We’ve had a chilly, rainy spring, which has been great for the green things that were so parched last summer, even though it was dispiriting to us. The rich green of the young leaves and the colors of early flowering trees and bushes usher us, we hope, into warmer weather. May you have a lovely June.
From the Farmer
Our annual Seedling Sale went off without a hitch this year. Well, except for the bees. Just as the sale was getting underway on Saturday, our hive decided to throw off a swarm in which literally thousands of bees exit the hive in a huge, buzzing cloud. Along with all the bees, a queen exits the hive. She finds a place to land, sends out a signal, and then the cloud of bees slowly condenses around her until it’s a tight, vibrating mass of black and yellow about the size of a soccer ball. This takes somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 to 45 minutes. On this particular morning, the queen decided to land in a pile of brush right next to the entrance to the Seedling Sale. What to do? People were coming into the sale (or wanting to), but there was a huge cloud of bees buzzing around the entrance! As it turns out, there’s not much to do other than wait, let people know what’s happening, and have them walk as far from where the queen landed as possible.
Swarming bees are actually pretty docile. They’re gorged on honey and really not looking to do much other than find the queen. We let people know what was going on and had them enter the sale. The swarm slowly condensed, and no one got stung. No one freaked out. Quite the opposite, in fact; many people stopped to observe what was happening. They asked questions and appreciated what I, at least, think is a truly fascinating event. In the end it was actually kind of fun, and certainly educational, to have the hive swarm right then and there at the start of the Seedling Sale. It was a bit flummoxing as we tried to figure out, in the heat of the moment, what to do, but it all went well.
I spend a great deal of time at the Seedling Sale just sort of milling about, answering questions, talking to people, observing. The plants are all grown; it’s too busy to get any plowing or harvesting done. Charlie and I certainly try to help out, but most of our part in the sale is done by the time it happens. So as I said, we get to mingle. I was happy to meet two different mayoral candidates at the sale and have a chance to talk to the vice president of the City Council. We talked about traffic and development; we talked about the farm stand and N2, the Needham Street area and its development plans; we talked about how things were going at the farm.
After all the rush and energy of the sale was over and all the leftover plants were put away and the cleanup was done, I had the chance to reflect on what it means that so many high-ranking city officials were at the farm for the Seedling Sale. Or at least what it means to me. I think the presence of city councilors (and in the past, aldermen), mayors, mayoral candidates, and other city officials and workers at almost, perhaps every, major public event we’ve had at the farm over the last 10 years reflects the role of the farm in our community. This is a community, a microcosm of our city. The farm is a place supported, promoted, and engaged with by a broad cross-section of residents from Newton and beyond. It’s a place where people meet, where people come for a little peace―something that we can all be proud to have made in our community.
As I reflected on my conversations with city leaders at the sale what really stuck out in my mind was their support for the farm, their role in making this wonderful place possible. That’s why they come: because they love this farm and want it to be successful, and that’s a really incredible thing. I’m so grateful that we have civic leaders who had, and continue to have, the vision to make things like a community farm happen. Reflecting on my conversations made me want to reach out to them, and to the people across the city government with whom we’ve worked and continue to work, and thank them. Thank them for supporting the farm and helping the farm for all these years. For making our community a place where gardens and farms and bike paths are on the agenda and in the plans. Thank you for your vision. Thank you for caring about this place.
The Farm Tuesday group and I were recently working in the Learning Garden when we uncovered an ant colony. The web of interconnecting tunnels, and what looked like chambers, that the ants had created fascinated us all. We were mesmerized watching these tiny creatures at work, and we identified what looked like hundreds of eggs. We left to go inside, to make some signs to alert others that there was an ant colony and to be careful. When we went back to put up the signs there was not a trace of the ants, the eggs had all been moved, there were a few ants still busying themselves but nothing like what we first uncovered. It was fascinating for us to see the natural world at work, to see how they reacted to being uncovered. One friend commented, “I have had ant farms that you buy and you can see the ants building the tunnels, but to see it out here on the farm is way cooler!”
Kids at the Farm: Summer 2017
Limited spaces still available in our popular summer programs for toddlers through high school. Don’t miss out. Register today.
Calling all 5- to 6-year-olds! Be a Farm Explorer this summer. Sessions begin the week of June 12, 8:30–1:00 p.m.
Join us in our first community read! Titles will be released via our Web site on June 24. It’s going to be fun!
Cultivating Community: Adult Programs Summer 2017
Connect with others this summer through Cultivating Community: Adult Programs Summer 2017. A garden tour, a potluck supper, and yoga in the barn are all on the calendar for June.
If you have recipes you wish to submit for our community cookbook, please e-mail Silka at email@example.com and include NCF Cookbook in the subject line.
This month you will want to keep an eye open for “suckers.” These are the little shoots that appear on tomato plants between the main stem and a branch. Simply pinch them off. Some believe this helps strengthen the main stem and leads to a more bountiful crop.
Dinner on the Farm – July 10
Welcome to Our (Farmstead) Table
Join us for our annual Dinner on the Farm, a beautiful evening of fantastic food, breathtaking views of our fields, and the company of others who share your love of your local community farm. And new this year….we are honored to welcome Chad and Sharon Burns of Farmstead Table, who will be preparing the meal. They are designing a special menu just for us, highlighting fresh produce from our farm. The date is July 10, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Register by July 5. $75 for Friends of the Farm, and $85 for non-Friends of the Farm. Your ticket covers the cost of the dinner and an additional contribution to NCF education programs. Please visit our site for information and registration. Or register here.
This event is also sponsored by Village Bank, one of our Local Business Partners.
On May 20 and 21 hundreds of home gardeners came to NCF to buy seedlings for the plants they will enjoy all season long, including vegetables, herbs, and flowers. They asked gardening questions of our master gardener Barney Keezell, purchased compost, and learned about our new adult engagement opportunities. It was a beautiful weekend and a hugely successful event for NCF. Says Greg Maslowe about the event, “The Seedling Sale is one of my favorite events at NCF. It’s an opportunity for us to support people in the community to have home gardens, and everyone who comes is so excited about getting their plants in the ground.” We thank everyone who came and supported NCF by buying our seedlings, and our very important volunteers who made the sale go smoothly. It was truly a community 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: Lisa Cohen
When the Angino farm became available for purchase, Lisa (LJ) Cohen wrote letters to the paper and to her aldermen in support of the city buying the land using Community Preservation Act funding. “I had already begun to think of local food as both a community good and a political issue,” she says, adding that watching the farmland near her in-laws’ home on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland get swallowed up by subdivisions and shopping malls made her all the more determined to work to preserve Newton’s last farm. She and her family became CSA members as soon as Newton Community Farm started, and she delights in whatever produce is ready to harvest. “In early spring, I crave the first spring peas,” she says. “Then I’ll want the wilting greens. Oh, and tomatoes! There is still nothing like the taste of a tomato, warm from the sun, pulled freshly from the vine.”
However, she says, “My family knows I’m a hazard to plants,” so she was happy to find a volunteer task for NCF that fit her profile as a “card-carrying geek.” LJ is NCF’s Webmaster, ensuring that the farm’s Web site and server are running smoothly; she helped update the farm’s Web site a few years ago so it could grow and change with the farm’s needs. Craig Greiner, NCF’s communications chair, describes LJ as being “a wiz with Web issues and tech in general, enthusiastic and truly committed to the farm.”
LJ is just about to publish her seventh novel, Parallax, the fourth in a science-fiction series, about which she says, “While centered around a galactic conspiracy, the story partly takes place on Earth, several generations after we ceded the coastal cities to the sea due to climate change.” For more information on LJ’s novels, check out www.ljcohen.net!
About the farm LJ says, “I love that this oasis from suburbia exists. There is a deep peace that settles on the farm, the kind of peace that is hard to find in the hustle and bustle of daily life. I think the farm exists to remind us to slow down, to breathe, to appreciate the process of the natural world and to make the link between how our food is grown, how it is prepared, and how we gather to eat it.”
Interested in volunteering at Newton Community Farm on the communications committee or on another committee? Please contact Lisa Schumann at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
In addition to our CSA programs, farm-stand sales, and representation at the West Newton Farmers’ Market, Newton Community Farm is proud to sell produce directly to area restaurants. Chad Burns, chef/owner of Farmstead Table in Newton Centre along with his wife, Sharon, has been buying produce from the farm since 2013. The farm supplies the restaurant with arugula, herbs, tomatoes, rhubarb, leeks, kale, and more.
Farmstead Table features wholesome, local, seasonal ingredients including produce, meat, and fish, and buying from the farm is a natural extension of this philosophy. When working with Farmer Greg, Chad prioritizes produce the farm has in abundance for daily menu features. He also creates a yearly “signature dish” to highlight farm vegetables. Last year this dish was Tomatoberry Salad with Stracciatella and aged balsamic vinegar.
What Chad likes best about Newton is the diverse community of many types of people. He is proud that Farmstead Table has been so well received and that the guests appreciate the effort and expense that goes into producing an honest product made from great ingredients. In turn, we at Newton Community Farm are tremendously gratified by our relationship with such a fine restaurant and truly nice people.
Beet Salad with Horseradish Dressing
(from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book)
3 lbs. beets, unpeeled, cooked till tender
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup sugar
2 Tb. drained, bottled horseradish
¼ tsp. caraway seeds
Salt, if desired, to taste
When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip off their skins, slice them, and then cut them into julienne sticks about ¼ inch wide. In a medium bowl, not metal, combine all the dressing ingredients. Add the beet pieces to the bowl, mix, cover the bowl, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight so the beets can marinate.
The Farm Stand is now open on Saturdays, 9:30–1. We’ll be adding weekday hours sometime in June. Please check our Web site and/or Facebook page for updates.
The farm will sell its produce at the Newton Saturday market, which will open in July. 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!