The holidays have come and gone and, after a very successful 2017, where we saw production increase to over 80,000 pounds, we now reflect and set a course for our next season. Winter is the season for planning. How do we achieve these results again or, better yet, how do we continue to grow more food, engage with volunteers, and better steward our land?
Articles tagged with: Tales From the Farm
As the growing season starts to wind down, I start to get excited about the winter months and the planning process for next year’s growing season. I can’t help myself. As a farmer, it is so ingrained to always be thinking two days, two weeks, even two months ahead at any moment. But on days like today, I try to focus on the present and the perfect light on a fall day here in Concord.
“Those are carrots. Reindeers eat carrots.” —A 4 year-old talking to her friend at the Head Start market
“The market is an opportunity to see all the colors, all the vegetables. Kids feel important when they shop.” —Teacher at Head Start in Lowell
“We’ve tried new vegetables, and I’m learning how to cook.” and “This market helps a lot, so as a family we ate more nutritious meals. Please come back!” —Parents from Head Start
A shark has to keep moving in order to survive. Without the constant stream of water, they suffocate and die. Likewise, millennials share a common inability to be at rest. We are a group of five Acton-Boxborough high school seniors who choose to farm, instead of occupying our minds with daytime television and outdated sitcoms. We call ourselves SHARK.
Hard to express in a few words, my experience at Gaining Ground has meant growth, empowerment, challenge, and fulfillment. It’s also been sweaty. I came into this season with very little farming knowledge. For many years now, I have studied plants—how to identify them, draw them, understand their biology. I have spent many countless hours watching and taking pleasure in plants, yet I didn’t really know anything about growing them effectively and felt clueless coming onto the field.
One of the joys of farming is that each season is a fresh start, bringing new challenges and new successes. Until you are in it, you never know how it will go. Farming forces you to be present, to live in the now and depend on the elements. You can plan as much as possible, but it is the day to day that really affects the season.
Farm Team is a program within Gaining Ground that brings together local high school-aged kids who have a genuine passion for being outside and getting their hands dirty. We hope to assist the farmers with the greatest amount of work possible. This means heading out to the farm every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 am to noon, rain or shine, throughout the summer.
Throughout my two visits to Gaining Ground, I have learned more about farming in the fields than I could have in two weeks in school. I have really learned farming isn’t all fun and games. There are tasks that will leave your sore for a week. After going through what these farmers do every day, I have newfound respect for everyone who chooses to work on a farm, especially when 100% of your produce goes to charity.
Thanks to the support of Patagonia Boston and a Patagonia Enviro Internship grant, I am grateful to be volunteering with the farm staff at Gaining Ground for four weeks this summer. Everywhere I turn I see signs of ecosystem health.
After the completion of our five year strategic plan, “Dig Deeper,” the Gaining Ground board tackled the question: “What’s Next?” The 2017 Plan, “Expanding Our Reach and Impact,” presents fitting and exciting challenges for Gaining Ground.
Everyone always talks about how high school is such a blur—a crazy, fun, busy blur. Upon graduating, we can confirm this. But there were the days where it all slowed down. On many of these days, we were on the farm.
I definitely know that I love my job when I am more excited than ever for the growing season to begin, my fifth at Gaining Ground. And by “begin” I mean “continue,” as we have been harvesting and distributing fresh produce throughout the winter months.
At the end of last season, we finally decided to go for it. We took the leap to transition the farm into permanent no-till raised beds. “No-till” is the practice of growing crops without disturbing the soil. We discovered this method after constructing our first hoop house late in the winter of 2013.
After eight seasons with us, Kayleigh Boyle has moved on to Gibbet Hill Farm in Groton. We’re grateful for her many contributions here and wish her well in her next stages of growth.
Gaining Ground has been part of my life since I was 22. It is hard to believe it’s been eight years. I remember so clearly meeting the farm coordinator, Verena Wieloch, for the first time and taking a walk through the snow-covered March fields. She reassured me that it didn’t look like much at the time, but just wait until the fields were in full bloom.
I heard on the radio that the average 30-year-old spends five hours a day on their smart phone. As I turned 30 this year, this fact gave me pause. How does this technology fit into my daily life as a farmer? And what is my relationship between farming and technology?
Why do I volunteer at Gaining Ground? Interesting question. I started there because I was looking for a way to be useful in this world. I stayed because I get more than I give.