Category Archives: Volunteers

Crops Update: Golden Beets & Strawberries

There’s more variety in the harvest now as the carrots seeded in the last week of March are ready for digging, along with the beets seeded mid-April. Pictured below is the lovely roots display at we had at the Union Square Farmer’s Market—nice job market team, what a vibrant array of colors! If you haven’t had a golden beet yet, I find them to be citrusy, yet milder and sweeter than red beets. As with all beet varieties, you can cook the greens in addition to the roots; the greens taste similar to chard and spinach, but with a different texture. All of it delicious!

We’re also picking Sugar Anne snap peas and lots of strawberries. All these treasures of early summer and more are available at the farm stand which is now open. In addition, Strawberry Day, complete with strawberry picking, strawberries for purchase, and strawberry-related activities, is this Saturday, June 22. It seems appropriate that volunteer Anne has been picking the majority of the Sugar Annes. She loves picking peas, and to our way of thinking, Sugar Anne refers to no one else. Thank you, Anne!

All this rain has been great for establishing crops and growing greens. We’re hoping for it to stop raining now though so that strawberry quality remains high through Saturday’s Pick-Your-Own event. This past Saturday, the public responded to Kelly’s flash sale social media alert about a last minute additional opportunity to pick berries–thanks Kelly! We opened the patch at 10 and were sold out by 1 (pictured below). This coming weekend we should have far more berries, hope to see you then!

Another consequence of the frequent rains seems to be lower pest pressure, which is a good thing. By this point in the season, we’re usually spraying organically certified pesticides to control leaf hopper on beans, thrips on onions and Colorado potato beetle on potatoes. Rain can help wash thrip eggs off onion leaves, so maybe that’s happening with other pests. We’re also noticing hundreds of dragonflies patrolling the fields, along with lacewings, swallows, bluebirds, killdeer, toads, and frogs. We think of these creatures as other crops teammates doing the work of insect control, and we want to encourage them in any way we can. Yesterday, as we were removing row cover from the field, we heard a chirping coming from one of the hundreds of rock bags we had tossed onto the truck. The sound was so distinctive that it was easy to locate the bag in question and fish out the toad who was calling it home. He looked fine and hopped away, and we assume got right back to work.

The Summer CSA’s first pick up is Wednesday, June 26th. If you haven’t registered already, you can do so online and look forward to carrots, beets, potatoes, greens, fragrant herbs, tomatoes, sweet corn, broccoli, celery, and more up until the beginning of September!

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: How The Farm Adjusts to Rain

We don’t mind harvesting in the rain, especially at this time of year when we’re working with crops that prefer cool weather. There’s less stress on us because we’re not worried about the sun wilting the greens. And we can save time by loading crates of veggies directly onto the trucks. During a sunny harvest, we stack crates in patches of shade cast by the trucks, and then load them when we’re ready to move. When it’s not efficient to head directly in to the wash station, we may load, move, and then unload back into the shade of the truck as we arrive at a new harvest area. None of that to worry about this morning, but we still had to get our work done quickly so as to get to the restaurants on time. That may account for our serious faces (pictured below) as we bunched up Japanese white salad turnips.

If you haven’t had Japanese white salad turnips before, set your turnip preconceptions aside. These are sweet and can be eaten raw or lightly cooked. I like to halve them, start them sauteing in olive oil, add scallions, then add the turnip greens—total cooking time is about five minutes. I dress it while it’s cooking: shoyu, rice and ume plum vinegar, Sir Kensington’s mustard, lemon, and maybe a little maple syrup. Freshly harvested turnips, scallions, lettuce and greens are available at the farm stand by admissions right now!

In advance of this heavy rain, we focused on weed control. The soil was dry and the sun was shining, so we’ve been hoeing, running the flex tine over established crops, and using the Star hoe to hill up potatoes and fertilize tomatoes, summer squash, and cucumbers. On Wednesday, we hosted a meeting on weed control for area farmers, and demonstrated various implements and hoes. The end goal of our approach is to minimize hand-weeding, which is most costly in terms of time. But there will always be weeds to pull, especially under the row covers that have been protecting onions and brassicas since early May. Now that those crops have grown to a size where they can withstand pest pressure, we began removing the covers last week.

On Tuesday, volunteers from Dell helped us haul in 3 sections of row cover and transport about 400 sand bags back to Rock Island. That was the first time volunteers assisted with that, and they did a great job! They also planted scallions and cucumbers and hand-weeded onions (pictured below).

On Friday, volunteers from Goldman Sachs returned for the second year in a row, again making a donation to help us purchase herbs. They planted rosemary and dahlias, and then really seemed to enjoy weeding in the perennial garden (pictured below). So helpful for us since the weeds are endless there.

On Saturday, drop-in volunteers wowed us once again by planting over 3,000 leeks (pictured below) and then rescuing some spring onions from a scary patch of weeds. All the volunteer help we received this week illustrates one definition of sustainable farming at Drumlin: we provide the opportunity for others to learn about what we do and to help us, and their generosity sustains the farm.

Meanwhile, strawberries. They’re coming! But slowly. Strawberries have been a crop that have been affected by the rainy spring we’ve had. We’ve moved our annual Strawberry Day ahead one Saturday to the 22nd so they have more time in the sun before harvesting.

Snap peas are also starting–and are so sweet! If you close your eyes while eating one this image might arise: green chocolate milk!

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Help from Volunteers

A chilly 46 degrees for Tuesday morning’s restaurant harvest. The lettuces and turnips are growing beautifully in this extended spring, and it’s nice to harvest greens without the crops or the team getting overheated. Here we are in the wash station cleaning and organizing produce for the chefs (pictured): from left to right that’s Veronica, Maddie. McKenna and Erica.

This past week was a blur of planting. It started on Memorial Day with eggplant and cantaloupe. The following day we planted out the first round of tomatoes, unfortunately in the rain and mud–ugh! Our thanks to volunteer Fred for joining us in the field and grabbing a post hole digger to make deep homes for hundreds of plants.

On Thursday, we really enjoyed working with employees from Care Dimensions—hospice care providers. They made a donation to help us purchase perennial herb plugs such as lemon balm, sorrel, and chives. We planted those together (pictured), then weeded in the perennial garden, transplanted sunflowers, removed flower clusters from the new strawberry patch, and finally planted a bed of basil. The group went from one end of the field to the other checking off jobs with ease.

On Friday, employees from Axial Benefits helped us plant popcorn and rosemary. They made a donation to help us purchase the rosemary, and we are looking forward to harvesting it for Iggy’s Breads. Iggy’s uses our rosemary on focaccia and pizzas at their Fresh Pond location. Thanks all for your generosity and help!

On Saturday, an amazing group of drop-in volunteers showed up, and, Voltron-like, assembled themselves into an incredible sweet potato planting machine. Some focused on sorting and dropping plants, others planted. It normally takes us a long time to get all 2,500 plants set deeply in the ground, but thanks to theses great volunteers, we finished in about two hours. Thank you!

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Hoop House Discoveries

Two more downpours Monday, and then the temperature hit 86 degrees when the sun finally came out! Before that, during the cloudy morning, we harvested close to 100 pounds of greens for the Cambridge and Somerville school systems. We’re looking forward to Wednesday when we’ll be harvesting the first Japanese white turnips of the spring for the second CSA pickup. Now that we’ve had a few sunny and warm days, spinach, salad mix and head lettuce are ready for picking and the first scallions are not far behind.

This past Saturday, we planted out the first round of summer squash (pictured below), and we plan to put in the majority of our peppers tomorrow with the help of a volunteer group. In other words, we’re betting that the danger of frost has passed, though we know that we’re not truly safe in Drumlin’s frost pocket until the first week of June.


The squash plants appear white because we dip them in a chalk slurry to keep cucumber beetles off them while they are young and without much foliage. After a few heavy rains, they’ll look green again.

Over the weekend, Veronica, with the help of Maddie and Jill, ran our first farmers’ market of the year in Union Square, Somerville. They sold out of all the veggies we brought except for five individual potatoes, and in the process set a new earnings record for opening day! Way to go and thanks to the volunteers who helped fill bags of greens as customers whisked them off the display!

Back at the farm, volunteers from medical device makers Boston Scientific helped us weed rhubarb and plant a round of lettuce and sunflowers this past Thursday (pictured below). It was our first corporate volunteer group of the year after a couple of rain outs, and we were grateful for their assistance.

We’re well under way with the the construction of the new hoop house and the installers expect to finish by Wednesday. The only hitch in the process so far was on the first day when they ran into hardness driving the posts at an even 18 inches of depth along the entire length of the house. When they went to excavate to a depth of 26 inches for the concrete footers, they discovered the hardness was caused by a gravelly material that Adam (the head installer, pictured) described as what’s found beneath a lake.

Because of the evenness of the hard pack and the composition of the material, he hypothesized that Boyce was a lake at some point in the distant past–something we often say by way of explanation for how we get by without irrigation: water wants to be there, and by building soil organic matter, we encourage the moisture to linger in the soil’s network.

Those interested are encouraged to get their hands a little dirty by volunteering in the field with us–we could always use more help! And if you haven’t registered for your Summer CSA yet, shares are still available.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Local Business Lends a Hand

Drumlin Farm is a lively and active place, filled with big and small jobs throughout the farm completed by staff, program participants, and volunteers. As a nonprofit, we rely heavily on the generosity of local volunteers who donate time, and funds, to maintain our crops, care for our animals, handle operational tasks, and more.

Last week, employees from Green International Affiliates, a civil and structural engineering firm based in Westford, visited the farm to learn more about what we do and lend a hand in the fields. As a corporate member of our Community Partners Program, Green International employees receive memberships and passes to Drumlin Farm and opportunities to get more involved.

Sandy introduces Drumlin Farm’s screech owl to the volunteers.

Their visit started off with a presentation by our educator Sandy and animal ambassador Screech Owl. Sandy introduced the small owl to the group and told them the remarkable story of its recovery. This owl was hit by a truck and lost vision in one eye, which deemed it non-releasable to the wild. Screech Owls can be found throughout Massachusetts, and have exceptional camouflage. This one has been a great help as an animal ambassador, teaching children and adults all about owl habits, life cycles, and ecological services.

The volunteers were present for a special treat when the owl coughed up a pellet right in the middle of Sandy’s talk! Owls produce pellets as part of their digestion cycle and by studying them we can see what the animal has been eating.

This lucky group got to see an owl pellet in the making.

After the owl visit it was off to the field to meet Matt, our Crops Manager. Matt provided a brief history of Drumlin Farm, including notable visits from Henry David Thoreau and a long tradition of using the land for agriculture and cropland, which makes our soil remarkably fertile.

 

Matt explains to volunteers how they can help with weeding.

Next, it was time to get down to work! Today, we needed to weed out the strawberry rows. Matt explained how weeds can take over an area if not properly removed and how to distinguish between them and smaller strawberry plants. Rain began to set in, but it was a cool break from the humid heat of the day and our volunteers grabbed a basket and got right to work. At the end of the day, the team weeded strawberries, planted 600 summer squash and 700 lettuce seedlings, and helped harvest tomatoes for the following day’s CSA distribution. Thanks to all at Green International for their help in furthering our mission to protect the nature of Massachusetts.

Despite some rain, our volunteers welcomed the cool-down and started getting their hands dirty.

Our Community Partners Program allows local businesses to give the gift of membership to their employees, as well as providing opportunities like those last week to get out of the office together, and work towards making our communities and environments more sustainable.

Volunteers walking the fields that have been used for cropland since America’s settlement.

Thanks again to Green International Affiliates and all of our volunteers that continue to donate time and resources to the bettering of Massachusetts and the planet. See you next time!

Remembering and Celebrating Our Volunteers

Drumlin Farm relies on the energy and hard work of our many volunteers to accomplish our goals . In recognition of the importance of this vital community, the Drumlin Farm Sanctuary Committee recently initiated the Jonathan Leavy Award for Outstanding Volunteer Contributions. Jonathan, a long-time livestock volunteer who passed away in 2016, and whose smile and friendship are sorely missed, diligently cared for our animals while using his impressive carpentry skills to make improvements to our barns.

Long-time Drumlin Farm volunteer Jonathan Leavy caring for a lamb

And the Award Goes to . . .

On September 23, at our Moon Over the Drumlin benefit dinner, we presented the first annual award in Jonathan’s memory to Fred Costanza. Fred has dedicated more than 14,000 hours of his time and hard work to Drumlin since 2006. He is a multifaceted volunteer who assists staff in caring for our livestock, crops, and property. On any given day you can find Fred plowing a field, programming the root cellar cooling system, fixing a tractor, mucking a barn, feeding the goats, or lending a hand at a special event.

Our staff turn to Fred not only for help with the everyday tasks that keep the sanctuary running smoothly but also for behind-the-scenes projects that we have come to rely on him for. Need a fence repaired, maintenance for the crops truck, a mobile chicken coop relocated, or someone to man the giant spider at Tales of the Night? Call on Fred.

Fred Costanza, first recipient of the Jonathan Leavy Award for Outstanding Volunteer Contributions

The Jonathan Leavy Award plaque can be found in the tack room of our red barn—a fitting location where much of Jonathan’s handiwork can be found. Fred’s name is engraved upon it as the first recipient. Thankfully, his name will be joined by other wonderfully generous Drumlin Farm volunteers in the years to come.

By Pam Sowizral, Drumlin Farm Volunteer Coordinator