Ready for Spring @ LaFarm

Ready for Spring @ LaFarm

Happy Winter!  As we prepare to take a short winter nap it has been fun to reflect on LaFarm’s growing success. 

A few highlights:img_2795

LaFarm mentored, trained, taught, grew and delivered more in 2016 than ever before. Over 300 student work hours, Over 40 dining hall deliveries, over 1300 additional pounds of produce were donated to area non-profits!

LaFarm is now housed in the NEW Lafayette College Office of Sustainability join us as we welcome the college’s first ever Sustainability Director and Sustainability Fellow! We look forward to being an even more sustainable, available and irresistible farm as we move into our green future!

Though we work on a tiny budget we are living in a value added world. This summer LaFarm focused on make the most of our harvest, as we preserved over 1000 pounds of produce in custom-made, small-batch salsa and pasta sauce. Want some? Look for it on campus in early 2017, or email and we can talk.

This year has brought many changes to LaFarm and its role at Lafayette College. Our communications will reflect that as our team refines and redefines how we all keep in touch. For now enjoy all our new-news here and keep an eye out for our annual report early in 2017. 

Spring Beginnings and Spring Endings

Hello all,

 

At the farm right now, everything is just beginning. Work has kicked into gear, and the late rain and late frost has made extra work for the farm crew. At the same time, I am here at the end of my undergraduate education, looking forward to graduation in just a few days.

Many things are coming to a close. Just last week we had a wonderful party out at LaFarm and it seemed like the end of an era. As a budding social historian, I would lay out the history of our modest acres at the close of its second epoch: First, there were the Jenn Bell years. A time of fighting to establish a small plot for a big future, led mainly by Jenn herself, with the support of Profs like Wilson, Kney, and others. Then came this new era. Sarah was first hired for my first summer, and has done an amazing job leading us to the point we are today. New professors like Cohen and Lawrence as well as those more tenured like Brandes, Germanoski and others have contributed greatly to linking the college and the farm. And the environmental movement on campus has been burgeoning under the leadership of my many dedicated colleagues like Alexa Gatti, Peter Todaro, Miranda Wilcha, and countless others from the class of 2016 (including, I daresay, myself at times.) And now, we stand on a precipice, gazing into the next chapter. A wellspring of undergraduate support has burst forth as those of us in the class of 2016 prepare to finally depart; I believe there will be a great presence here to fill our shoes.

At the party last week, never had this seemed more obvious. Looking out over the surrounding acres and considering our plans for the future. Peter and I being “punk’d” by Sarah with memorial speeches as we get ready to pass off our torches (luckily, Peter will have a bit of extra time here as President of LaFFCo next semester.) Talking to the many wonderful underclassmen who have made the last few years possible. Everyone talking over what they’re going to do next, here, abroad, and everywhere in between. Discussing the past, the present, and the future over delicious homemade food, much of it as local as possible. The spirit of Spring has never been better embodied in one afternoon.

This time really is the end of an era, for the farm, for me, and for the whole graduating class I’m sure. While here, I’ve toiled with the soil alongside Sarah and my many other co-workers; I’ve learned a huge amount about greenhouses, fought for one, and now LaFarm will finally be getting one; I’ve read, I’ve written, I’ve explored academic disciplines and social movements and become part of both. Peter and I started a club to make sure support for the farm continues, we’ve gone to the sustainability committee meetings to make sure our voices were heard, everyone in the Lafayette environmental community has fought tooth and nail to finally hire a sustainability coordinator, we’ve attended workshops and we’ve led them (including one coming up this Friday at NHCC) we’ve gone to countless conferences, and I’ve even presented at two of them! I have never felt more connected to a piece of land than I do to our humble acres at LaFarm. I’ve worked out there every summer since 2013, and the thought of not being there for this year is the most shocking part of graduating.

But endings are also beginnings! The beginning of the season, and the beginning of the next era for us all. The new wave of students is taking up our mantle, the farm is finally realizing some changes that have been long coming, and the sustainability coordinator is on the way for this summer (though I won’t say I’m not sour over not having one this semester, which we were promised.)
And for me, I am going to manage some land myself. A few acres in Maryland owned by some friends of mine need to brought under sustainable cultivation to help support humans and insects alike (boy am I glad I took those beekeeping classes this last semester!) And by the end of the year, I’ll be in Sicily, WWOOFing and finally visiting my family on the other side of the Atlantic.

After that, I have a few options that I’m keeping open. But all of them are only available (or even appealing!) because of the tremendous help I’ve received from everyone at Lafayette and the amazing work I’ve had the opportunity to do here. I must say, while it is bittersweet, I am happy to say I’ve come to the end of this era, because the next one is looking very appealing.

The most sincere thanks to all of you, and all of my best for the future! Working together, we can make this world better, one acre at a time.

Signing off,

Joseph Ingrao, graduating EXCEL Scholar Spring 2016

Fall Farming and Thanksgiving!

Farming is a completely different world in the Fall. Instead of the odd jobs being the last thing we get to, almost everything we do is what we would do when we had extra time during the summer: spreading straw and wood chips, cleaning up the shed, organizing the tomato trellises, and all that sort of work.

Still, this Fall has been a very good time for getting LaFFCo fully operational. Every week we’ve had people come out to help, which has been fun as well as educational for everyone. I’ve certainly gotten plenty of experience working with new people who need a different amount of explanations for certain jobs, which has been super useful. Also the extra help has allowed us to have quite the set up for events leading up to Thanksgiving!

First of all, Sarah and some of us from LaFFCo are presenting at 1pm on Saturday for this year’s Our Beloved Community, which is a great opportunity for us to tell prospective students about the importance of food and agriculture and what Lafayette is doing to help.

More toward Thanksgiving, on this coming Thursday the 19th, LaFarm is holding a market in Farinon for students and faculty from 11-4 (more info here) and then on Friday LaFFCo is heading out to the farm to harvest the last of the food for our Thanksgiving Potluck happening on that Sunday the 22nd (more info for that here) which will be a great way to wrap up the agricultural season with all our members! I look forward to everything that’s coming up.

In addition, I’ve heard a bit about a big story in the upcoming Alumni magazine, more on that when it gets released…

 

Joe Ingrao, EXCEL Scholar Fall 2015

AASHE Sustainability Conference!

Hello All!

This year, I had the great opportunity of going to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)’s Sustainability Conference in Minneapolis to give a presentation! I really should have gotten to this post sooner, so that more of the people I saw at the conference may have seen it, but I’m only getting to it now.

At the conference I met and talked with a lot of really great people from all over the US and Canada, from places institutions the University of South Dakota, Portland State, Skidmore College, Allegheny College, Antioch College, the University of St. Scholastica, and other places like the US Green Building Council. I managed to chat with Professors, Students, Sustainability Officers and other administrators including some college presidents! Being able to swap ideas with others and telling people about everything we’ve done at Lafayette was one of the best opportunities I’ve had in my whole time at Lafayette.

It was especially heartening to talk to people who found our experiences at Lafayette to be great examples! The Sustainability Rally we had recently and all our efforts to get a Sustainability Coordinator were of especial interest to many students.

In addition to seeing Jessie McElwain, Eban Goodstein, Steven Mulky, and many others talk/give workshops, giving my own presentation was a great experience. I managed to get a lot of excited students and several faculty/administrators who were happy to hear about the formation of LaFarm through the funding of the CGI-U Outstanding Commitment Award. It was great talking to so many interested students right then, and the range of questions I received was interesting: people asked about everything from our crop rotation, soil conservation, cover crop and other farm management techniques, to the potential for greenhouse production in the Winter, to the way we got funding for starting the farm and employing Sarah, to how we got a sustainability rally to work at Lafayette. I felt really proud of everything we had been able to accomplish because of all the interest people had in Lafayette!

I’m very thankful that, because of my research with Prof. Cohen, I was able to go to such a fun and informative conference. I hope that in years to come, other students get such a good opportunity!

Joe Ingrao, Fall 2015 EXCEL Scholar

A Return to the School Year

It’s tough to be a student organization when there are no students. Despite our challenging summer work, we are but a minority of whom we hope will volunteer this year. Fortunately, the Involvement Fair (The event in which First-Year students join 10 more clubs than they have time for) is soon, and we hope they visit us and sign up and volunteer at the Farm.

Speaking of volunteering, we here at LaFFCo are searching for a select few brave knights* to assist us in a task most perilous.

Pictured: Brave Knights

Pictured: Brave Knights

We have found ourselves beset upon by a creature most foul, with vast casualties on the Brassicas.

Pictured: Creature most foul

Pictured: Creature most foul

For all ye who brave treacherous low bushes and ankle-high meadows, contact myself or Joe for Wednesday Sorties into the terrifying unknown. If we brave the deep jungles, we may just find the fabled cabbages hidden within. Let us join forces and be a WWOLFpack (Working Wednesdays on LaFarm). It’s a pun on the word wolfpack, see? Because wolves hunt in packs. I’ll stop now.

 

In other news, the LaFarm market is up for the semester (Fall 2015)! Stop by on Tuesday afternoons and stock up for all you need to combat the dangerous, fluffy, adorable monsters.

 

Also, have you heard of the Vegetables in the Community program that has been running? You can check it out here

 

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more LaFFCo news through the Fall Semester.

Cheers,

Fletcher

 

 

Community, Work, and the Bounty of the Summer Harvest

Hello Farmers!

August has rolled in and we at the farm are seeing the benefits of all the work we put into our land, enjoying our pickings and looking forward to all the great autumn harvests we know we’ll have this year. Those harvests will be going to the dining hall, to the veggie van, and we will be selling at market on campus again when classes start.

Through all my work with LaFarm, interacting with the Veggies in the Community and other farms, and all my other Lafayette work that has brought me in contact with the Easton Farmers Market, Buy Fresh Buy Local, the Easton Hunger Coalition and others, I have always been most astounded by how much food and agriculture can so easily create a sense of community. Wherever I meet farm workers, farmers, gardeners, food distributors, cooks, or anyone else whose life revolves around food, whether it is at market, them visiting LaFarm, me visiting another farm, at a kitchen or anywhere else, there is always conversation to be had, information to be exchanged, goals to accomplish, and a friendly feeling of being in this life together with a shared purpose. That is one of the main advantages of centering one’s life around such a quintessential part of the human experience, the sense of community we all share.

Being in this community has brought me to look back at all the work we’ve done on the farm and take even more pride in what we’ve produced. So I took the time to bring together many of the pictures I’ve taken (and a few that I’ve been in) during this work:

What we all can accomplish together is amazing. look at this harvest from just one day this summer:

From the ground work we have laid this summer, we expect harvests like this once or twice a week for the next few months, albeit with the exact types of vegetables changing a good deal over that time. Out of the rather small chunk of land we have, I definitely find this impressive, and I know that despite our struggles this is all possible because of the many, many hours of hard work that all of the people working or even just helping out once at our modest farm. So many thanks to Peter, Leslie, Miranda, Alexa, Rachel, Haley, Brandon, and all the volunteers and visitors we’ve had this summer, and of course a special thanks to Sarah, without whom none of this would happen, and Profs Lawrence, Cohen, Germanoski, Brandes, and all the others who help make the farm a part of Lafayette! I look forward to another great year as I enter my last Fall semester at Lafayette in this community of food workers.

Joe Ingrao, Summer 2015 EXCEL Scholar

Storm Recovery, One Month Later

That’s right, as I indicated earlier, we are still thinking about and working around the June 30th hail storm and will be actively for the rest of the season at least. After all, I have not had a day working at the farm this month when we didn’t say “we’re doing this because of the storm” at least once, and every conversation I’ve had with a community gardener in that same period has revolved around the phrase “after that storm we…”

Overall, I would definitely say that I am cautiously optimistic about the overall state of the farm given the amount of damage we suffered. This is because despite the amount of damage there was and the fact that we’re still dealing with it, we could be in significantly worse shape had we not dedicated ourselves so highly to storm recovery. For example, I previously said that this event could have shut down a CSA’s season. At this point, I’m confident that if we were a CSA, though we would have lost a few weeks of delivery and would have had to work out the details of potential refunds or partial refunds, we would at this time be able to resume a semi-normal delivery schedule, if with included caveats about what people are not getting due to the storm.

Take for example beans:

The amount of damage on the beans right after the storm was intimidating to say the least. Many farmers may have just taken those beans and tilled them under the soil, either trying to plant a new succession or just so they didn’t use time and energy on a lost prospect. As we said we would, we left them in the ground and tried to help them out. As can be seen, although they have been hit by the surge of Japanese Beetles that has descended on the farm since the storm, they are still producing. Some individual plants are doing much better than others, but there were more producing plants than not and we had our first harvest of beans just this Monday, July 27th (which is not extremely late for beans by any means.)

This is comparable to the performance of many of our other crops: definitely set back by the damage, but still more or less on time:

Also the plants that  were just sprouting (and thus suffered less from the hail, just on grace of not having been hit) or that we didn’t plant until just after the storm are of course also doing well:

But as I said, this is but cautious optimism. It is impossible to quantify the amount of time, energy, and labor was lost due to the storm. At this time it’s just better to look at the bright side of things; the farm isn’t looking too shabby.

Looking at the stem of the tomato from just last week, you can see how the hail damage has left permanent scars.

Looking at the stem of the tomato from just last week, you can see how the hail damage has left permanent scars.

There is one particularly crop whose damage has hit home for all of us. Our tomatoes. They are producing, and we’ve even gotten some ripe Black Cherries, Purple Cheorkee, and Yellow Perfection, but what we were most worried about happening, happened.

Yellowing and Wilting of a tomato branch most likely caused by early blight

Yellowing and Wilting of a tomato branch most likely caused by early blight

Because of the large number of hail wounds our tomatoes suffered, they became very susceptible to disease and we’ve had to go through our crop several times to clean up the Septoria and Early Tomato Blight, two fungal diseases that necessitate the cutting of dying branches by sanitized clippers. Treating these diseases is important enough to warrant it’s own later technique post, and hopefully within the next week I’ll be able to take some pictures of the process and write that up. Suffice it to say for now that we are at the very least glad that we gave our tomatoes a good amount of spacing (2 ft for a single row between each plant) because good air flow is one of the best defenses against these diseases, and that we have managed to straw mulch under them this season (protecting somewhat against weeds, which make it harder to clean up and of course reduce the room for air circulation.)

And as the previous technique post on spraying Surround is an example of, we’ve incurred some of the financial and labor burden of spraying several of the chemicals recommended by USDA Extension Agent Tianna DuPont to all the hail damaged farms in the area. In addition to that Kaolin Clay, we’ve sprayed with fish emulsion (ground fish essentially, which has many beneficial nutrients plants need and if you spray it on a mature plant’s leaves it can be absorbed into the plant,) as well as Regalia, which is a ‘biofungicide,’ basically a chemical which helps kill bacteria and fungus. Regalia specifically causes in plants what is referred to as ‘Induced Systemic Resistance,’ which basically means it actually stimulates and strengthens a plant’s immune system, so it can better fight off bacteria and fungus. There were a few more chemicals recommended to farmers like us which we elected not to use, and even just what we did get cost us around $800- which is not an insignificant amount of money for a farmer in the wake of a storm which would have drastically reduced their income. Also considering our scale (we didn’t even spray on our full 2 acres) this would have been much much more expensive for a farmer on say, 8 acres who went to spray all the different recommended chemicals. At the moment, we’re just very thankful that what we’ve done has been as successful as it has, even if not everything is perfect. Hopefully we’ll be able to completely recover from our remaining problems by the end of summer.

In the mean time, hope everyone is doing well, and happy farming!

-Joe Ingrao, Summer 2015 EXCEL Scholar