Tag Archives: volunteer

Crops Update: Garlic Scapes & More Rain

A big thank you to the team and all Drumlin staff involved in making this weekend’s strawberry pick-your-own event a huge success. People picked berries all the way until closing time thanks to spring rains, timely weeding, and our fabulous soil. A special thanks to volunteer Anna who helped Erica assist the hundreds of customers. A sudden thunderstorm struck towards the end of the day, and Erica gave up her spot under the tent’s shelter to take an amazing picture (below). On the same day, at market, Veronica, Maddie, and Jill did an outstanding job selling almost all we had harvested, including over 300 more pints of strawberries.

We’re trying to finish planting the pumpkin patch and the second round of tomatoes. We also need to mulch the first round of tomatoes and start trellising them. At least we found time to drive the tomato stakes during last Thursday’s steady rain. There are many other crops that need planting and weeding, but the frequent rains are causing volunteer groups to cancel, adding line after line to our to-do list. We’re bearing down and to do more and the team was out yesterday the rain trying to catch up on weeding.

The two volunteer groups that were able to come to the farm last week got rained on, but worked through it. On Tuesday, volunteers from Google’s YouTube division planted broccoli and leeks into wet ground (pictured above). They then picked peas for Wednesday’s CSA distribution. On Saturday, a group from Appalachian Mountain Club helped us weed leeks and carrots, and also plant pumpkins. Volunteers from the AMC come year after year, often twice per season, and we always look forward to working with them. Thanks all for doing great work in challenging conditions.

It’s garlic scape season! There are some at the stand right now along with this morning’s strawberry harvest. The scape is the flowering part of the garlic plant. We remove them to get larger bulbs during July’s harvest, but to my mind, the June scapes make for the best eating. They are milder and have the consistency of firm pasta when briefly cooked. When picking, we make bunches and hook them over our forearms like snap bracelets (pictured above).

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 24

Two nights in the mid-20’s ended the season for many crops and even froze some potatoes underground and greens under rowcover (pictured below). Yesterday, while planting garlic, we had to contend with icy soil until mid-morning when the sun finally rose high enough to thaw things out. So we’re in a rush to dig those last seven beds of potatoes and plant the rest of the garlic patch. Thanks to help from data analysts at healthcare company Verscend, we finished the seemingly interminable sweet potato harvest last Thursday afternoon.

We then passed through the pepper and tomato patches for the final time this season picking the last ripe fruit. That night, the temperature fell to 25 degrees in the field, and in the morning the frost on the fields looked like a coating of snow. Cold like this kills swiss chard, broccoli and cauliflower, and can also damage cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Thankfully, last Tuesday afternoon, volunteers from furniture company Wayfair helped us strip 75 pounds of brussels sprouts from off their stalks for the following day’s CSA distribution (pictured below). Normally, we distribute the stalks with the sprouts still attached because we don’t have time to separate them. Thanks Wayfair volunteers for giving our CSA members a rare treat!

On Saturday afternoon, volunteers with the Appalachian Mountain Club dug 1,200 pounds of potatoes and planted two beds of garlic all in about three hours. Each fall, we select 400 lbs. of our largest garlic heads to break up into cloves and seed back to the fields for next year’s crop (pictured below).

Now that the cold is here and there’s less to harvest, we’re saying goodbye to some of our team members. Susie Janik is starting a job in the Worcester County D.A.’s office. Susie has done a great job with sales to chefs and at the Union Square farmers’ market; we were thankful to have her help one last time this past Saturday at market. John Mark finished his time with us yesterday planting garlic. It’s a fitting end to his season as he joined our team on the day we started harvesting the garlic crop in mid-July. Thanks Susie and John for your good work and company. We’ll have to work harder without you, but that will keep our blood moving and our hands warm!

And speaking of keeping our blood moving and hands warm, this week also brings our annual family-friendly Halloween event, Tales of the Night. Stop by Thursday or Friday, 6:30-9:00 pm to meet nocturnal creatures, travel by haunted hayride, and have a few treats (and tricks!).

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 22

Still no frost, not even a night in the high thirties. This is unusual, as our low lying fields usually get zapped in the last week of September or first week of October. We expected a frost last Friday night, and so worked that afternoon with 20 volunteers from Shire biotech to scour the eggplant and tomato patches in a last call harvest. Shire volunteers then helped us bring in the last of the popcorn crop, and they even had time to dip their toes into the quicksand of the sweet potato harvest—don’t worry; they made it out alive!

Shire Volunteers

We continued mucking around in the sweet potatoes the following afternoon with 22 students from Brandeis. While it may look like we’re having a fist fight with the soil, we mean it no harm; though I can’t say the same for it, we end each session dazed and badly in need of a nap! And even with all that good help, we’re still only a third of the way through the patch, having brought in over half a ton of sweet potatoes.

Volunteers harvesting sweet potatoes

By way of comparison, 12 volunteers from Global Atlantic helped us harvest 1,100 pounds of potatoes in only an hour this past Thursday. The soil in the potato patch is lighter, and the plants have the good sense to develop their roots in a neat bundle in the space directly below them. Thank you, kind potato plants, and thanks to the volunteers from Global Atlantic, who also helped us harvest peppers in anticipation of that frost that never came.

But looking ahead, a frost seems likely for our fields this coming Saturday night. We’ll continue harvesting as if that were the case, and you may see row covers going up to protect late season greens. In the meantime, we’re taking advantage of the warm weather and so will have a mix of summer and fall crops available at the stand, in the CSA shares and at market this week.

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

 

Anne Patterson Recognized with Volunteer Award

This past Saturday, Drumlin Farm’s annual farm-to-table fundraiser gala, Moon Over Drumlin,  honored our incredibly talented and hardworking volunteer, Anne Patterson, with the Jonathan Leavy Award for Outstanding Volunteer Contributions. Since 2001, Anne has been a stalwart Drumlin Farm volunteer, contributing thousands of hours to the farm during that time. Nearly every day in the winter and spring she can be found in the greenhouse, where she manages our seedling operation, planting seeds – one by one, flat by flat – to grow the plants that fill 30 acres of farm fields and feed thousands of people before the harvest ends. She trains other volunteers and tackles the toughest of field chores year-round, making her an indispensable member of the crops team.

Anne (center) with her fellow volunteers.

Noted for her excellent, calculated, and precise methods of planting and willingness to always lend a hand, Crops Manager Matt Celona expressed, “It’s difficult to measure or put into words all that Anne has given to Drumlin—she’s part of the team, and she stands alone doing her own thing year-round, in all weather, bringing others here, teaching and delighting them with stories and brain-melting explanations of ‘simple’ mathematical concepts. Over time, Anne has taught me to introduce her to others not as a ‘retired mathematician,’ but as the voluntary farmer she most certainly is. Thank you, Anne.”

Anne Patterson receiving her award and standing ovation. ©Sara Colket

Upon receiving the award, her heart warming, comical, and poignant acceptance speech sparked inspiration in the audience, which they showed with a standing ovation. The Jonathan Leavy Award for Outstanding Volunteer Contributions was established in 2017 in his memory, to recognize a volunteer who has made significant contributions to Drumlin Farm during the previous year and who demonstrates the qualities of dedication, collaboration, and commitment that Jonathan brought to his work. Moon Over Drumlin has become a night to not only taste creative plating’s by local chefs, but also honor and recognize all the pieces that make Drumlin Farm the special place it is, in which volunteers are at the heart.

Volunteers are vital to Drumlin Farm’s success, contributing to a wide range of projects in the field, at programs and events, admissions, and beyond. Without volunteers like Anne and Jonathan, we would not be able to cultivate and share the bounty of nature, farming, and education that we do today. If you’re interested in volunteering, please contact Pam Sowizrol at psowizrol@massaudubon.org.

Many thanks and congratulations to Anne from everyone at Drumlin Farm!

 

Crops Update: Week 20

Congratulations to our crops volunteer Anne Patterson on  her much deserved Johnathan Leavy Volunteer of the Year Award at this past Saturday’s Moon Over Drumlin. In her acceptance speech, she simultaneously pitied and charmed all those marooned in offices, unfortunate to be away from the fields, and yet fortunate to have the opportunity to join us in farm work whenever they choose. Adding they should choose to do so immediately to make the world a better place! The audience quickly warmed to Anne’s unvarnished delivery, laughed a lot at her puckish truths, and leapt to their feet in a loud standing ovation. It was magnificent!

Anne Patterson receiving her award and standing ovation. ©Sara Colket

Speaking of magnificent, the local chef’s did an outstanding job, serving plates with ingredients from Drumlin Farm. Many could not believe that what chef Carolyn Johnson of 80 Thoreau was serving was, in fact, goat. This underscores her talent as well as Farm Manager Caroline’s good work in raising such healthy animals. At the chef’s reception, Sarah and I got to ask the experts our nerdiest farmer questions like, can you use a closed calendula blossom to garnish a dessert? The Answer: Yes, but it’s a pain to pry out each petal, and you only use the petals. Thanks and congratulations to Heidi Thoren and Polly Reeve for organizing another memorable fundraiser that brought together so many friends of Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm.

Mary Moran and Maggie Sullivan harvesting tatsoi.

This past week, we said goodbye to fieldworker Mary Moran (pictured, on the left, harvesting tatsoi bunches with Maggie Sullivan). Her new job is working with senior citizens to ensure they have services that allow them to remain in their homes. Thanks for your good work and steady presence, Mary. This week, we finished the winter squash harvest thanks to help from marketers at Definitive Healthcare and publicists at Denterlein. This is the second year in a row that Denterlein volunteers have worked with us in the fields. In addition to hauling squash (pictured below), they picked all the string beans, cherry tomatoes and husk cherries for Saturday’s market. Thanks, Denterlein, for your great work!

Denterlein  volunteers moving  squash.

Yesterday morning, twenty students from Middlesex School picked peppers, tomatoes and beans in preparation for today’s restaurant run—a true beast at 18 rainy stops! We especially appreciated the help because we had spent the early morning harvesting for the Somerville and Cambridge schools, and were way behind schedule when the students arrived at 9:30. Thanks to their good work (and Sarah’s very early start this morning), we provided chefs with what they asked for and will even have shishito peppers to distribute in tomorrow’s CSA share. It takes forever to harvest these little peppers, so many thanks to the students for making this treat available to CSA shareholders!

See you in the field,

Your Farmers

Crops Update: Week 18

Any chance we can trellis the earth to keep it from leaning further away from the sun? Because we need more daylight hours to bring in the fall crops!

On the positive side, sales are strong, and we are spending the majority of our time harvesting tomatoes, beans and greens. Andrew delivered produce to Somerville Schools for the first time this year on Monday. Everything we send to Somerville goes into the salad bars at ten different schools, and this week students will enjoy Drumlin carrots, cherry tomatoes, radish, arugula, bok choi, and tat soi. Emma and Maggie recently met with the cafeteria team at the Cambridge schools to talk about our growing practices and preview the produce they’ll be receiving from us. The next few Mondays before first frost will be very busy adding these school harvests to our normal restaurant pre-harvests. Yesterday, we got help with this from volunteer Anne Patterson who, on her own, picked lots of purple and yellow beans. Thanks Anne!

Visit our stand at the farmer’s market in Union Square in Somerville.

This past Thursday, energy data analysts from ENGIE Insight helped us pick beans and potatoes for Saturday’s market. Their help gave us a big head start, and we finished Friday’s market harvest with a few minutes of daylight to spare. This was a big achievement because we were without the help of the students who have normally been harvesting with us on Friday afternoons, but who have now returned to school. The Crops Team then did an outstanding job selling the produce to the busy community in Union Square on Saturday, pictured above. Back at the farm, the rest of the team worked with 30 Concord Academy freshmen weeding and harvesting winter squash (pictured below). Thanks to the helpful work from these students, we’ll distribute acorn squash in tomorrow’s first fall CSA share. There are still a few spots open for our Pick-Your-Own, Fruit Share, and full and half shares open in our Fall CSA, so register today if you haven’t already. Those that sign up after the first distribution can also join, receiving a prorated rate for the remainder of the season’s distributions.

Acorn squash available at this week’s CSA share.

While we’re hustling veggies out of the fields, we’re also plowing and seeding cover crops on vacated areas. Last night’s soaking rain means we should soon see oats and rye sprouting in the fields. So while fall colors are coming into the trees, the fields will be greening-up again. If you haven’t been out to the fields all season, this Saturday is a good time to visit as we are opening some beds to the public for picking as part of Drumlin Farm’s Fall Harvest Celebration.

Hope to see you out there!

Your Farmers

 

A New Area for Nature Play

Farewell to Our Sensory Tree

Father Time did not pass by Drumlin Farm’s Sensory Tree exhibit. The tree started its life as a beautiful cedar growing adjacent to the admissions window with a bowed trunk uniquely suited to climbing and swinging.  After being enjoyed for decades by climbing children, it was removed in 2008 to make way for Drumlin Farm’s accessible path, but was re-purposed as an educational exhibit.  The cedar, reborn as the Sensory Tree and designed by Sanctuary Director Renata Pomponi, was coated with resin and augmented with features to engage the senses: smell the cedar, listen to bird calls and woodpecker taps, and search for the hidden animals and insects.

For ten years the Sensory Tree provided a hands-on experience for children, teaching them what lives in and around a tree. But when it became apparent earlier in 2018 that the Sensory Tree had followed its natural path of decomposition, we needed to think of a replacement activity for this busy location adjacent to the farmyard entry path and our new Environmental Learning Center. Located at an opportune stopping point halfway down the welcome hill, the site would need to provide a destination for children on their way up or down the hill to run to, explore, or take a break at, all while being aesthetically pleasing and adhering to a limited budget. Thanks to an amazing team-effort from Drumlin Farm staff and volunteers, we were able to do just that.

Plan to Play

Interpretation Educator Norah Mazar designed the area and coordinated the project. Her initial visit provided area dimensions and an appraisal of the site – flat in the center, sloped to the back, partially surrounded by boulders and ledge, a section of partial shade, and an area of full sun. Norah drew-up plans for a nature play area with a spiral stepping activity made from downed trees on site. Nature play areas give people opportunities to connect with nature by encouraging self-directed, unstructured exploration and this winter’s storms knocked over more than thirty trees on the sanctuary, most of them pine, but some hardwoods as well. Naturalist Tia Piney advised on suitable plants for the adjacent slope, with native ferns, perennials and ground covers.

The site of the future nature play area.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Volunteer Coordinator Pam Sowizral worked with Thermo Fisher Scientific who generously supplied both volunteers to implement the project and funding to offset the costs of top soil, mulch, and plants. Meanwhile Property Manager Geoff Nelson and his staff started preparing for the project day by selecting fallen trees to use and removing the worn Sensory Tree. Project Day was a sunny Friday – May 18. The stumps and logs were eagerly waiting in a pile, as the eighteen Thermo Fisher Scientific employees volunteers came, sleeves rolled up, ready to get to work.

Thanks so much Thermo Fisher Scientific Volunteers!

Thanks so much Thermo Fisher Scientific Volunteers! Development Director Polly Reeve and uber volunteer Susan Vecchi, provided instruction on proper planting techniques while the team worked together digging, moving heavy logs, and planting. Once the top soil was moved to provide a bed for the new plantings the volunteers were able to get creative in their crafting a unique garden and nature display. Tia had chosen an array of plants native to New England that would be hardy during winters, good growers, and beautiful as well. Some plants were chosen for both foliage and flowers—sweet woodruff, geranium, lupine, trumpet honeysuckle, asters and foamflower. Others, for foliage alone, which can still grab ones eye—prairie dropseed, pink hair grass, feather reed grass, Pennsylvania sedge, Christmas fern, and lady fern.

Visit the Completed Project Today

Voila! A perfect spot to stop for a snack, a break, or more play!

It is always amazing what a group of hard working folks can accomplish in such a short time. Standing back, at the end of the afternoon, staff and volunteers could admire the finished project—stepping spiral, new seating, and plantings all in place—and feel good about a job well done. What’s more, they can think about the special moments and fond memories that are soon to be made in this area. What neat insects will an curious camper find when stopped here for a snack? Perhaps this will be the spot a young birder is sitting at when they identify their first songbird. Or a new parent may finally enjoy the time off their feet to sit and take in the natural surroundings after exploring the farm loop. Recently, Norah walked by the completed project and saw two youngsters joyfully playing the classic childhood game “The Floor is Lava” on the stumps as they bounded from one step to the next! With teamwork, creative re-use of natural materials, and a vision for what can be, a new nature play area for memory making and nature appreciation has found its home.

The floor is lava!