This Week at The Farm 7.14.17

07.14.2017 · Posted in The Farm at Stonehill

This Week at The Farm…

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Alex, Jackie, Gianna and Brian packing up bags of produce for Mobile Market clientele.

At The Farm:

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Camp Shriver participants help Alex harvest pickling cucumbers.

We were excited to spend time with Camp Shriver – planting sunflowers at their base camp on Monday and then hosting 1 of 4 groups on Thursday to tour the Farm and pick cucumbers and cherry tomatoes.

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Harvesting our cukes rain or shine with Camp Shriver.

The rain is helping our veggies grow – when the sun returns we know we will be running to keep up with the plants!

In the Community:

Due to stormy conditions, we created mixed (and bursting) $10 veggie bags for Mobile Market clientele instead of hosting a market.  Our partner, Alexandra then distributed them to patients both market locations. We will be at 1380 Main St next week from 3-4:30.

Hope Weaver, Class of 2018, updated our Brockton Community Garden Map. It now shows active sites, what is growing and which sites welcome volunteers.

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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

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 Volunteer Hours:

TODAY (Friday) from 3-5pm

  ~~~

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.

Summer 2017 is Here!

07.07.2017 · Posted in The Farm at Stonehill

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Flowers abound!

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.

 

 

 

 

This Week at The Farm 10-14-16

10.14.2016 · Posted in The Farm at Stonehill

This Week at The Farm…

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At The Farm…

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A view of The Farm from the Tine Miller Meditation Area – greens in the foreground, tilled fields planted with cover crops beyond.
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The Farm at Stonehill was recently featured in an article called “Watering Brockton’s Food Desert” by Ross Muscato in Fiorente Health Desk.

https://www.fiorente.tv/watering-brocktons-food-desert/

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It is a busy time at The Farm as we continue to harvest and deliver our greens to our community partners and prep the rest of the fields for a long, rejuvenating winter’s nap.

We are still harvesting cherry tomatoes in the hoophouse, but will be replacing those prolific plants with winter hardy spinach over the next couple of weeks.

In the fields we are rolling up our irrigation equipment and getting ready to plant garlic and mulch some freshly planted June-bearing strawberries.
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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.

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.

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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!

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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.

Veggies, Sunflowers, Campers and More…

07.14.2016 · Posted in The Farm at Stonehill

This Week at The Farm…

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Sunflowers – as far as the eye can see… it’s summertime!

At The Farm…

We are harvesting scallions, zucchini, 3 varieties of summer squash, 2 varieties of cucumbers, 2 varieties of eggplant, cherry tomatoes (from the hoophouse), basil, 4 varieties of lettuce, pac choi, new potatoes, and garlic.

We are hosting campers from Camp Shriver who are learning about compost and healthy soils.

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Evan enjoyed picking, smelling and tasting a wide variety of herbs – including mint, lemon balm, oregano and sage when he visited with his group from Camp Shriver.

We hosted about 90 science focused high school students from Brockton High School who were interested in learning more about Stonehill, our farm, and what we do.

We are so thankful for our hard working volunteers who have been putting in full days with us this week: Patrick Cahill, Celia Dolan, John Dunn, and Sara Morris – and on Fridays: Brett Smith, Danny Haffel and Vivian Senatore.

In the Community…

We are delivering our bounty to our 4 community partners and also making it available for purchase through the Mobile Market at The Brockton Neighborhood Health Center (BNHC) and The Family Center on Wednesday afternoons.

Mobile Market locations have been chosen to make our produce more available to individuals who lack access to fresh, affordable produce.  Prices are set low to increase access (ex. 50 cents per cucumber or squash) and all sales are deposited into an account that allows us to continue to run the mobile market.  Patients at BNHC will soon be provided with veggie vouchers that they can use to “buy” vegetables through a grant given to BNHC from Project Bread.  The Mobile Market is exciting, as it is serving as just one more way to distribute our organically grown produce to those who need it most.

VOLUNTEER HOURS
Please contact us if you are interested in volunteering this week: bmeigs@stonehill.edu

Jumping Through June! – Weekly Update

06.23.2016 · Posted in Summer 2016

This Week at The Farm…

 

 

The cherry tomato seedlings in the hoophouse are taller than Emily and Michelle!

The cherry tomato seedlings in the hoophouse are taller than Emily and Michelle!

At The Farm…

 

We are mulching squash and tomato beds and weeding garlic and other crops.

 

We are planting the last of our seedlings (pumpkins and butternut squash) and beans.

Planting Provider Bush Beans on June 23, 2016.

Planting Provider Bush Beans on June 23, 2016.

 

We are enjoying our new picnic table made from lumber saved from a Cypress tree that came down up near Donahue Hall last year.

 

We are welcoming our partners at the David Jon Louison Family Life Center of the Old Colony YMCA into the fields on Friday morning.

 

We are harvesting zucchini, summer squash, bunching onions, basil, Kaboku cabbage, bok choy, lettuce, kohlrabi, kale, chard, beets, sugar snap peas, and our first cucumbers from the hoophouse.

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So many greens! Emily and Katie wash and pack our veggies for our partners.

 

In the Community…

 

We are donating these veggies to our partners and offering them and a couple of additions from Langwater Farm (red bunching onions and beets – purchased through a grant from the Vela Foundation) at the Mobile Market.

 

We hosted our second Mobile Market day at the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center (63 Main St. from 3:30pm – 4:45pm) and the Trinity Baptist Church Parking lot  (1367 Main St. from 5:00pm – 6:30pm).  It was a great success!

Flowers are exploding - loving the sun and our drip irrigation.

Flowers are exploding – loving the sun and our drip irrigation.

 

Mobile Market and More – weekly update

06.16.2016 · Posted in The Farm at Stonehill

This Week at The Farm…

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MOBILE MARKET BEGINS

We launched our Mobile Markets on June 15th at The Brockton Neighborhood Health Center (63 Main St) and the Family Center/Trinity Baptist Church parking lot (1637 Main St)!

Melissa Mardo (Market Intern), Angela Beyer (Market Manager), Tim Watts and other volunteers enjoyed a successful first market day – selling lots of greens, kohlrabi, beets, herbs, chard and a few guest veggies from Langwater Farm (spring onions and turnips).

We will continue to donate veggies to our 4 main community partners and one additional crate of seasonal goodness each week to the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center for their cooking classes at their Pleasant St. location.

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AT THE FARM

We are harvesting lots of greens and watching as our first zucchini and sugar snap peas appear in the fields.

We are taking care of our potato plants by controlling those Colorado Potato Beetles (squish!).

We are planting melons and winter squash.

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FLOWERS and SEEDLINGS

Flower Bouquets are available:

Small (10-15 stems) $5, Medium (20-25 stems) $10, and Large (35-40 stems) $15

…or another size that works best for you!

This year you can place your order via Marketplace or by sending an email to

 

bmeigs@stonehill.edu

https://secure.touchnet.net/C21449_ustores/web/index.jsp?clearPreview=true

DO YOU NEED SEEDLINGS? IF SO, PLEASE COME TO THE FARM – WE HAVE SOME FOR YOU FOR FREE (OR A DONATION IF YOU INSIST!) – OR THEY WILL MOVE ON TO OUR COMPOST PILE SHORTLY.

VOLUNTEER HOURS

Stay tuned for another email with this information for this week! Please feel free to visit anytime!

 

 

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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.
 

Five Years and Growing Strong

02.08.2016 · Posted in Winter 2016

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!

 

Season Five Arrives – Our Community Thrives!

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.

Zuri enjoys a sunny spring day at The Farm on April 15th - the fields finally in view after feet of snow melt away.

Zuri enjoys a sunny spring day at The Farm on April 15th – the fields finally in view after feet of snow melt away.

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?

Tulips brightened up The Farm early on as we await the reds of tomatoes, the yellows of summer squash, and the deep green of cucumbers.

Tulips brightened up The Farm early on as we await the reds of tomatoes, the yellows of summer squash, and the deep green of cucumbers.

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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.

Jim Lawrence from Langwater Farm chisel plows our field on April 23rd.

Jim Lawrence from Langwater Farm chisel plows our field on April 23rd.

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 tines of the Chisel Plow go down about 12-14 inches.

The tines of the Chisel Plow go down about 12-14 inches.

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.

Justin Clark of Langwater Farm works with me on May 4th to lay out plastic mulch beds.

Justin Clark of Langwater Farm works with me on May 4th to lay out plastic mulch beds.

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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.

Beth and Teddy Collins visit The Farm on April 28th to discuss production and delivery goals for the season.

Beth and Teddy Collins visit The Farm on April 28th to discuss production and delivery goals for the season.

Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and pumpkins are some of the most popular veggies, and we look forward to donating them as the season unfolds.

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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).

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Father Steve Wilbricht visits on May 20th to prune and feed his Concord and Niagara grapes.

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Our bees survived the winter and are more productive than ever!

Our bees survived the winter and are more productive than ever! The folks from Best Bees of Boston visit us monthly to give us updates on their productivity and health.

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.

PERMACULTURE

Christine Moodie (2015) and Zuri planting strawberries in the on campus permacutlure garden near Amesbury.

Christine Moodie (2015) and Zuri planting strawberries in the on campus permacutlure garden near Amesbury.

Christine plants Garden of Eden Pole Beans in a Three Sisters Plot in the permaculture garden at The Farm.

Christine plants Garden of Eden Pole Beans in a Three Sisters Plot in the permaculture garden at The Farm.

BIOCHAR

Colin Walker (2015) (left) gets a hand from Melissa Mardo (2017) setting up his biochar test plots.

Colin Walker (2015) (left) gets a hand from Melissa Mardo (2017) setting up his biochar test plots.

EDIBLE FOREST GARDEN

Hayley Bibaud (2017) plants a peach tree in the edible forest garden she created in the northeast corner of The Farm.

Hayley Bibaud (2017) plants a peach tree in the edible forest garden she created in the northeast corner of The Farm.

TOWER GARDEN

e and a towergarden

Ellen Edgerton (2017) and Abby Bongaarts (2015) offer a smoothie making workshop at in the Atrium at Shields with kale produced on the Tower Garden.

REAL FOOD – FOOD TRUTH

Melissa Mardo (2017), also serving as a summer farmer this season, started to calculate how much Real Food (local, sustainably, fairly traded or humanely raised) food Stonehill currently purchases (second from right in the back row).

Melissa Mardo (2017), also serving as a summer farmer this season, started to calculate how much Real Food (local, sustainably, fairly traded or humanely raised) food Stonehill currently purchases (second from right in the back row).

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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.

A killdeer parent actively protects her eggs in early May.

A killdeer parent actively protects her eggs in early May.

Happy bees - hard at work on

Happy bees – hard at work on May 6th.

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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.

Anna Tallmadge (2015) helps to hoe a row for potatoes on May 1st.

Anna Tallmadge (2015) helps to hoe a row for potatoes on May 1st.

Devin preps a few trays of seedlings to support some community gardens in Broctkon.

Devin preps a few trays of seedlings to support some community gardens in Broctkon.

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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!

The fields are filling up with seedlings! Chris Landfield, one of our summer farmers, pauses to take it in with me after staking a couple of rows of sugar snap peas on May 27th.

The fields are filling up with seedlings! Chris Landfield (2016), one of our summer farmers, pauses to take it in with me after staking a couple of rows of sugar snap peas on May 27th.

~~~

Three new born killdeer chicks start out life at The Farm at Stonehill.

Three newly hatched Killdeer chicks start out life at The Farm at Stonehill.

Heirloom (and Spring) Fever

02.24.2015 · Posted in The Farm at Stonehill

The fields at The Farm on February 19th.

The fields at The Farm on February 19th.

Guest Post: Devin Ingersoll, Farm Outreach Coordinator

As the snow continues to fall, the Farm staff and volunteers are getting rather antsy to start planting. This Friday we are hoping to start our first trays of flowers and even plant lettuce directly into the soil of our new hoophouse! Even though it is much too cold outside, we have been very busy ordering seeds, planning our crop rotation, and shoveling the sides of the hoop houses after each storm so that they don’t collapse under all the weight of this snow.

Zuri and I inspect the sides of the hoophouse after a light snowfall.

Zuri and I inspect the sides of the hoophouse after a light snowfall.

As we order seeds, we choose heirloom organic seeds to plant whenever cost allows.   Seed selection is critical to success come harvest time, and as farmers we can also play a role in investing in diverse and organic varieties.  There are hundreds of varieties out there but some are more important in terms of diversity and sustainability than others.  We aim to sow seeds that increase genetic diversity and the health of our soil.

Farm Fields, June of 2014

Farm Fields, June of 2014

Our ancestors were intimately tied to the landscape around them because it was the difference between life and death. If a field or crop failed, it meant drastic changes in diet for the upcoming winter. Every year seeds were planted, cared for, and the mature vegetable/fruit harvested for consumption. Before the age of seed catalogs or supermarkets, farmers themselves selected their best plants for seed the next year. For hundreds of years, this artificial selection led to thousands of varieties (strains) of crops being grown all across the world. Each variety with traits specific to the micro-climate of the region it was grown in. The best varieties were passed down from generation to generation, increasing the genetic pool and biodiversity even further.

As industrialization swept the nation in the early 20th century, the farm landscape in America began to drastically change. Farmers began to operate under the mantra of “get big or get out”. Farms increased in size and farmers decreased in number. The larger seed companies began to sell new hybrid varieties developed through cutting edge research. Hybrids are a cross between two related but distinct varieties chosen for a particular trait like durability, or disease resistance. If a farmer plants a seed from a hybrid, the resulting plants will actually look like the parent generation with only one of the two desired traits the hybrid offers – meaning a farmer cannot save the seed from a hybrid for the next growing season and expect it to look or taste exactly like that year’s harvest.  Instead, farmers must purchase the hybrid seed from the large seed companies to keep growing plants with both desired traits.

New England Sugar Pie Pumpkins - one of the Heirloom, Non-GMO, Organic seeds that we purchase from High Mowing Organic Seed Company.

New England Sugar Pie Pumpkins – one of the Heirloom, Non-GMO, Organic seeds that we purchase from High Mowing Organic Seed Company.

It became less and less likely to find the open-pollinated varieties that could be saved from season to season in seed catalogs or in farmer fields. Home gardeners did still use open pollinated varieties and selected for traits the farmer did not value; these open-pollinated seeds, saved beginning prior to 1940, are termed “heirlooms”.

As the small seed companies consolidated in the 20th century, many varieties of seed ceased to exist. For instance in the 1800’s farmers in the US cultivated 7,100 distinctly named varieties of apples, today 6,800 of these are extinct. Heirloom vegetables perform one major function for the human race. These heirlooms preserve genetic diversity, therefore adding to biodiversity in the region.

Jack Harland, a respected scientist, explained that crop diversity is a “genetic resource that stands between us and catastrophic starvation on a scale we cannot imagine.” Here at The Farm at Stonehill, we aim to preserve the genetic diversity of our heritage by growing heirloom varieties and saving seed to plant the coming year.   As climate change begins to negatively impact the environment around us, the genetic diversity stored in seeds may again mean the difference between life and death. A farmer suffering from droughts due to climate change may still be able to put food on the table by planting just one of the thousands of potato varieties available. However, if humans do not grow, save, and grow again all of the genetically diverse cultivars, we are gambling with the future of the ecosystem that supports us, and our own survival.

That is why The Farm at Stonehill aims to grow as many heirloom varieties as possible given the amount of land and resources we have. Just some of the organic heirloom varieties we grow to distribute to our four community partners are pictured below.

 

brandywine tomato

Brandywine Tomato: An Amish heirloom dating back to 1885 and is generally considered the world’s best tasting tomato.

Red Acre Cabbage

Red Acre Cabbage: Along the Mediterranean coastline wild cabbage grows rampant. Red Acre was introduced to the US sometime before the 1930s and is sold by the Hudson Valley Seed Library.

 

Dino/Lacinato Kale: Originating in the 18th century from the Tuscany region of Italy, it was commercially introduced to the US in the 1980s by Renee Shepard.

Dino/Lacinato Kale: Originating in the 18th century from the Tuscany region of Italy, it was commercially introduced to the US in the 1980s by Renee Shepard.

 

 

Watch below a great Ted talk on the importance of genetic diversity and the biggest seed vault in the world:

 

Information on heirloom variety history taken from resources below:

http://www.victoryseeds.com/kale_lacinato.html

http://www.webgrower.com/information/case_for_heirlooms.html