, and to understand and celebrate the traditions that support these kinds of connections with the land.

preserving the harvest
Melissa, Madison and Tori prepare tomatoes for a “tomato conserva” under the guidance of Geoff Lukas at The Farm in September.

A relationship is growing with the land that surrounds our production fields.  We often see monarch butterflies in our fields, pausing in the flower beds before moving on to an abutting field to find their beloved milkweed.

Milkweed thrives in the fields behind The Farm - reminding us that our 1.5 acres is a part of a biodiverse mosaic of habitats.
Milkweed thrives in the fields behind The Farm – reminding us that our 1.5 acres is a part of a much larger ecosystem comprised of a biodiverse mosaic of habitats.

We have also witnessed the hue of the honey produced by our bees deepen over the course of the season.  We know this is because they tend to visit more goldenrod in the fall months.  With the long, warm fall this past season our bees were so productive that Best Bees of Boston was able to harvest and provide us with over 75 pounds of honey from our hive!

Our honey made a nice holiday gift - allowing members of the Stonehill community to enjoy the benefits of local, raw honey!
Our honey made a nice holiday gift – allowing members of the Stonehill community to enjoy the benefits of local, raw honey!

  It is our hope that the bees also enjoyed the flowers that we planted in our fields and that also served as bouquets for staff and students – as well as two brides who chose our flowers to help them celebrate on their wedding day.

wedding flowers late August 2015.
Here is one of the bride’s bouquets that we created in August!

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While productivity of our crops and activity in the fields certainly slows during the colder months of the year, I am pleased to report that spinach planted in our second hoophouse in October is thriving.  We will continue to explore other methods of season extension (utilizing more high tunnels, production of micro-greens and maintaining the TowerGarden on campus) in order to learn about the optimum conditions for sweet, nutritious crops at The Farm.

Spinach Harvest - February 1, 2016.
Jake Rafferty (2016) helped me harvest some spinach on February 1, 2016.

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10 pounds of luscious spinach from 3 rows in Hoophouse #2.
Here are the 10 pounds of luscious spinach that came from the three rows pictured above.  They were bagged and donated to My Brother’s Keeper that morning.

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I have come to believe that the success of a farm is tightly linked to the people who choose to spend time elbow deep in the dirt in many different kinds of weather.  In our fields each summer I am always impressed by my hard-working and dedicated summer crew and during the school year it is common to welcome twenty to thirty volunteers to work the fields every week.  I am so thankful for all of their hard work and also for my growing ties with other local growers like my friends at Langwater, Round the Bend, Brix Bounty, Freedom Food Farm, Tangerini’s, and Second Nature Farm. 

so many upbeat and hard working volunteers - the key to our farm's success!
so many upbeat and hard working volunteers – the key to our farm’s success!

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Shoveling out Hoophouse 2!
Madison and Emily met me at The Farm on February 5th to shovel out our hoophouses.

I feel lucky to know that students like Madison and Emily will be ready to meet me when the snow and wind abate – to shovel out the hoophouse once again – and pretty soon plant seeds for the 2016 season!

snowman with a radish nose...
Once the shoveling was done, Maddie and Emily created this little guy to watch over the fields for us until warmer days returns!

Over the past five seasons, I have come to learn that these students, the faculty and staff who teach and volunteer at the farm, the folks who receive the produce we grow, and the other local farmers and farming networks ARE The Farm at Stonehill.  

I have learned so much from you all and I cannot wait to see where we go from here!

 

Categories
Community Guest Post Reflections Summer 2014 The Farm at Stonehill

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

Why Mow When You Can Grow?

 By: Christine Moodie (Class of 2015)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the progression below!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elements of a Living Canvas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

Categories
Community Fall 2013 Fall Harvest 2013 Greenhouse The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Thanksgiving for a Fruitful Season!

A turnip green wrapped up in a light coat of frost.
A turnip green wrapped up in a light coat of frost.

As the chilling wind races around the fields, stirring up fallen leaves along the edges, rushing between our spindly apple trees, and bending the recently sprouted cover crops with ease it is clear that our third growing season is coming to a close.

Here are a few fast facts about The Farm that tell some of the story of how productive the 2013 Season has been and how many people are responsible for our bountiful harvest.

2013 Harvest: 12,416.5 pounds of over 35 different kinds of veggies – our biggest and most diverse harvest yet!

2013 Donations: These vegetables were donated to our partners: My Brother’s Keeper, the Easton Food Pantry, The Old Colony YMCA’s Family Life Center, and The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring.

2013 Volunteers: Over 500 hours contributed by over 250 individuals.

Classes Held at The Farm: Over 18 different classes, including creative writing, photography, mentoring through art, environmental science, religious studies, and first year experience classes used the farm as an outdoor learning space to help deepen certain lessons and provide context for others.

2013 Flower Sales: $2,100.00

Zuri approves of this year's harvest!
Zuri approves of this year’s harvest!

As Thanksgiving approaches, we have so much to be thankful for, from the natural elements that create an environment that supports healthy and productive plants to our summer staff and year-round volunteers who join us to make the work of planting, feeding the soil with compost, weeding, harvesting, and finally, delivering our crops both easier and much more fun.

protecting apple trees
Members of the Food Politics Learning Community help to protect our young apple trees from rodents that might attempt to snack on saplings in the colder months.

Looking back on this season, I see a different farm than the one we started in February of 2011.  The same generous and hopeful spirit, originally found in Professor Paul Daponte’s vision for the farm – to grow organic and healthy food with and for our neighbors in need and raise awareness about food deserts – is thriving!

A group of students helps to plant garlic on October 28th.
A group of students helps to plant garlic on October 28th.

However, I think that it was in this third season that the dust started to settle and the work of The Farm began to thrive, not just on it’s 2 acre plot next to The David Ames Clock Farm/Facilities Management, but also in the classrooms and in the creation of new student groups like “Food Truth” across the street on the main campus.  There are times, I must admit, when I hear people talking about The Farm, and Food Truth – a student organization that works to promote Real Food on campus – who I have not yet had the pleasure of getting to know.  It is exciting to see The Farm becoming more integrated into the campus culture!

Food Truth held a Banana Split To Commit event on Food Day, October 24th. In this photo, students sign a petition asking for more "real food" on campus as they await their turn to make a banana split comprised of local, organic, fairly traded, or humanely produced items.
Food Truth held a Banana Split To Commit event on Food Day, October 24th. In this photo, students sign a petition asking for more “real food” on campus as they await their turn to make a banana split comprised of local, organic, fairly traded, or humanely produced items.

Still housed under the Mission Division and now under the guidance of Father Jim Lies, The Farm is truly a place of community where new volunteers are now welcomed not just by me and Zuri, but by students who have been working at The Farm for almost their entire Stonehill career!

Three of the students who have, much to my delight, made The Farm a second home during their time at Stonehill. Gabby Gobiel (2014), Breanne Penkala (2015), and Sean Davenport (2015).
Three of the students who have, much to my delight, made The Farm a second home during their time at Stonehill. Gabby Gobiel (2014), Breanne Penkala (2015), and Sean Davenport (2015).

Despite the freezing temperatures and frost filled mornings, the work of the farm is far from complete.  We are experimenting with growing some mustard greens, spinach and a few lettuce varieties in our hoop house.  Following the lead of some friends at Langwater Farm, we flipped a few of our seedling tables over, filled them with a rich mix of compost and soil and planted our the seedlings.

Three volunteers help to plant greens on Halloween!
Three volunteers help to plant greens on Halloween!

We also find that we have time to clean the shed, the hoop house, and clean up the tines on our amazing rototiller that does such important work for us all season long.

I heard a clanking as the tiller spun through the soil and crawled under to discover a few wires had gotten tangled in the tines.
I heard a clanking as the tiller spun through the soil and crawled under to discover a few wires had gotten tangled in the tines.

The other place to pour our energy is into helping our community learn how to compost!

If you don't know how to compost, simply read the signs above the bins or ask a friend!
If you don’t know how to compost, simply read the signs above the bins or ask a friend.

Members of the Food Politics LC will join me and our TA, Breanne, to help point out what to compost – fruit, veggie, sandwich and salad scraps – and what not to compost – plastic utensils, paper boats, cereal cups as with our new campaign: “You Know How To Compost, Right!?”

The scraps from the Commons kitchen and from the tri bins near the tray return area are added to this pile daily where they are mixed with leaves and become nutritious compost.
The scraps from the Commons kitchen and from the tri bins near the tray return area are added to this pile daily where they are mixed with leaves and become nutritious compost.

Sometimes we find items in the compost pile that simply don’t belong! Help us to keep our operation clean, productive and functional so that we can grow more nutritious crops in the years to come.

These plastic bottles were pulled out of the compost pile at The Farm the other day.
These plastic bottles were pulled out of the compost pile at The Farm the other day.

Course projects are also involving the farm and our mission. For example, a group in the Climate Change Learning Community is putting a proposal together to suggest that an herb spiral garden be constructed on the main campus.  If installed it will serve as a way for students to have access to fresh, flavorful herbs for meals they prepare and allow more students to learn more about the work of The Farm.

Six students taking the Climate Change Learning Community met me and Zuri outside of the Chapel of Mary last week to discuss where to construct and herb spiral.
Six students taking the Climate Change Learning Community met me and Zuri outside of the Chapel of Mary last week to discuss possible locations for an herb spiral on campus.

Longer nights and shorter days also provide time to meet with our partners to learn which crops to grow next year and strategize about ways to involve more classes and volunteers with the work of the farm in Season 2014!

Our third season draws to a close, but winter projects abound, and Season #4 is just around the corner - you know that summer's coming soon!
Our third season draws to a close, but winter projects abound, and Season #4 is just around the corner – you know that summer’s coming soon!
Categories
Fall 2013 Fall Cultivation 2013 Fall Harvest 2013 The Farm at Stonehill

Autumn In All of Her Glory

It has been a gorgeous and productive fall at The Farm.  Just last week we harvested our sweet potatoes, which put us over 12,000 pounds of veggies picked and donated for the 2013 growing season.

photo of the fields in early october.
Greens, browns, pinks, and purples still adorn the fields in early October.

We’ve been keeping busy, harvesting and delivering veggies, hosting a wide array of classes, and participating in the celebration of the inauguration of our new President, Father John Denning, by providing flowers from the fields for the reception.

photo of 25 bouquets adorned the tables at President Father John Denning's Inauguration Reception on Friday, September, 20, 2013.
25 bouquets adorned the tables at President Father John Denning’s Inauguration Reception on Friday, September, 20, 2013.

On many sunny, and a few cloudy, rainy days, students have been showing up at The Farm to help harvest sweet potatoes, hot and sweet peppers, cabbage, broccoli, beets, kale, and other hearty greens.

photo of students harvesting sweet potatoes
A crew of volunteers dig for sweet potatoes on a sunny “Farm Friday” afternoon.
Just a few of the volunteers who joined us in the fields on October 18th.
Just a few of the volunteers who joined us in the fields on October 18th to remove black plastic, harvest peppers, and plant garlic.

Though many parts of the field have started to turn from green to brown, the vibrant pink, purple and white Cosmos and our glorious green cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli plants are doing their darnedest to stave off the certainty of the frost filled mornings that await us.

photo of This cosmos is visited by a late season honey bee.
This cosmos is visited by a late season honey bee.

It is a time of year when change is omnipresent. If you look to the left you can still see fields decked with cabbage, broccoli, and sweet potato vines, but if you look to the right, the rows and rows of tomatoes are no more, and in their place cover crops are germinating.

A colorful cosmos in the foreground with broccoli growing along behind.
A colorful cosmos in the foreground with broccoli growing along behind.

Though we are sad to see the tomatoes go, it is always fun to plant the next crops. This time of year we broadcast cover crops like Bell Bean, Hairy Vetch, and Perennial Winter Rye to feed and protect our soils and help them rest over the course of the cold winter that lies ahead.

photo of Winter rye (the grass-like seedling) germinates beside Hairy vetch - a nitrogen fixing legume (in the foreground)
Winter rye (the grass-like seedling) germinates beside Hairy vetch – a nitrogen fixing legume (in the foreground).

It is clearly a magical time of year, when we can spend part of the day harvesting summery crops like Habanero Peppers…

photo of Habanero Peppers ready for the picking.
Habanero Peppers ready for the picking.

…before moving on to sweet potatoes…

photo of Freshly harvested Sweet Potato.
Joe holds a freshly harvested Sweet Potato.

…then pull up black plastic from rows that housed eggplants…

photo oNick Howard helps remove black plastic - used to help grow eggplants - from the fields.
Nick Howard, a member of Stonehill’s Advancement Team, helps remove black plastic – used to help grow eggplants – from the fields.

…before finally planting garlic.

photo of planting garlic.
Laura plants garlic seed from Red Fire Farm on October 18th.

 

phot of Volunteers help feed our garlic seed compost and the cover them with soil for a long, productive winter's nap.
Volunteers help feed our garlic seeds compost and the cover them with soil for a long, productive winter’s nap.

With the combination of help from volunteers on “Farm Fridays,” multiple classes, and our Fall Farm Intern, Devin, all of this fall work seems to unfold with ease.

photo of Many muddy hands help make the work of fall harvest light.
Many muddy hands help make the work of fall harvest light.

As many parts of the farm turn green with cover crops, other sections continue to produce delicious crops like cabbage, kale, broccoli and Brussels Sprouts for our Community Partners.

photo of A head of cabbage - almost ready for harvest.
A head of cabbage – almost ready for harvest.

We will continue to harvest and prepare our fields for the winter for the next month and hope to see you at volunteer hours even as the colder days (and nights) start to arrive!

Some of our harvesters pause from their labor - digging for sweet potatoes - for a quick smile.
Some of our harvesters pause from their labor – digging for sweet potatoes – for a quick smile.

See you at the next Farm Friday!

photo of Zuri
Zuri looks up from her rabbit hunting duties to welcome volunteers to The Farm.

 

 

Categories
Community Fall 2013 Fall Cultivation 2013 Fall Harvest 2013 The Farm at Stonehill Volunteer

Students Make Light Work of Fall Harvest

My calendar tells me that it still summer, yet the start of classes and the ripening winter squash in the field indicate that the fall is upon us!

photo of I work with some of the volunteers who joined us at The Farm this Friday to help bring in our first round of Butternut and Spaghetti Squash.
I join some of the volunteers in our field of winter squash this Friday to help bring in our first round of Butternut and Spaghetti Squash.

We have been lucky to host a number of groups during this busy time of the year who enthusiastically jump right in to help harvest ripe vegetables at their peak.

Farmers Gabby, Breanne and Sean with Rocky Ford Melon Smiles.
Farmers Gabby, Breanne and Sean display their Rocky Ford Melon Smiles.

Some of the groups include students and staff participating the Resident Assistant and Moreau Student Minister day of service, freshmen involved in the Into The Streets day of service, students enrolled in The Food Politics Learning Community, and students and staff volunteering during “Farm Fridays” – offered every Friday from 2:30-5:00pm, weather permitting.

Photo of student harvesting veggies
Summer Farmer Alphonse picks tomatoes with RAs and Moreau Student Ministers.

It is a busy time of year and I am happy to have the help with the harvest, while Zuri is very pleased to bask in the attention of her admirers.

Conner and Tom, take a break from their work in the fields to visit with Zuri.
Conner and Tom, take a break from their work in the fields to visit with Zuri.

Some of the crops we are currently harvesting include 9 different varieties of tomatoes, 2 varieties of eggplant, 2 varieties of sweet peppers, 3 varieties of hot peppers, 4 varieties of winter squash.

photo of Rose de Berne tomatoes
Rose de Berne Tomatoes – my favorite heirloom variety.

Our community partners at My Brother’s Keeper, The Easton Food Pantry, The Table an Father Bill’s and MainSpring, and The Family Life Center of the Old Colony YMCA tell us that everything is being enjoyed in countless ways – salsas, sauces, salads, and pasta dishes to name a few dishes.

Tomatoes - sorted and boxed up for delivery.
Tomatoes – sorted and boxed up for delivery.

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Some of the veggies picked by the RAs and Moreau Student Ministers went to The Easton Food Pantry.
Some of the veggies picked by the RAs and Moreau Student Ministers went to The Easton Food Pantry.

~~~

To date we have harvested and delivered over 8,500 pounds of organic produce – and some of the heavier and nutrient packed crops such as winter squash and sweet potatoes are just starting to come in.

Candy and Red Baron Onions cure in the hoop house.
Candy and Red Baron Onions cure in the hoophouse.

Our onions and winter squash are curing up well in the hoophouse next to trays filled with spinach and lettuce seedlings for fall production.  I love walking into the hoophouse this time of year and seeing the fruits of season long care and labor lined up next to young plants that are only just beginning to make the move out to the fields where they will grow to their full potential.

photo ofGreens growing on the left and harvested Spaghetti and Waltham Butternut Squash curing on the right.
Greens growing on the left and harvested Spaghetti and Waltham Butternut Squash curing on the right.

This past Farm Friday, on August 30th, Breanne Penkala (2015), a seasoned farmer and the TA for the Food Politics Learning Community suggested that we make salsa at The Farm to invite our farm volunteers to literally enjoy some of the fruits of their labor.

photo of chefs
Chris and Chanel jumped right in and got to work chopping up the tomatoes, cilantro, habanero and jalapeno peppers, garlic, and onions for the salsa party.

The chefs prepared hot and mild versions to please the palates of all present. The mild version also included diced pieces of Rocky Ford Melon – an heirloom musk melon variety – also grown at The Farm.

Father Jim, VP for Mission, joined us to sample the salsa!
Father Jim, VP for Mission, joined us to sample the salsa!

The Fiesta during Farm Fridays was a huge success – over 35 volunteers came over to help with the harvest – and I’m looking forward to doing more events like this to reward the many helpers who make light work of harvesting hundreds, if not thousands of pounds of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, winter squash, and greens with us!

photo of Some of the volunteers who came out for our first Farm Friday to help harvest veggies and to enjoy farm fresh salsa!
Some of the volunteers who came out for our first Farm Friday to help harvest veggies and to enjoy farm fresh salsa!

We will continue to harvest a wide range of veggies as we weed and cultivate fall crops for the next couple of months. We look forward to seeing you in the fields!

photo of flowers
Flower bouquets lined up and awaiting delivery to customers on the main campus.