Although I love looking at gardens, words and textiles attract me much more than digging, planting, and pruning. I have tried raising vegetables, but the tall trees that shade our yard make that impossible. However, we do get afternoon sun in one spot, and there I’ve planted some herbs that are gamely growing. The good news is that the oregano is trying to take over the front lawn, and I’m delighted. May your plantings do as well.
From the Farmer
I’m a procrastinator, no doubt about it. Anyone who has ever worked with me, and certainly anyone who has had to wait for something I was supposed to write, will confirm this. But this month’s newsletter was different. I am writing this article at the eleventh hour. I was supposed to send some reflections to a board member for an article on Alison, and I never did it. This wasn’t just my normal lack of desire to sit at a computer and type. I think I was actively pushing back the thought of Alison’s leaving. Rationally I know it’s happening, but on a deeper level I still haven’t accepted that come August she won’t be here. I can’t imagine the farm without her.
Alison has been my near-constant companion in this adventure of running a community farm for more than half of its existence. We’ve laughed, cried, screamed, and tried to duck for cover together. We’ve dreamed together about what kind of programs the farm might have, how we might use the Learning Garden, and how to make the farm accessible to everyone. The farm is indelibly imprinted with Alison’s personality, passions, and commitment.
As frequently happens when people work closely together for many years, our lives have become intertwined personally as well as professionally. We’ve met each other’s families and celebrated holidays together, shared our struggles and joys, and jump-started dead cars. Our boys have played countless hours of soccer together behind the orchard. Perhaps this is why I haven’t really accepted the idea that Alison is leaving: because I’m not just losing a valued colleague and partner, but a friend.
Of course, I’m not actually losing a friend. That’s just me feeling sorry for myself. Alison will still be here, a part of the fabric of Newton and a part of my life. It’ll just be different. Who will I be able to tease about their very British sandwiches at lunchtime? Or their car that smells of a curious combination of boy’s soccer clothes and fertilizer?
Alison came to the farm following a string of FECs (Farm Education Coordinators, as her job was called when she was hired). The farm was young, and in many ways the education programming even younger. While the vegetable-growing side of the farm had taken off quickly, our education program took longer to develop. We brought Alison in because we were looking for someone who was rooted in the community, someone who would stay at the farm and help build a program. And build a program is exactly what she did. Build a community is exactly what she did. Little did we realize those many years ago that Alison has a theory of place that made her perfect for the job. This theory lies at the heart of what she has built here: a connection between people and this particular place, this particular farm. A connection that spans time and watches both the people and the farm grow together. It’s a wonderful vision and has made for an amazing educational program.
Anyone who has had the opportunity to visit the farm during one of our many classes knows that Alison is in her element with kids. She connects to them and connects them to this place: its worms, bees, seeds, and vegetables. My sadness in seeing Alison move on is, of course, mixed with my excitement for my friend who is starting what I hope will be an amazing new chapter in her life. She has made this place, both in the sense of the farm proper but also in the richer sense of the farm community, a better place. She has created something enduring. She has created something that whoever comes after her will be able to run with. She has touched hearts and lives throughout our community, and for this I am deeply grateful.
As one mother commented, “When Farm Sprouts is back to being every day, you know summer has officially started!” It is true, summer programs are underway, and based on the squeals of delight, the excitement of uncovering millipedes and pillbugs, and the soil-clad faces that leave every day, fun is being had by all. For me, this is what summer is about: being outdoors, discovering the many wonders of the natural world, and giving youngsters the opportunity to let their imaginations carry them off.
Kids at the Farm: Summer 2017 (toddler-middle school)
Want to join us? There are limited spaces still available. Check out our program brochure for details and registration links. Full-day programs begin the week of July 24! Early drop-off available; please preregister.
Share your thoughts or a photo of you and any of our Community Read titles! Where will you get to? Click on titles for, well, titles.
Cultivating Community: Adult Programs Summer 2017
Register today for Yoga in the Barn, July 18 and 25, 7:00–8:15 p.m.
Mark your calendars for The Glorious Tomato, and much more.
Consider placing straw or dried leaves around the base of your tomato plants to help prevent splashing onto the leaves during watering. This will help limit the spread of soil-borne disease.
We’ll miss you, Alison
Describing her childhood in England, Education Director Alison Scorer says, “I spent a lot of time outdoors as both my parents lived in rural places.” Born just outside Manchester, Alison moved at age nine to Whaley Bridge, on the edge of Peak District National Park. “I was surrounded by nature,” she says. Both her parents had vegetable gardens: She shelled peas with her father on the back step, and peas remain her favorite vegetable; sheep regularly broke into her mother’s garden and ate the mint.
Love of place and the outdoors informed Alison’s decision to become a geography teacher in the UK, focusing on how people impact places and places impact people. “This led to an exploration of many wide-ranging environmental issues on a local and global scale,” she says. “I am passionate about opening students’ eyes to all that surrounds them. There is so much to see, to experience, and to appreciate.”
When Alison arrived at NCF, she brought that same passion with her. Under Alison’s leadership, NCF’s educational programming has seen incredible growth. She has developed programs with innovative curricula and interlinked learning objectives for all age groups, expanded the Farm Sprouts program for NCF’s youngest students, and introduced a year-round Farm Tuesday program. She has built longstanding partnerships with organizations as varied as Meeting House Preschool, Countryside Elementary School, Temple Beth Avodah, The Price Center, and the ABA group at Brown Middle School. In brief, she has transformed the educational programming NCF offers.
So it will be hard for us to see her move on to her new position later this summer. Board member Silka Rothschild says she will miss Alison’s “brilliant and creative talent, her engaging smile, and her ‘Brit wit.’” “Alison is beloved by her students and their families,” Board President Stephanie Cogen says. “This is a testament to her warmth and the excitement for environmental education she has brought to everything she has done for the farm. We are so sorry to be losing Alison, but we are so glad that the students at Oak Hill will get the benefit of her teaching.”
Alison’s family home in England
To many of the kids in her programs at NCF, she will always be “Miss Alison.” Parent Kirsten Smith, whose children are growing up in NCF’s education programs, talks about her oldest son’s love of insects and his memories of catching massive grasshoppers in a bug net, and her middle child’s earthworm puppet constructed for a puppet show. She says, “Alison grew the educational programming from what it was when I first encountered it before she arrived—a once-a-week, summers-only, preschool-aged class that my children were oftentimes the only students to attend—to what it is today: year-round programming featuring well-rounded curricula that cater to all different ages and interests.” And Kirsten continues, “To our entire family, her involvement and the love she brings to her teaching role at NCF are part and parcel of what’s so amazing about the place. We will be forever grateful for all the beautiful farm memories and experiences she gave us throughout the years.”
We at NCF can only echo Kirsten: Miss Alison, we will be forever grateful.
Dinner on the Farm – July 10
Welcome to Our (Farmstead) Table
Our annual Dinner on the Farm is fast approaching! Join us for a beautiful evening of fantastic food, breathtaking views of our fields, a bluegrass string band, and new this year, we are excited to welcome Chad and Sharon Burns and their team from Farmstead Table. They will prepare and serve a special menu inspired by their beloved Newton restaurant, featuring produce from NCF.
Come and enjoy the food, wine and beer, lively conversation, and music, all while watching the sun set over the farm’s beautiful landscape. Dinner on the Farm promotes discussion of urban agriculture and community preservation and brings together people who love local produce and a great time.
Price per ticket for the general public is $85; Friends of the Farm receive a special price of $75. The ticket fee covers the cost of food and provides a contribution to the NCF education program. Please visit our events page for information and registration. Registration closes on July 5. If you would like to volunteer for the event, please click here.
Thanks to our Community Partner, The Village Bank, for sponsoring this event.
Public Engagement Survey
Your voice is important! Please take our Public Engagement Survey to let us know what you love about the farm, and what you would like to see more of. Do you want to see more classes? More public events? Do you have a great story to tell about NCF? We’d love to hear from you.
Volunteer Spotlight: Nan Hellman
In preparation for the first Thanksgiving after she retired, Nan Hellman and her son Sam stopped at the Newton Community Farm stand to buy vegetables. Nan had worked for decades as a clinical nurse specialist―her last five years were spent in geriatric psychiatry at the Cambridge Health Alliance, a career Nan describes as “very rewarding but stressful.” During that Thanksgiving stop at the farm stand, Nan and her son bought up all the Brussels sprouts, and Sam said, “You should get involved at the farm, Mom. I think you’d like it here.”
At the time, Sam was working as a chef at The Odd Duck, one of two restaurants he cofounded in Austin, Texas (the other is Barleyswine). Nan accompanied him as he shopped at farmers’ markets around Austin and saw how he and the chefs he worked with incorporated local produce into their dishes. “Their whole philosophy,” she says, “was about locally sourced food. You take what’s there, and you work with that.” Nan credits Sam with introducing her to the wonders of cooking with ordinary and extraordinary vegetables grown on local farms.
We have Sam to thank for inspiring Nan to volunteer here. As Farm Manager Greg Maslowe says, “Nan is great to work with. She loves food, loves the farm, and loves working at the farm stand.” Although she started helping to weed and harvest in the fields and continues to do so, she added regular volunteering at our farm stand. She helps Farmers Greg and Charlie set it up, sells vegetables to customers, and restocks when produce runs out. “I like meeting all the people who come,” Nan says. “Many come on a consistent basis, and I get to know them―and their kids, who are full of excitement about the vegetables. I love hearing the stories of people who come from many different cultures and how they cook their vegetables. One woman tells me about all the ways she cooks cabbage.” As for Nan’s favorite vegetable? She loves them all, but as she talks in late June about seasonal produce, she mentions a greens gratin she made for dinner and a rhubarb compote she made with rhubarb, tart cherry juice, honey, and strawberries.
Are you interested in volunteering at Newton Community Farm? Please contact Lisa Schumann at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Okay, here is a wonderful recipe, another family favorite. It’s perfect for really hot days. Italian speakers, please forgive any errors in the title.
Pasta con Pomodori Crudi
2 lbs. ripe tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
20 fresh basil leaves
1/8 tsp. dried oregano or 1 tsp. fresh oregano
1 Tb. chopped parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/8–1/4 tsp. pepper
1–5 Tb. olive oil
1/4–1/2 lb. mozzarella cheese
1/2–1 lb. ziti, cooked
Cut tomatoes into bite-sized pieces, reserving all juice. Mince garlic, chop herbs, add to tomatoes. Cut cheese into bite-size cubes. Add salt, pepper, oil, and cheese, mix well and let sit at room temperature at least 1 hour to marinate.
Cook ziti (8–10 min.), drain, and toss into tomato mixture.
The farm stand is now open Tuesday through Friday from 1:30 to 6:00 and Saturday from 9:30 to 1:00. Please check our Web site and/or Facebook page for updates.
The farm sells its produce at the Newton Saturday farmers’ market. It is located on Elm Street in West Newton and runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the summer and fall.
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updates on class listings, events, NCF news, and more!