Productive Plants Weather New England’s Heat and Rain

photo of sunset

Another beautiful and dramatic summer sun sets on a another full and productive day 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!

photo of summer Straight Neck Summer Squash, Galine Eggplants, and Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes.

Straight Neck Summer Squash, Galine Eggplants, and Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes.

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!

Camp Shriver participants take a break with Zuri after harvesting over 7 pounds of Green Beans for us!

Camp Shriver participants take a break with Zuri after harvesting over 7 pounds of Green Beans for us!

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.

An organic variety of kale called Ripbor is producing well for us this year!

An organic variety of kale called Ripbor is producing well for us this year!

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.

An excellent group of volunteers participating in the New England Leadership Conference helped us weed our winter squash and harvest our first row of potatoes on a day with 95 degree heat - no complaints!

An excellent group of volunteers participating in the New England Leadership Conference helped us weed our winter squash and harvest our first row of potatoes on a day with 95 degree heat – no complaints!

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.

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Please enjoy some of the colorful images captured in the fields over the past few weeks!

photo of A flower on one of our tomato plants - soon to become a sweet, flavorful fruit!

A flower on one of our tomato plants – soon to become a sweet, flavorful fruit!

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photo of An organic plum tomato variety called Granadero is producing beautiful fruit - soon to become red and delicious!

An organic plum tomato variety called Granadero is producing beautiful fruit – soon to become red and delicious!

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.

photo of A beautiful variety of Black Eyed Susan - "Cherry Brandy" - adds a sophisticated flare to the bouquets.

A beautiful variety of Black Eyed Susan – “Cherry Brandy” – adds a sophisticated flare to the 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.

photo of A honeybee makes her approach to a radiant zinnia.

A honeybee makes her approach to a radiant zinnia.

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photo of A honeybee - hard at work!

A honeybee – hard at work!

Sometimes the flowers have other exotic looking visitors…

photo of A dragonfly

A dragonfly takes a rest on one of the zinnias.

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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.

Sweet William - the prettiest smelling perfume in the field!

Sweet William – bearer of the prettiest smelling perfume in the field!

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photo of salvia

Salvia – a honeybee’s heaven on earth!

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.

Fields of plenty - quietly producing!

Fields of plenty – quietly producing!

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!

Long (mostly) Sunny Days Yield Bountiful Fields

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Remove the stinger ASAP.

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

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

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

Honeybee hard at work - beware barefooted farmers!

Honeybee hard at work – beware barefooted farmers!

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

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

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

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

Summer Squash ready for the picking on June 28th.

Summer Squash ready for the picking on June 28th.

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

Jake and Alphonse - on the hunt for Colorado Potato Beetles.

Jake and Alphonse – on the hunt for Colorado Potato Beetles in one of the rows of eggplant.

"Harvested" Colorado Potato Beetles - before they were disposed of.

“Harvested” Colorado Potato Beetles – before they were disposed of.

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

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

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

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

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

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Our youngest volunteer this season, Liam, plays in the compost while mom, Kim Wheeler, works in the fields.

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

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

Alphonse makes sure that Liam doesn’t eat too much compost!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The team takes lunch!

The team takes lunch!

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

Marie helps to hill and feed the potatoes.

Marie helps to hill and feed the potatoes.

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

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

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

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Flower bouquets out for delivery on campus.

Flower bouquets out for delivery on campus.

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

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

Early flower bouquets.

Early flower bouquets.

Springing into Summer

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.

Ben, Ian and Jake Kelly harvest our first radishes!

Ben, Ian and Jake Kelly harvest our first radishes!

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!

Our fields are filling with hundreds of veggie, flower and fruit seedlings.

Our fields are filling with hundreds of veggie, flower and fruit seedlings.

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.

Students help to weed and thin a row of beets.

Students help to weed and thin a row of beets.

thinning beets

Thinning and weeding a row a beets.

Volunteers of all ages have already pitched in this season to help make for what we believe will be our most productive season yet!

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Sometimes they work in pairs…

Andrew and David Rogers plant Snapdragons on Friday, May 17th.

Andrew and David Rogers plant Snapdragons on Friday, May 17th.

…go it solo…

Hunter weeds a row of Hakurei Turnips in the week leading up to his graduation from Stonehill.

Hunter weeds a row of Hakurei Turnips in the week leading up to his graduation from Stonehill.

…or work as a boisterous and energetic team.

A team of Res Life Staff provide invaluable help planting rows and rows of tomato seedlings on May 20th.

A team of staff from Residence Life provide invaluable help planting rows and rows of tomato seedlings on May 20th.

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.

The initial turn of Field #2 on April 22nd.

The initial turn of Field #2 on April 22nd.

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.

Justin of Langwater Farm lays black plastic for some of our crops.

Justin of Langwater Farm lays black plastic.

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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.

Zuri looks on as Killdeer nesting in our fields dart about.

Zuri looks on as Killdeer, attempting to nest in our fields, dart about.

Killdeer like to nest in open fields like our.  Here, a family enjoys a field near San Francisco, CA.

Killdeer like to nest in open fields like our. Here, a family enjoys a field in Ontario, Canada.

On these walks we make discoveries like our first flower in bloom…

Zinnia in bloom on May 22nd.

Zinnia in bloom on May 22nd.

… Bok Choi ready to be harvested …

A variety of Bok Choi called Mei Qing Choi is ready to be picked and delivered!

A variety of Bok Choi called Mei Qing Choi is ready to be picked and delivered!

…and where to harvest the Mesclun Mix on that particular day – as it is planted in a number of places throughout the fields.

Mesclun Mix, washed, dried and about to be packed for our partners at My Brother's Keeper.

Mesclun Mix, washed, dried and about to be packed for our partners at My Brother’s Keeper.

All of time that we spend weeding carrots…

Alphonse Riang, one of three part-time summer farmers weeds a row of carrots.

Alphonse Riang, one of our three summer student farmers, weeds a row of carrots.

…and thinning beets…

Jake Gillis, another essential student farmer, weeds beets.

Jake Gillis, another essential student farmer, weeds 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.

Jake and Alphonse wash and pack greens.

Jake and Alphonse wash and pack greens.

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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?

A Plato Zucchini seedling enjoys it's new home in the field.

A Plato Zucchini seedling enjoys it’s new home in the field.

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.

Sugar Snap Peas climb the trellis.

Sugar Snap Peas climb the trellis carefully constructed by volunteers weeks before.

Like the farmers that plant them, the seedlings extend their reach, bend to the elements, drink in the sun and rain, and grow.

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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!

It’s Always a Party at The Farm

The fields at The Farm have been hopping over the past couple of weeks!

Father Jim Lies, VP for Mission, and a few more volunteers prepare to plant cucumber seeds.

Father Jim Lies, VP for Mission, and a few more volunteers prepare to plant cucumber seeds.

We have been enjoying the start of spring by joining in the fun of the Earth Day Party on the quad, welcoming classes and volunteers to the farm to help plant everything from grapes to onions, and participating in the Mentoring Through Art courses’ end-of-year celebrations.

So many Tomato Seedlings coming along nicely!

So many Tomato Seedlings coming along nicely!

It is exciting to watch the fields and bordering trees fill with all of the pale yellows and greens of early spring.

Evan Sorgi, Tom Bowes and Ryan Zayac, all graduating seniors help to plant lettuce.

Evan Sorgi, Tom Bowes and Ryan Zayac, all graduating seniors, help to plant lettuce.

Our “Farm Fridays” remain popular, and keep me busy putting our energetic volunteers to work!

Catherine, Paige and Lauren plant Bok Choy!

Catherine, Paige and Lauren plant Bok Choy!

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Happy volunteers on a Farm Friday!

Happy volunteers on a Farm Friday plant summer squash, cucumbers and zucchini.

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We have also had the pleasure of participating in events on campus like the Earth Day Party to celebrate sustainability at Stonehill.  Students from the Real Food Stonehill group, a sub-group of a new Provisional SGA Group: “Food Truth”, shared kale chips and carrot bread (made with veggies from Langwater Farm) and Great Blue Hill blue cheese from Marion, MA (donated by Sodexo), and encouraged people to think about why what we eat matters for the health of the planet and for the health of those who grow it and eat it!

Catie Barros and Breanne Penkala (Class of 2015) share "real food" treats.

Catie Barros and Breanne Penkala (Class of 2015) share “real food” treats.

Students from the Real Food group asked their peers to share why they want Real Food…

Why do YOU want Real Food?

Why do YOU want Real Food?

…and asked them to sign a petition supporting the Real Food Challenge.

Real Food Challenge Petition

Real Food Challenge Petition

There were over 20 other groups present working on a number of different sustainability initiative including members of the No To-Go campaign, Meatless Monday, Zipcar, Democratic Education, and many more.

Paige Begley and Jess Mardo (Class of 2013) encourage reuse rather than waste.

Paige Begley and Jess Mardo (Class of 2013), major leaders in the “No To-Go” container initiative, encourage reuse rather than waste.

Many students visited the tables to learn about how to get involved…

Students visit different groups involved in sustainability on campus.

Students visit different groups involved in sustainability on campus.

…and enjoyed music by Dan & The Wildfire.

Dan & The Wildfire bringing the fair to life!

Dan & The Wildfire bringing the fair to life!

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Meanwhile, back on The Farm, Father Steve Wilbricht’s Ecology and Religion class was hard at work planting a vineyard near the Legacy Orchard.

Planting the Vineyard!

Planting the Vineyard!

The students, Father Steve and I dug into the soil, putting up a strong trellis to support the one-day flourishing vines!

Andrew gets ready to secure one of the posts for the trellis.

Andrew gets ready to secure one of the posts for the trellis.

In time, it is our hope that these vines will produce grapes and serve as a sweet teaching and learning tool, connecting ecology and a multitude of traditions.

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Over the past week we have also become the lucky recipients of a beautiful mural, created by the Mentoring Through Art Learning Community under the tutelage of Professors Adam Lampton and Ed Jacoubs.

The backdrop for the mural.

A magnificent tree serves as the backdrop for the mural.

With the help of students in the class and some middle school kids from partnering schools in Brockton, a bright and cheerful mural has been created and now hangs on display on the shed at The Farm.

Final product!

Final product!

At the class’s final celebration on Tuesday, April 30th, the class that created the mural was joined by Professor Robertson’s class – mentoring with movement..

Stonehill students dance with their mentees during their final celebration at The Farm.

Stonehill students dance with their mentees during their final celebration at The Farm.

and Professor Walter’s class, which created cheerful signs to label our plants in the fields.

Professor Walter's class poses with Zuri in front of Professor Lampton's class's mural!

Professor Walter’s class poses with Zuri in front of Professor Lampton’s class’s mural!

As you can see, it’s always a party at The Farm…

…and Season 2013 has only just begun!

A crew plants onions. We can't wait to see them grow.

A crew plants onions. We can’t wait to see them grow.

Taking The Farm To Vermont – for the Weekend!

04.24.2013 · Posted in Spring 2013, The Farm at Stonehill

Every once and awhile it is important to leave the farm to see what other farmers are producing and how they go about doing it!  On the weekend of April 13th, Zuri and I took 8 students up to the beautiful state of Vermont to do just that.

photo of students in a field in VT

Michael, Paige, Catherine, Pat, Cam, Lauren, Jack and Jess with Zuri.

We traveled to Montpelier, the state’s capital, where we were warmly welcomed by Jack’s parents and quickly introduced to the generous hospitality of this small and strong state where local and enticing goods are produced, marketed, consumed, treasured and enjoyed.

Montpelier: our homebase.

Montpelier: our home base for the weekend.

Early April equals the “Mud Season” in VT and much of New England, but that doesn’t keep hardy Vermonters (and weekend guests) from walking in the woods.

Jack and Cam point out the beauties of Mud Season: Open to People - Closed to Cars!

Jack and Cam point out the beauties of Mud Season: Open to People – Closed to Cars!

Over the course of the next couple of days we visited a number of businesses, such as:

Ben and Jerry’s

We prepare to learn all about sustainability at Ben and Jerry's.. yum!

At Ben and Jerry’s we learned all about their commitment to sustainability and how they work to keep true to their roots despite Unilever’s takeover in 2001.

Cabot Cheese …

Visiting Cabot Cheese for a tasting we learned about the recent logo change to reflect the fact that the milk comes from New England and New York - not just Vermont!

Visiting Cabot Cheese for a tasting we learned about the recent logo change to reflect the fact that the milk comes from New England and New York – not just Vermont!

Cold Hollow Cider Mill…

Checking out Cold Hollow Cider Mill, where the fields were filled with solar panels!

Checking out Cold Hollow Cider Mill, where the fields were filled with solar panels and the Cider Mill store sells a wide array of products made in VT to attract business and be economically sustainable.

…where Paige found a tractor to test drive…

Paige, hard at work.

Paige, hard at work.

…before we headed up to Hardwick to visit Highfields Composting and Claire’s Restaurant.

We took in the scene - lots of compost in windrows - at Highfields Composting.

We took in the scene – lots of compost in windrows breaking down – at Highfields Composting.

Catherine and the class enjoyed an informative conversation with one of the managers of this Farm to Table cafe in Hartwick, VT.

Catherine and the class enjoyed an informative conversation with one of the managers of Claire’s Restaurant.

Our first day was filled with many planned and unplanned lessons on the many ways to be environmentally and economically sustainable and the related challenges. On our drive, we saw fields filled with solar panels and a biodiesel station. Cam Hill reflects on the solar fields here:

While driving through Vermont there were numerous solar fields visible from the roadside. These ranged from small solar panels on the roofs of houses to much larger solar fields of free standing solar panels. Vermont has a commercial production of 8.8 million watts through solar fields, which currently provides 18% of all electricity used in Vermont. The numerous solar fields are due to Vermont’s numerous state programs that incentivize the installation of solar panels through different state programs. For example, a 100% sales tax exemption on renewable energy systems, a 100% property tax exemption for photovoltaics of 10kW or less and a business energy conservation loan program up to $150,000. All these different state level incentives, coupled with an environmentally aware populace have created a situation where it is very beneficial to install renewable energy systems.

Green Mountain Solar

At the cider mill, we learned that the solar panels out in the field nearby are owned by Green Mountain Solar. A woman working at the mill informed us that energy they harness feeds back into the grid and is utilized throughout the area.

 

On our way back to Montpelier for the night, we stopped off at a covered bridge to take a walk and enjoy the cool, spring weather.

We pause to check out a sleepy railroad covered bridge on the way back from Hartwick.

We pause to check out a sleepy covered bridge on the way back from Hardwick.

The next morning we started the day with a visit to Vermont Compost. It was incredible to see how this operation – that produces the “Fort Vee” mix which we start all of our seeds in at our Farm at Stonehill – works.  Upon our arrival, our guide took us right into the center of the operation where we were quickly surrounded by steaming piles of nutrient rich piles of organic material.

Some of the components of the compost - chipped wood.

Some of the components of the compost – chipped wood.

The chickens and two working German Shepherds were clearly important components of this operation – as well as bulldozers that run on biodiesel, thermometer gauges, screens to sift the soil, and important soil amendments like sphagnum, kelp, and mica.

Note the chickens doing their part at Vermont Compost in the background.

Note the chickens doing their part at Vermont Compost in the background.

We made a quick stop at Morse Maple Farm Sugarworks where we learned about how the syrup is made by boiling down gallons upon gallons of sap from the Sugar Maple trees.

Checking out the process of boiling down the sap in the sugar house.

Checking out the process of boiling down the sap in the sugar house.

Our last stop of the trip was at Fable Farm in Barnad, VT.  A good friend of mine, Chris Piana and his brother started this community focused farm a couple of years ago.

Chris Piana, one of the founders of Fable Farm, and most of our group pose with one of the farm's beautiful old trees.

Chris Piana, one of the founders of Fable Farm, and most of our group pose with one of the farm’s beautiful old trees.

Paige shares a bit about our time with Chris here:

Fable Farm is a CSA Organic Farming Project situated in Barnard, Vermont. At Fable, we talked to Chris and learned about their community partnerships and support and the farm’s commitment to growing healthy, local produce. Though many of the fields we saw were covered in snow, the promise of produce was near. Because of their relationships with Barnard community members, Fable Farm has been able to expand their growing area and now have plots in many places across the town. Chris and Fable Farm are a constant reminder that the promise to live a sustainable, organic lifestyle is attainable with support, dedication and passion. As Chris shared with our class, he does what he loves, and sees farming as a lifestyle, not an occupation.

Enjoying the field at Fable Farm.

Enjoying the field at Fable Farm.

Many thanks to our hosts for a fun and informative weekend in a beautiful state.  It was a wonderful weekend away, made possible in part by funding from Stonehill’s Green Fund.

We learned a number of sustainable farming techniques that we look forward to employing at our farm this season! 

5 members of our Sustainable Ag class: Cam Hill, Jack Bressor, Pat Cabral, Paige Begley and Jess Mardo.

5 members of our Sustainable Ag class: Cam Hill, Jack Bressor, Pat Cabral, Paige Begley and Jess Mardo.

 

 

Guest Post: The Curious Labor of Planting Peas

 

By Stephen Siperstein

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

photo of starting the project

Readying to plant the peas in the small trench with our rich compost and kholrabi (seedling in the tray) along the edges of the bed.

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.

photo of bed prep

Finishing up bed prep for our pea seeds and kholrabi seedlings.

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.

photo of Craig and Michelle

Craig and Michelle work together to plant peas.

“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.

photo of first row planted

Our first row: a polyculture of Sugar Snap Peas and Kholrabi.

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.

Zuri after a long day in the fields - already dreaming about tomorrow at the farm.

Zuri after a long day in the fields – already dreaming about tomorrow at the farm.

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.

 

 

It’s Time to Farm!

photo of volunteers

How much do we love Farm Fridays?

It’s time to get to the Farm!

In class, during volunteer hours, or just on a whim, students are starting to arrive at the farm to help plant the seeds of our 2013 Season.

On Friday, April 5th, over 20 students joined me and Zuri to help ready the fields and plant seeds.  We transplanted flowers and prepared a row in the field for Sugar Snap Peas.

photo of Breanne and Sara

Sara and Breanne transplant Statice seedlings in the hoophouse during Farm Friday volunteer hours.

With many willing workers we accomplished a wide array of tasks in a few short and sun-filled hours.

photo of the pea trellis project

Putting up the trellis for the Sugar Snap Peas!

After the flowers were transplanted we moved them over to the heated greenhouse at Shields to ensure a nurturing home to help boost their growth and allow some of them (hoping for the purple zinnias) to possibly bloom by graduation!

photo of seedlings in greenhouse

Zinnia, Statice, Black-eyed Susan, Bok Choi, and Chard seedlings enjoy the warmth of the sun in the greenhouse in Shields.

Some of the heat loving seedlings are enjoying this sauna of sorts, while others that prefer the cooler temperatures, such as lettuce, onions and kohlrabi, are happy to be in our hoophouse at The Farm.

photo of greens in hoophouse

Onions, Kolhrabi and Lettuce seedlings in our hoophouse awaiting their day to be planted in the fields.

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In other news, Gabby Gobiel (2015) is taking our farm to the international stage as she explores vineyards and farms and studies sustainable food systems in Italy this semester!  We are excited to welcome her back this summer and learn how we can integrates ideas she has developed abroad into our own farming practices.

photo of Gabby in italy

Farmer Gabby Gobiel explores vineyards in Italy!

 

Sewing the Seeds of Season III

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.

photo of late winter morning sun

Stronger sun rays are starting to shine on the late winter snow at morning light.

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.

Photo of the apple orchard in the winter

Our Apple Orchard drinks in the sun and rests under a blanket of snow.

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.

photo of snowed in hoop house

Snowed in hoop house – but not for long!

photo of rescued hoop house

Success!

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.

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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.

photo of students who attended the real food challenge summit

Breanne Penkala, Andrew Curran, Sean Davenport, Catie Barros and Christine Moodie – all members of the Class of 2015 and former Food Politics students – are just a few of the students who want more real food at Stonehill.

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!

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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.

photo of trench at the farm

Trench for a water line – facing west.

 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.

photo of trench at the farm facing east

Trench for water line – facing east.

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.

photo of our soil horizon

Jack points out our the A and B layers in our soil profile.

 

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.

photo of soil components

Bryan and Jack provide the class with components of healthy soils (vermiculite, stone dust, 2 kinds of compost, and loam) for growing healthy veggies.

 These students will nurture their bean plants over the next couple of months and hopefully plant them in the fields once the weather warms.

photo of making potting mix

Sean, Melissa, Molly, Pat, Tom, Ryan, Michelle and Bryan create their perfect potting mix to give their been seeds a healthy start.

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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.

photo of germinating walla walla onions

Sweet Walla Walla Onions successfully germinating!

If all goes according to plan, these seedlings will be growing with gusto in our fields in a few months’ time.

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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!

photo of zuri and harken walking on the pond

Zuri enjoys a stroll with her airedale buddy, Harken.

 

photo of Zuri resting with Bailey

Zuri and Bailey rest together after a wild walk in the winter woods.

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.

Generosity Fuels The Farm

As the fall arrives, we are filled with thanks for all of the help we receive via the hands of volunteers and donations from foundations or individuals to make the farm a warm, inviting, productive, and restorative space.

photo of volunteers

Jess and a number of volunteers help weed the carrots, which we plan to harvest in October. Photo by Burke Oppenheim

This a wonderful time of the year at the farm, as we harvest a wide variety of veggies including green beans, pumpkins, peppers, onions, basil, tomatoes, turnips, butternut squash and eggplant, as we weed crops like carrots, and as we plant fall greens, like lettuce and kale.

photo of volunteer board

Volunteer tasks on September 7, 2012.

“Farm Friday” volunteer hours have been busy and festive as 20 to 30 students appear and happily get to work.  Thank you volunteers!  We look forward to seeing new and returning farmers every week.

photo of students harvesting

Jess and Lauren pick beans as other students harvest butternut squash and pumpkins.

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This  summer we were delighted to receive generous support from the the Harold Brooks Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustee.  This $15,000 grant will support our operation and help us involve more students, grow more vegetables for our partners, and increase awareness around food desert and food access issues in our nearby communities.

“The Harold Brooks Foundation provides assistance to causes/organizations that help the largest possible number of residents of Massachusetts’ South Shore communities, especially those that support the basic human needs of South Shore residents. The Foundation supports nonprofit organizations that have the greatest impact on improving the human condition and/or that provide the neediest South Shore residents with “tools” that will help them restore their lives. The Foundation focuses on five key areas: Education; Food, Agriculture, & Nutrition; Health; Housing & Shelter; and Mental Health.”

We are so thankful for this gift and look forward to sharing how these funds support our efforts through this blog and in person when we visit with our donors!

photo of Joey and a pumpkin

Joey harvests a Tom Fox pumpkin, which will surely bring a smile to the faces of our partners’ clients.

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This summer we also received a thoughtful and generous gift from David Miller, General Manager of Dining Services here at Stonehill.  He and co-workers of his father donated funds for a space for reflection in loving memory of his wife, Tina Miller.  The words “strength” and “courage”, engraved on 2 of the 3 benches, were chosen by David and his daughters because of the strength and courage that Tina displayed as she lived with and battled breast cancer for three years.  She never let the cancer define her or how she lived her life.

photo of loving memory bench

One of three benches donated in loving memory of Tina Miller at The Farm.

We will be planting blueberry bushes in this area within the next few months, as Tina enjoyed going blueberry picking each year.

photo of courage bench

Courage: as we support all who face cancer and other challenges in our lives.

We at the farm feel privileged to serve as a space for good works and quiet reflection and celebration of all components of our environment. Thank you to David Miller for choosing us as a space where Tina’s life can me honored!

photo of strength bench

We all need a place to restore our strength, and hope that many will use these benches as a place to do so!

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three benches photo

All three benches, soon to be planted with blueberry bushes.

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These granite benches were quarried in Vermont and purchased through Swenson Granite Works.  They were engraved with precision and care by Michael Cedrone.

photo of Michael engraving

Michael Cedrone works on the “Gift of the Class of 2011” bench located at the meditation garden.

It was fun to have the opportunity to watch Michael at his craft.  He engraved the bench given by the Class of 2011 in the Meditation Garden (above) and the benches to honor the life of Tina Miller.

photo of Michael working

Michael performs the finishing touches on one of the engraved ribbons.

Zuri enjoyed watching Michael at his craft (and chewing on a nearby stick) as well!

photo of michael's work

Zuri keeps Michael company as he works on the benches.

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photo of tina miller bench

A beautiful bench for all to enjoy.

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Many thanks to all of our generous farm supporters!

We welcome you to visit anytime and enjoy the farm as we grow together.

 

Beautiful Summer Bounty!

Hard working summer farmers, volunteers, and  warm summer days have helped us grow delicious and plentiful vegetables and herbs for our partners. We thought you would enjoy a few images of this season’s bounty.

photo of black krim tomato

A delicious Black Krim Tomato.

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photo of harvest cortland onions

Hundreds of Cortland Onions curing in the greenhouse.

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photo of butternut squash

Sweet Waltham Butternut Squash.

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photo of delicata squash

Delicious Delicata Squash… ready to be sauteed and devoured!

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photo rows of tomatoes

Hundreds of feet of tomato plants producing flavorful, sweet tomatoes.

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photo of a smiling Black Krim tomtato

This smirking Black Krim Tomato made all of us smile.

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photo of tomatoes on the vine

Big Beef Tomatoes ready for the picking!

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photo of eggplant in the field

A Galine Globe Eggplant ready to be harvested.

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photo of redwing onions

Stunning Redwing Onions.

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photo of volunteers

Volunteers bring in some of the pumpkins on August 31, 2012.

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photo of Gabby, Greg and Bryan

Gabby, Greg and Bryan bring in pumpkins.. smiling all the way!

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photo of Baby Pam pumpkins

Baby Pam Pumpkins – perfect for pumpkin pie or a nice curry dish – curing in the greenhouse.

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photo of truck with veggies for a delivery

Off to the Easton Food Pantry and My Brother’s Keeper!