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Monday, July 1, 2013

Weeds and the People Who Pull Them

This Monday morning, I walked out into the fields accompanied by  a cloud of mosquitioes, to make my list of what we will be picking for the week.  I headed out to the check out some radishes, tucked in between the growing tomatoes.  Not only did I find radish and arugula beds, nearly ready to be harvested, but I found our Summer Crew, with Kasey and Deb at the helm, weeding a four-hundred foot bed of carrots.  That is, they were weeding three rows of carrots, each 400-feet long.  So, really, they were weeding 1200 row-feet of carrots.  The six crew members were bent over rows of just-rained-on carrot tops, pulling crab grass and yellow foxtail and pig-weed, their rain pants caked in mud, their faces speckled with soil, from swatting the bugs away all morning.  Weeding.  Lots and lots of Weeding. 

After seeing the crew out there this morning, I came inside and checked my calendar to see that it is July 1rst.  And I realized, it has begun.  The race against weeds. For the next six weeks, we will weed as fast as we can.  The sight of our crew bent, slowly crawling up and down row after row will become a familiar one.  I love weeding.  The immediate satisfaction of a job well done.  The ability to see the work that you are doing, by looking back at a row freshly weeded.  In farming, where there are a lot of unknowns--the weather, diseases, pests, people--these things are constantly changing--yet weeding remains consistent.  There are always weeds to pull.  I find joy in this consistent task.  And I especially find joy in finishing a 400-foot row of carrots.  See below to meet the people who are pulling all of these weeds!

See you in the fields,
(you can find me in the carrots)

Meryl & the Powisset Farm Crew

weeding carrots!

What's in the share:
In the Barn: lettuce, beets (chioggia or golden), carrots, scallions or onions, fennel, cilantro, chard or kale, cabbage or kohlrabi
In the field: the last of the strawberries, peas (shelling and sugar snap), parsley, fava beans

Meet your Farmers!
Standing (L to R): Paul (volunteer), Meryl, Omer (volunteer), Melissa --Kneeling (L toR): Deb, Kasey, Andrea, Jon, Jill, Becca, Tessa

The Full Time Farmers:

Jon Belcher: full time farmer

Jonathan Belcher was the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but I’m not that guy. However, I like to think we probably grew food in similar ways. Of all that I have done, growing food is what I feel the most passionate about. I am a twenty five year old who has tried many things before discovering farming as a trade. From being a collegiate cyclocross champion at Fort Lewis College in Durango Colorado to competing as a speed skater with the Bay State Speed skating Cub, I have seen the many parts of the United States. First an automotive technician then Exercise science major and now I am a graduate with a sustainable agricultural degree who feels fortunate to be an actual farmer. My most recent goal is to become a farmer/model.  Not a model farmer, well not yet anyway. I hope to succeed in the fashion industry and also farm as a living. I believe in doing what you want to do when you want to do it. Some of my words include Explore, Meet, Laugh, Love, and Dance!!
            Growing up I was planning on being a professional cyclist, traveling around Europe with an international cycling team living off of my sponsors as well as any prize money but that was not my destiny. Anyway, after getting completely burned out with cycling I started to rethink my motives. I moved home to South Walpole and applied to Sterling College in Crafts bury, VT. It only took a month of living in the North East Kingdom to discover my passion for agriculture. The local farmers as well as my instructors taught me so much about the lifestyle, business, and hard work that comes with being a farmer – what they didn’t have to tell me about was the tremendous sense of accomplishment that you finish each day with.
            At Powisset Farm I am one of the apprentices and I live here at the farm. It is so great having the farm in your back yard because it really feels like my own. Also not having a commute gives me time to do other things with the rest of my days. I enjoy playing mandolin, cooking, and going out with friends. I love bringing friends and family to the farm. They are always blown away by everything here and it makes me realize what a special place this is. I hope to be living in Japan by next summer so I will miss Powisset and all my friends here. I feel so lucky to be a part of this farm crew and I am looking forward to a fun and productive rest of the season.  Come over and hang out with us!

Kasey Butler: full time farmer

Kasey is a recent transplant from the San Francisco Bay Area bringing with her a passion for cut flower production, sustainable vegetable farming, equal food access and sharing nourishing food with friends and loved ones. The past few years she has been finding her way through the sustainable food system teaching cooking, nutrition and gardening classes; starting a preschool garden and finally digging deep into sustainable farming at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz in California. There she fell in love with farming and stayed on for a 2nd year as an assistant garden manager. This season she is excited to be producing food on a much larger scale, learning how to drive tractors and working with Meryl to plan the flower garden. Off the farm you may find her riding her bike, practicing yoga, wearing tutus, preserving farm produce and making funny videos to send to her family in California.

Tessa Pechenik: full time farmer-Powisset Farm Assistant Manager

Hello! My name is Tessa and I’m thrilled to be sharing the 2013 season with you all!

Powisset has been my farming classroom since the summer of 2009, when I first came here as a volunteer. That August afternoon of harvesting onions - gently pulling the plump allium globes from the field and nestling them one after the other into a  bag - was more significant than I could have imagined at the time. I came back each week to spend an afternoon on the farm and before long I was hooked. With the help of the patient crew, I learned how to seed in the greenhouse; how to wield a hoe in the war against weeds; how to carry bins overflowing with veggies out of long rows; and how to really taste and appreciate food when it is grown with such care. It really is no wonder that once I started to spend time here, I dug in my heels and refused to budge.

My favorite tasks include harvesting kale in the early morning - rapidly snapping off crisp stems and gathering the leaves that still hold dew; anything to do with hot peppers, which I think are beautiful and present exciting culinary possibilities. And tractor work, of course. Any time I can be driving around the fields on an ancient piece of farming history, I’m thrilled. Everyone looks good on a tractor.

When I’m not farming, I’m usually cooking, getting lost in Noanet with my partner, Reuben, or attempting to read while actually falling asleep. Before living and working in Dover, I lived in Washington, DC, a city I genuinely miss - although not as much as I miss my hometown, Oakland, California. But the seasonal cycles of New England, which play out so beautifully at Powisset, are irresistible and come summer in the farm fields, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Meryl LaTronica: full time farmer-Powisset Farm Manager

My name is Meryl LaTronica and this is my seventh season managing Powisset Farm!  Over the last seven years I have grown my own roots, along with these crops, building community with farmers, family, CSA members and visitors.  When I head out into the fields every day I know that I am doing this work not just for myself, but with and for a big, beautiful community is Powisset Farm.  I love hopping on a tractor on a quiet Sunday morning.  I love seeing families and friends out in the strawberry patch, filling pints and hands.  I love watching a new crew member make a gorgeous carrot bunch and see the pride in their eyes.  And I love walking out into the fields in the evening hours to pick a bunch of kale for dinner.  

When I’m not farming, I love walking my dog, Henry, around the woods near the farm with friends and family.  I cook lots of kale and broccoli and I love cheese-all cheese.  I play music when I can, ride my bicycle to farm pond and back, and ride my motorcycle around town and yell with glee when I go faster than 50 mph!  And, in my dreams I spend every Sunday climbing a mountain in Maine and sleeping in my tent. 

tessa picking first roots of the season

steve, jon, kasey and tessa after planting flowers

tessa and jon planting flowers

The Part time farmers:

Hannah Schiff:
As a teenager during the summers, it is often tricky to find something interesting to do—just too old for camp, the idea of working during the summer sounds treacherous. However, when a friend suggested volunteering at a nearby farm, I thought, why not? During these summers, volunteering at Powisset served as the perfect balance between hard work and summer, outdoorsy fun. With this just-right balance of work and fun, the welcoming Powisset community, and delicious vegetables, I knew I would be back for more.
            My teenage summer days are now over, yet I have managed to find a new role for myself at Powisset as part of the Summer Crew.  During the year, I am a junior at American University in Washington, DC studying Spanish/Latin America and Public Health. Although my future career path is not completely clear and bound to change, my academic interest in public health connects to my attraction to farming. The questions of how to sustainably feed large populations and deal with growing global rates of obesity tie together my academic interests and my work at Powisset.
The fact that I have a summer job that fulfills my childhood memories of camp while allowing me to broaden my academic interests outside of a classroom feels just plain lucky. Here’s to another awesome summer.

Andrea Schindler:
Hello, there! My name is Andrea, but the folks here on the farm tend to call me Andy. This season marks my second summer as a member of Powisset’s summer crew. It’s so wonderful to be back! Lots has changed since last season—the pick-your-own is on the other side of the road; beloved farm apprentices have moved on to new adventures, and others—no less good-looking or handy with a hoe–– have arrived; the mangy pigeon that once frequented the wash station has disappeared. But that same sense of groundedness that draws me to small-scale farming, and that same quality of jolliness that draws me to Powisset, certainly remain. Not to mention that this place is still unbelievable eye-candy (and ear- and nose- and just plain- candy)!
 Nature and the messiness that accompanies it have always brought me joy. As a youngin,’ I would stalk squirrels as I attempted to emulate, chimpanzee-less, my idolized Jane Goodall, and go on frogging expeditions with my mother in the Needham town forest. Now, as a college student, not much has changed: I’ll jump out a dorm room window to photograph a groundhog that appears across the street, and find solace in a good tree-climb every now and then. My interest in sustainable agriculture doesn’t have a clear direction yet, but is tied up in this love of life as well as its interactions with the rock and atmosphere that surround it. I’m currently studying biology and environmental studies at Wesleyan University. So far I prefer rain pants to lab coats, so perhaps farming will be in my future—who knows?
 It’s so easy to get lost in our biosphere; finding one’s place within the intricate complex of interdependencies that comprise our earth systems, and tracking the ethical, ecological, or nutritional reliability of one’s food sources are both overwhelming tasks. It’s so easy to do unknowing harm. When I’m farming, though, I feel like I’m doing the least harm. (Perhaps the weeds that I massacre, or the potato beetles that I’m less than thrilled to smash, would claim otherwise…) Though we’re only a few weeks into our time here as a summer crew this season, we’ve already interacted with plants at varying points in their life cycles and been involved in a diversity of projects—from seeding in the greenhouse to transplanting eggplants to mulching the tomato pathways to weeding the leeks… Can’t wait to see what’s in store tomorrow!

Jill Glidden:
My name is Jill, and I live in Framingham with my boyfriend Kevin, in the back of an old historical house that’s literally right around the corner from the wonderful Callahan State Park. My road to Powisset began after I was laid off from my full-time job this past February. The event I first felt was one of life’s “tough breaks” rapidly proved
to be a blessing in disguise. After suffering through 6+ years in a retail management role where I was unhappy with myself and my stagnant career choice, I decided to take this summer to get myself back to the things that truly make me happy. I’ve always appreciated farmers and had an interest in plants and gardening, thanks to my mom who has a total green thumb and lives and breathes plants, as well as my time spent surrounded by beautiful farms in western MA while attending UMass Amherst. I also have an immense love for the outdoors (sans daddy long-legs, as my fellow crew members will attest to!), so I decided to sign on for a summer here at Powisset. I couldn’t be happier I did so. I arrived in Dover jaded and wary of rude, angry, demanding people, and found myself surrounded by vibrant, upbeat, and motivated individuals from all over the area. The people that make up the Powisset team have completely restored my faith that friendly and compassionate people still do exist around here. I can’t say enough
about my experience at the farm thus far, other than to say that I’m so happy I took the small leap of faith and followed my heart this summer.

Aside from farming, I enjoy art and am an avid painter. I’ve recently begun listing some of my paintings on Etsy. I am continually inspired by the American West and love to travel. Some of my recent excursions include: California South-North via Rt. 1, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, and Yellowstone/Grand Teton. I’ve also recently
completed a 200-page memoir of my time spent within the retail realm and am hoping to find literary representation at some point in the near future. Fashion, photography, and Jeeps are other interests of mine, and I’m always excited to learn about new things!!

Melissa Tanguay:
Hello! My name is Melissa and I am thrilled to be part of the Summer Farm Crew here at Powisset Farm. I spent ten years working at a local humane society before deciding to return to school to study Exercise Science and Biostatistics in 2011 at Simmons College. With one more year to go before I graduate, I wanted to spend my summer working outdoors and doing something I haven’t done before. I was drawn to the Summer Farm Crew position after listening to friends rave about their positive experiences working on farms. The fact that I love vegetables certainly made position the all that much more appealing.
When I’m not working or going to school, I’m usually hanging out with my husband Bill at our home in Jamaica Plain or taking our dog Addie hiking in the woods. I am a runner, triathlete, and cyclist, and love cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. I am die-hard hot pepper fanatic, and once was a finalist in a habanero pepper eating contest. Needless to say I can’t wait to try the varieties here on the farm!
Although I’m very new to farming, I’ve fallen in love with the work we do here at Powisset Farm. I truly look forward to natural rhythm of our day-to-day tasks. I’ve learned that harvesting broccoli is exceptionally fun, that there’s a steep learning curve for bunching radishes and that I can't get enough weeding. Who knew? It certainly helps to be part of an amazing crew, which is definitely the case here at Powisset Farm! 

Deb Albenberg:
I presently spend much of my time keeping 2 girls alive and keeping the house from being redecorated beyond recognition while 1 kid pulls her sister's hair and the other one yells Ow. My favorite things right now are summer storms, riding and repairing bikes, eating fresh food, weeding and watching my yard bloom and hopefully make food, pulling radishes and turnips out of the ground, reading the New Yorker, hiking in the woods, birdsongs, listening to music and learning to play the cello with my daughter. My last job I did natural resources management with the Cambridge Water Department and (I think) I've decided to study landscape architecture in the fall. This summer I can't think of a more awesome thing to do with my time than help out at Powisset.

Becca Fox:
Hi there, I'm Becca! I'm 19 years old and hail from the lovely city of Newton.  It's my first summer here at Powisset, and I could not be more excited to spend the next two months with these lovely farmers! I'll be a sophomore this fall at the University of Vermont, where I'm majoring in environmental studies with a concentration in sustainability.  When I graduate, I hope to do something that involves farming, or maybe I'll just live in the woods, I haven't decided yet.  When I'm not at the farm, I enjoy watching netflix in my pajamas on the couch, playing air banjo to the sweet sound of bluegrass music, and driving around in my ugly electric blue car with friends.  This is my first time getting down and dirty on a farm, and so far I have had an awesome time getting to know the crew, the farm, and the veggies!

Katy Riley:
Katy is a transplant from Texas whose interests range from weaving to farming to teaching and pretty much everything in between. She spends her rare time off cooking, working on wood projects, and watching M*A*S*H with her cat, Downgrade, and partner, Alex.

becca, jill, melissa and andy rock it out on a rainy day

hannah, jill, becca, deb, andy and melissa after some planting

harvest is awesome!

katy loves broccoli

deb's youngest daughter looking very fashionable for lunch at the farm!
Come out and say hi to this incredible crew of talented farmers!  They will amaze you!

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