The Newton Farmer July 2011
Dear Farm Friends,
Golden days, heat like an oven blast, sheets of rain―it’s summer! I love going past the farm and seeing what’s growing. And produce from farm is available from CSA shares, the farm stand, and the Friday farmers’ market in Nonantum.
Happy summer to all.
Notes from Greg Maslowe, Farm Manager
If there’s one lesson a farm teaches it’s that the cycle of life goes on: Some things pass away while others are born. This spring the farm once again produced two new batches of barn swallows that will help control mosquitoes. When you visit the farm you’ll see them performing their acrobatic maneuvers over the field. If you go into the middle set of doors on the lower level of the barn you can see one of the two active nests built between the ceiling and a fluorescent light fixture. Our bluebird boxes were less successful—the sparrows winning out as they so often do. But we’ll keep trying.
A number of years ago the city of Newton applied for a federal grant to fund the installation of bike racks around the city. This spring Newton Community Farm received one of those new bike racks at our Winchester Street entrance. At first Megan and I weren’t sure how many people would use it, but with summer and the start of our high school intern program, the bike rack is seeing heavy use. One day last week we actually had so many people ride their bikes to the farm that the bike rack was full, and people had to find other places to put their bikes! It’s been great having so many people, especially young people, using bicycles to get to the farm. On August 20, NCF will once again be one of the stops on the Tour de Farm group ride. If you like to ride and are interested in visiting NCF and some of the other farms in this area, you can learn more about the ride at http://www.urbanadventours.
By the end of July visitors to the farm should begin to see the skeleton of our new movable hoophouse. This structure, funded by a grant from the National Resource Conservation Service, will be used for extending the growing season here at NCF. We’ll use it in the winter to grow cold hardy greens, and in the spring to get heat-loving crops like tomatoes or cucumbers in the ground extra early. NCF chose to go with a moveable structure as a way to address the problem of disease build-up that commonly plagues greenhouses. By moving the greenhouse between two locations, we expose the soil to the cleansing action of direct sunlight. A movable hoophouse (it’s not technically a greenhouse, as greenhouses have some kind of heat source) also allows us to make more efficient use of precious space by having crops already in place and then moving the hoophouse over them when they really need the protection. If you’re interested in this concept, one of the best resources is Elliot Coleman’s book The Winter Harvest Handbook.
If you haven’t been by the farm yet this summer, I really encourage you to do so. It’s amazing to me to see the field full—not just of vegetables (which it is), but also with people. We have a strong contingent of students who come to the farm every day to work. Our Farmer in Training program has begun. And we have many people showing up for our public volunteer hours. It’s not uncommon to see 10 or more people out in the field—and that doesn’t include me or Megan! This is one of the special things about community farming. I hope you come and join us.
Newton Community Farm is currently searching for a new Farm Educator/Coordinator. For more information please visit our Web site.
Evening on the Farm
Only a Few Days Left―Sign Up Now!
Tuesday, July 19, 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.
Beer, wine and cheese, country bread, crackers and pita
Salad and crudités, various dips
Music by the Dixie Butterhounds
and the beautiful farm scenery . . . .
Reservations $30 per person, or $21 for Friends of the Farm,
much of it tax-deductible.
Our summer programming kicked off on July 11 as our first middle school Farmer in Training crew took to the fields and the learning garden. Matt Picard, a teacher and expert home gardener, led the campers through a productive week of fun and learning. The Farmer in Training crew picked thousands of peas, helped revitalize the learning garden, and stocked the farm stand every afternoon. We still have a few limited spots available in this program for elementary and middle school students in the coming weeks, so be sure to take a look at our summer programming page.
In other news, our weekly Farm Sprouts Story Hour for preschoolers and kindergarteners also began last week and is running through the end of August. The cost is $5 per family group, and the story hour takes place on the farm every Tuesday from 10 to 11 a.m. Each hour includes a garden-themed story, a song, an activity, and exploration. Come once or come every week! Please register in advance on our summer programming page.
For those of you above the age of 15, join our farmer, Greg Maslowe, for an informative field walk one evening each month for only $10. If you’ve ever wondered how we manage to grow so much healthy produce in such a small space without depleting the soil in the New England climate, or if you just want to know more about where our veggies come from, this class is for you! Field walks are scheduled for 6 p.m. on July 14 and August 18. Please click here to register online.
If you came by the farm last Thursday afternoon, you may have noticed some young helpers mulching tomato plants in the learning garden or sharing a snack in the bean tepee. One month ago the youngsters planted the tomato plants in the learning garden and helped plant this year’s sunflower garden. Next month the kids will return to the learning garden with a parent for the final class of the three-part family gardening series “Ready, Set, Grow!” Janet Springfield, co-chair of the farm’s Education Committee, designed the popular series with families in mind. Gardens are a great place for all sorts of learning―every plant follows a life cycle; you could learn about insects and spiders; or you could plant a long row of seeds one by one. After class last week I caught up with Janet and asked what her top three tips were for parents who would like to get their young children involved in the garden.
Tip # 1:
Make it fun! Choose veggies that are easy to grow (success is a wonderful incentive!) and at least some that they already like. Easy-to-grow veggies include beans, peas, cherry tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, squash, carrots, and various greens (lettuces, kale, chard, and so on). Plant tall sunflowers in a square or a circle to create a sunflower “house,” or grow herbs that taste and smell exciting (mint, basil, chives, and bronze fennel are some of our favorites).
Tip # 2:
Give them jobs to do and get your hands dirty! Wear rubber boots and old clothes so that dirt isn’t a deterrent. Kid-sized tools are helpful. Even if they make a mistake, you can go back and fix it later, if you feel the need.
Tip # 3:
Follow their lead. If they get tired of planting seeds, let them water, or mulch, or TASTE, whatever sounds like fun. Don’t remind them how good fresh veggies are for them, just let them try things right there in the garden. We picked sugar snap peas during a recent class. One little boy was not too enthused about eating the pod and all, but when he discovered that he could eat just the little peas inside, he couldn’t get enough. His mother was surprised that he was eating peas at all. Baby (young) carrots are magic. So are Chinese long beans on a fence, or peas on a tepee of long sticks. If you don’t have a dedicated garden space, use large pots in a sunny area.
I was inspired this month by vegetables that were appearing in my CSA share: kale and cabbage. I had tasted a fantastic kale salad at a friend’s house very recently and got the recipe for Liz’s Kale Salad. It uses raw kale that is “cooked” by the dressing. My husband, Keith, who doesn’t like kale, took seconds. The second recipe, Cold Cabbage Soup, has a small number of ingredients, is quick and easy to put together, and is tasty and refreshing in hot weather, not to mention healthy. All that gives it a lot of points in my book! I hope you enjoy them. Click here for the recipes.
Farm Stand Hours
Tuesday through Friday, 2–7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, 9 a.m.–noon
Farm Wish List
If you can help us with any of these items, please contact Greg Maslowe at 617-916-9655 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are a 501(c)3 organization. Your donations may be tax-deductible. Thank you for your support!