The first day of Spring arrives, and I find myself brimming with hope for another amazing season at The Farm.
My early morning walks with Zuri around the fields are filled with soft, warm light dancing on the frost covered grasses. It is hard to believe that in a few short months the morning dew will offer a welcome coolness compared the blazing midday heat.
This is the time of year when we pause to drink in the sun – lifting our chins towards the sky like turtles sunbathing on boulders in a stream – thankful for the warmth the rays bring to our faces and to our sleepy spirits.
Perhaps it is the power of the full moon on the solstice, but there is something intoxicating about the start of this season. Highs and lows from the previous season are already fading as the fields start to green, the garlic starts to sprout and the seedlings start to grow.
The seeds are the focus this time of year – when will be planting the onions? the kale? the snapdragons? What will thrive and what will bend despite or due to the challenge of drought or disease? We create our seeding charts and dutifully fill trays with nutrient rich soil. We provide water and sunlight.
It is then that the magic happens – we watch as the seedlings emerge. Some of them, like onions and leeks are gangly, lean and angular, while others like snapdragons and Matricaria (a member of the Chamomile tribe) are symmetrical and almost glamorous as they dance in their morning or afternoon shower.
I am reminded of the essential living and nonliving components that help our farm thrive: the students and community members who arrive early and stay as long as they can to plant the seeds, the nutrients in the soil, the water that transports the nutrients into the roots of the seedlings, and the sun which beckons our young plants to grow.
It will not be long before the fields are filled with flowers and veggies bending and swaying with the elements as they produce glorious blooms and fruits that fill our hearts and bellies with joy.
These are the magical days of early spring where we dream and hope for a season filled with growth, beauty and joy – I can feel it – can you?
After one of the snowiest winters on record, the promised and long-awaited spring arrived. As the last of the ice and snow melted away in early April, I looked out at the fields and tried to envision what our fifth season would offer.
Every year, the fields wake up and transform – via the help of volunteers and now, our summer farmers – into neat, and colorful rows of vegetables and flowers – but what will this year bring?
As our fifth season begins, I am keenly aware of all of the people who lend a hand at The Farm and I am filled with gratitude for their enthusiastic support! Here are just a few key relationships that I’d like to highlight as our fifth season shifts into high gear:
For farming advice or to get help with soil tillage I know that I can always turn to our friends at Langwater Farm.
All it takes is a quick call up the street to Kevin or Kate O’Dwyer to set up visits from members of their crew to either arrange for some chisel plowing to help maintain soil health, or to lay plastic beds for full season crops like tomatoes and flowers.
It is important to vary the depth of tillage in our fields in order to avoid creating “hard pan” conditions at 6 inches – the depth that our rototiller reaches.
The plastic mulch is laid with a line of drip tape which helps us provide a consistent amount of moisture to crops like tomatoes, peppers, onions, flowers, eggplants, cucumbers, zucchini, and summer squash. These beds have been especially important this summer with the warm and dry conditions we have been experiencing.
Spring is a time of new life, and it is always exciting to welcome the youngest members of our community to The Farm. Since the first season at The Farm, we have worked very closely with Beth Collins at My Brother’s Keeper to distribute our produce via their 84 weekly home deliveries. As our first greens started to come out of Hoophouse #2 this spring, Beth visited us with her son Teddy to chat about how we can continue to grow desirable and delicious vegetables for the clients of My Brother’s Keeper.
Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and pumpkins are some of the most popular veggies, and we look forward to donating them as the season unfolds.
The Farm also serves as a living classroom for faculty and students at Stonehill College. Some of these projects have been growing with us for years – you might remember posts about Father Steve Wilbricht’s grapes for his Sacraments course, and the honeybee project led by Devin Ingersoll (2014) and Jess Lantos (2014).
This spring, a number of students worked on independent research projects with me at The Farm to see projects they had started last summer or during the their sustainable agriculture course in the fall to fruition. They ranged from permaculture gardens at The Farm and on campus to biochar plots, from edible forest gardens to calculating real food in our dining commons, and from studies on soil health to towergardens. The energy that these students bring to their projects at The Farm is inspiring and is what keeps us strong, vibrant, and productive! Here are images from just a few of the projects to give you a sense of the positive energy that the students bring to their work – a key ingredient to their success.
EDIBLE FOREST GARDEN
REAL FOOD – FOOD TRUTH
Another important relationship to highlight is that of our farm as a home to biodiversity – including native pollinators, toads, honeybees from our Best Bees of Boston hive, and our killdeer families. We strive to create a farm that is as an agroecosystem – an ecosystem under sustainable agricultural management that is both an ecosystem unto itself and connected to the surrounding ecosystem. As such, I am always thrilled to see the killdeer come back every year and to watch them produce healthy broods. This year we think our pair is so pleased with our farm as a home that they are having 2 broods – 4 nestlings hatched on May 11th, and there are currently 3 eggs in a row of onions.
Last, but definitely not least, our student and staff volunteers make our farm what it is – one that grows both vegetables and community. Whether we are planting potatoes or delivering seedlings to community or school gardens in Brockton, it is more common than not for our crew to offer up a smile or two as they work.
As we enter our fifth season, I am looking forward to seeing all of the places that these strong and positive relationships can take us!
It has been a productive and delicious fall at The Farm! Thanks to a crew of dedicated volunteers and students studying Sustainable Agriculture and Permaculture our farm is far from sleepy.
Though we do not have as many active projects out in the fields these days, Devin and I can often be found checking on our crops in the hoophouses or walking Zuri on the land.
On October 24th, we hosted the Blessing of Hoophouse #2 to thank the Class of 1964 for their gift, which covered construction costs of the structure. This hoophouse is truly a blessing to us – as it has already allowed us to extend the growing season of crops like cherry tomatoes and currently houses spinach and other hardy greens.
Members of the Class of 1964 were present on October 24th to witness Father Jim Lies’s blessing of the hoophouse and to hear Devin speak about the benefits of structures like hoophouses. We are excited about the addition of this growing structure!
This second hoophouse, measuring 30′ x 48′, dwarfs our original (and still very much beloved 18′ x 48′ hoophouse) offers a nutrient rich floor where we will plant cucumbers and tomatoes earlier that we can in the fields next season. Thus, this structure will help us to make more delicious produce available to our partners for more months of the year!
The fields are still producing a few hearty greens like kale, baby broccoli and carrots, but most of the land has a nice coat of cover crops like hairy vetch and oats to help fix nitrogen and add organic material to the soils, respectively.
One of my favorite crops – High Mowing Mesclun Mix – was still producing flavorful greens in mid-November, which I dressed up with our own carrots and a few chunks of Honey Crisp apples from Brookdale Fruit Farm to create a refreshing salad.
In the hoophouses you can see that a number of crops have already benefited from the slightly warmer temperatures the plastic walls offer.
Though our harvests are lighter, we are keeping busy working on projects like building a herb spiral in our permaculture garden on campus – next to Amesbury in the Senior courts – and planting perennials like pear and peach trees, raspberries and blackberries, and hardy kiwis on campus and at The Farm!
Langwater Farm was kind enough to allow us to take a few field stones from their pile next to their rt. 138 fields for our herb spiral project.
Projects like this are fun because they offer our students the opportunity to work on farm projects on the main campus. It is our hope that this garden will serve to produce vegetables and fruit for our campus community and raise awareness about The Farm and how they can get become (or stay) involved.
The fall/winter is a good time to build growing structures like the herb spirals and is also an excellent time to plan our permaculture gardens and to plant a number of perennials.
We spent some time in November planting Dwarf Chojuro Asian Pear and Dwarf Gala Peach Trees, Auburn Homestead Chestnut Trees, 3 different varieties of Blackberries, Koralle Ligonberries, and Issai Hardy Kiwi from Stark Brothers and Raspberries, Mint, and Jerusalem Artichokes from our partners at Massasoit College on campus…
…at The Farm…
…in our Apple Orchard…
…and in our permaculture garden at The Farm.
Other projects include getting to know our Best Bees bee keepers. Devin and I visited them at their headquarters in Boston to learn how to extract honey and get the inside scoop on their research projects.
We were overjoyed to learn that our bees had been productive enough to share some of their bounty with us!
The results are beautiful and delicious!
We are happy to report that our honey flew of the shelves during a find raiser. We sold 3 oz jars for $10/jar and all of it was purchased within one day of posting an advertisement on our Facebook and sharing an email about the honey with our Stonehill community. We hope to be able to share more of this amber treat with more folks next year.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch – well, Farmhouse – we are cooking up a new program called The Farmhouse Writing Fellows Program. Farmhouse Writing Fellows will be given dedicated writing space on the second floor of the Farmhouse to work on scholarly or pedagogical projects for the semester.
Five Faculty will be joining us this spring: Rachel Hirst, George Piggford, Megan Mitchell, Corey Dolgon, and Candice Smith-Corby. We will be hosting Farmhouse Conversations every other Friday so that our fellows can share a bit about their work with the community. We will share invitations via our weekly “This Week at The Farm” community emails and via our Facebook page and we hope to see you there!
You might be wondering where this mystical farmhouse is located! Don’t worry, we made a sign so that you will be sure to find us!
I knew just the place to create such a sign: my parent’s home in Millerton, NY. First we chose the right piece of cherry, before sketching out the letters, and then used a router to carve out the word and the little shovel icon.
After a few hours of work we had our sign!
Now you can find it hanging at the entrance of our Farmhouse: 411 Washington St.
We look forward to your next visit to see us at The Farm or at The Farmhouse as we chip away at our long list of winter projects and order up seeds for our next growing season – which will start earlier now, thanks to Hoophouse #2!
Sending you warm wishes for a restful and rejuvenating holiday season!
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
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
The other place to pour our energy is into helping our community learn how to compost!
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!?”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It is clearly a magical time of year, when we can spend part of the day harvesting summery crops like Habanero Peppers…
…before moving on to sweet potatoes…
…then pull up black plastic from rows that housed eggplants…
…before finally planting garlic.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
I never cease to be amazed, enthralled, and at times worried by weather patterns that visit us here in New England during the busy growing season. Farmers in our region typically say that hot, dry weather is much more desirable than cool, wet conditions. This is because we can usually get water to the crops that need it the most during dry spells – be it through pressure-fed drip irrigation or, if need be, a hose with a water wand – however, we cannot keep the fields dry when heavy clouds pass through and leave puddles in their wake.
Thus far, our plants have not suffered terribly from the heat or from the rain. In fact, quite the opposite is occurring on our 1.5 acre vegetable and flower farm!
Thanks to hard working summer farmers, Devin, Alphonse, and Jake, our many volunteers and volunteer groups – including individuals participating in Camp Shriver, BostonWise!, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s New England Leadership Conference, an Old Colony YMCA Day Camp: Rise Up!, and students from Whitman-Hanson High School – and our Kubota tractor and Kuhn Rototiller, the plants in our fields are producing beautiful and delicious fruits and flowers!
This year we have harvested over 3,500 pounds of produce thus far – over 1,000 pounds more produce than last year at this time! Crops include 4 varieties of kale, 5 varieties of lettuce, summer squash, 2 varieties of zucchini, 5 varieties of onions, a number of different kinds of tomatoes (over 1,000 plants are growing away), 5 kinds of potatoes, green beans, sugar snap peas, herbs – including basil, cilantro, dill, and parsley, 2 varieties of eggplants, 2 varieties of cucumbers – one day we harvested over 160 pounds of them, and a number of different kinds of root vegetables.
We couldn’t accomplish all of this without the hard work of volunteers who join us each year from groups like the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s New England Leadership Conference.
In addition, some of the successes of our farm are directly related to the generosity of organizations like the Harold Brooks Foundation who provide funding for important farm equipment like our tractor and rototiller.
We are excited to share that this support continues! Just last week, Marie Kelly, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, informed us that we have been awarded a $15,000 grant from The Harold Brooks Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustee for the second year in a row! We are very thankful for this support and plan to utilize these funds to sustainably produce more vegetables in the fields and increase the number of individuals who participate in and benefit from our central mission: to educate about and to address food desert conditions in our region.
Please enjoy some of the colorful images captured in the fields over the past few weeks!
I enjoy arriving at the farm each day a few minutes bit before the crew to walk the fields with Zuri and plan how we will spend the day – harvesting, cultivating (AKA weeding!), or planting seeds of fall successions of vegetables such as cabbage, kale, lettuce, spinach, carrots, or beets.
Once the students are hard at work harvesting the vegetables, I often find myself in the rows of flowers fulfilling orders for bouquets.
Surrounded by Black Eyed Susans, Zinnias, Snapdragons, Salvia, Sweet William, Strawflowers, Love in a Mist, and Sunflowers, I snip long stems and hum along with the bees who are busying themselves collecting nectar – pollinating as they go.
Sometimes the flowers have other exotic looking visitors…
The flowers double as our the sole on farm revenue generator, and also attract beneficial insects and their predators, and fill our fields with a cheerful array of colors.
The fields continue to produce and we zip around like busy bees, attempting to collect and share all of their bounty!
We reap the rewards of the hard work in the fields when we deliver the produce to our partners who often exclaim and smile when they see the diverse and colorful veggies arrive.
We are so very thankful for the opportunity to work with excellent partners at My Brother’s Keeper, The Table at Father Bill’s & MainSpring, The Family Life Center of The Old Colony YMCA, and The Easton Food Pantry, and for the support we receive from volunteers and organizations like The Harold Brooks Foundation to ensure that this work continues!
It doesn’t seem like so long ago that our fields were filled with snow and the brilliant greens of spring seemed improbable, if not impossible.
Thankfully, the seasons always change in New England, and with the warmer days – filled with planting, weeding and harvesting – the ice and snow are now the distant memories!
In the weeks that led up to Commencement, temperatures soared into the 70’s and 80’s, making for some excellent weather to cultivate the crops.
Volunteers of all ages have already pitched in this season to help make for what we believe will be our most productive season yet!
Sometimes they work in pairs…
…go it solo…
…or work as a boisterous and energetic team.
In addition to the human power, our tractor is also responsible for doing some of the heavy lifting. So far, we have used our Kubota L5030 and Kuhn rototiller to turn the fields and make strategic compost deliveries.
We continue to work with Langwater Farm to get help laying black plastic for our full season crops, such as the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, sweet potatoes and the flowers.
At the start and the end to each day, Zuri and I have taken to walking the fields to note our crops’ progress, observe changes of the season and note any issues – such as leaks in the irrigation or insect pressure.
On these walks we make discoveries like our first flower in bloom…
… Bok Choi ready to be harvested …
…and where to harvest the Mesclun Mix on that particular day – as it is planted in a number of places throughout the fields.
All of time that we spend weeding carrots…
…and thinning beets…
…is time well spent, and results in a bountiful harvest that is already starting to appear on the tables of the clients served by our partners: My Brother’s Keeper, The Family Center at The Old Colony YMCA, The Table at Father Bill’s and MainSpring, and The Easton Food Pantry.
While many projects at the farm happen in the good company of volunteers and summer staff, I still find myself with an hour or two most days to work on projects in contemplative solitude. Sometimes I occupy my mind, puzzling over complex issues and projects: How can I improve the irrigation system? How can I manage the moths that are munching on some of the leaves on our apple trees?
Other times I opt to work my body and rest my mind and simply plant! I fall into the blessed rhythm of it all. I bend and bow, stretch and squat, and kneel and crouch – and look back every so often to take note of the beauty of the rows as they fill. It is during these moments when I become awestruck by the fortitude and beauty of the vegetables quietly growing around me. If I listen carefully imagine that I can hear exclaim in joy as they extend their roots into the soil and strecth their stems and leaves to drink in the sun.
Like the farmers that plant them, the seedlings extend their reach, bend to the elements, drink in the sun and rain, and grow.
Zuri and I will walk the fields and continue to report back on all of the activities in our fields that are already springing into Summer!
On Thursday, April 11th, Stephen Siperstein and students in his Nature Writing class joined us at The Farm to partake in the planting of our first row of the 2013 season. We worked together to rake, dig a small trench for the peas, add compost and then plant the peas and kohlrabi seedlings. Before our work began we talked about Thoreau and his close relationship with the land as a farmer and as a steward. Read on to learn more about the class’s experience through Stephen’s eyes.
“The Curious Labor of Planting Peas”
By, Stephen Siperstein
This Thursday, Bridget (and Zuri) welcomed our Nature Writing class to The Farm at Stonehill for an afternoon of planting peas and contemplating Henry David Thoreau. After a quick tour of the farm, we got to work hauling compost, hoeing trenches, and snuggly placing each pea seed in the rich soil.Taking a cue from Thoreau, I went to the farm determined to know peas, but what I discovered was less about peas and more about the farm itself.
Sometimes such unforeseen discoveries comprise the curious labor of teaching. Most people think of Thoreau as the environmental saint who built a cabin on the shore of Walden Pond and conducted an experiment of living simply. Fewer people think of Thoreau as the farmer who during his time at Walden cultivated a bean field of 150 rows (over 24,000 bean plants!), not to mention more rows of potatoes and turnips. Yes, Thoreau was often critical of farmers, but he also loved working with the earth—just as long as such work was not undertaken for profit only but for a greater purpose.
“What shall I learn of beans or beans of me?” Thoreau asks at the beginning of “The Bean-Field” chapter in Walden. What he ultimately discovers is not only that his plot of land is “the connecting link between wild and cultivated fields,” and not only that he should look out for woodchucks. He discovers that the “curious labor” of growing beans can provide joy, self-respect, and deep learning.
As the students and I hoed and sowed, laughed and talked about summer plans, it seemed to me that if he were here, Thoreau would nod in approval at the work being done at our farm. Working with the hands, Thoreau explains, “has a constant and imperishable moral, and to the scholar it yields a classic result.” The Farm at Stonehill is a place of fertile soil, ethical lessons, and intellectual richness, where the land itself provides the connecting link between actions and values, between the work students do with their hands and the work they do with their minds.
Such work is hard, but the rewards of the labor, both in process and in the eventual “fruits” are always worth it… we think Zuri would agree.
The landscape in Easton is still mostly white, grey and brown, but the sunlight of spring is starting to feed us with stronger rays as the days grow longer.
On morning walks with Zuri, the white lab-hound mix who came into my life last June, I catch glimpses of warmer colors as the sun rises on the snow covered fields.
The student farmers have kept the farm a lively part of our college culture through the colder months, ever ready to be called in to help with projects – such as rescuing our snowed-in hoop house – or actively participating in our new seminar in Sustainable Agriculture.
As you can see in the two photos above, seniors Jack Bressor, Lauren Engel and Sean Moran showed their dedication to the farm by effectively removing hundreds of pounds snow from the southern side of the hoop house after the blizzard in early February.
Our students have also been laying the groundwork to increase the amount of “real food” served on campus by attending a training at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD to join a nationwide campaign. Perhaps some of this “real food” will include a few items from The Farm at Stonehill – such as winter squash or greens – this year.
Keep an eye out for events on campus where you can learn more about ways to support a local, sustainable and fair food system on campus and in your community!
For those of you who have driven by the farm recently, you have probably noticed the large trench cutting through our main field perpendicular to Rt 138. Not to worry! This is only a temporary feature that is allowing for water access to a new storage barn for all of the equipment and supplies that Facilities Management maintains.
This trench will be filled back in with care within a few weeks. When we turn the fields for Season 3 in April we will be careful to add extra nutrient rich compost – composed of decomposed organic materials from our dining commons and Clover Valley Stables – to ensure that the health and productivity of these soils is not impacted in any major way.
In our Sustainable Agriculture class we turned the dramatic looking feature into a soil science laboratory (a “teaching moment,” if you will) as we studied soil horizons and learned about the ingredients necessary to create healthy soils.
Jack Bressor and Bryan Tavares co-taught a class with me about soils and asked the class to consider the different features of healthy soils (i.e. sand for drainage, organic material to retain moisture and add vital nutrients) and create a “perfect” seed-starting mix and grow and care for a bean plant.
These students will nurture their bean plants over the next couple of months and hopefully plant them in the fields once the weather warms.
Despite the snowflakes currently falling from the skies, I am comforted by the knowledge that onions and some of our flowers are germinating under lights in the basement of Holy Cross.
If all goes according to plan, these seedlings will be growing with gusto in our fields in a few months’ time.
In other news, our farm dog, Zuri, has enjoyed her first winter immensely – going on adventures, napping with new dog friends or pausing to greet every student or staff member who she meets on campus or in the fields behind the farm!
Our third season has just begun.
Check back from time to time to watch our fields fill with the colors of spring and summer. It will definitely prove to be an adventure as we put our L5030 Kubota tractor and our Kuhn el53-190 Rototiller to work.