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

My First Market

I worked our second week of market today, my first time on the selling end of a farm stand. Being there with an experienced farmer and farm marketeer, Sarah, was a wonderful chance to learn the ropes of direct marketing to customers in a situation where my income didn’t depend on my performance, which isn’t the case for most farmers standing behind their tables. That’s another reason I’m so glad for this continuing opportunity to learn what it’s like to really be a producer, without the risk of losing my livelihood if I fail.

And it went very well! We sold out of tomatoes within twenty minutes (we promise to bring more next week,) sold out of zucchini, and sold the majority of everything else we brought. Harvesting in the morning, setting up the stand, being engaged with customers for the market and then tearing everything down was hard work, but all farm work is hard work that’s more than worth the effort.

Here’s some pictures I was able to take between customers:

It was very nice to be able to hand someone a bag full of potatoes I had picked only hours ago, to physically see the food we’ve created get sent into it’s next step in the food loop. That satisfying feeling is well worth the time.

-Joe Ingrao, Excel Scholar Summer 2014

Weed Thatching

Weed thatching. Notice the roots are always exposed to the sun.

Weed thatching. Notice the roots are always exposed to the sun.

Small scale farms are diverse. With a large number of plots growing different things, with certain things taking priority at certain times, you can look away from a plot for a week only to come back with weeds almost a foot high. Or, maybe you left the plot that way because you intend on using those weeds for good. How can weeds be used for good you ask? Well besides being good for compost, you can also use tall weeds as a form of mulch specifically to prevent more weed growth, which will also add more organic matter to your soil in the long run. It’s called weed thatching.

Wherever you have some bad weeds, between 1 and 2 feet tall, you can try this nifty trick. All you have to do is physically grab and pull out large handfuls of weeds and then lay them down over the pathway or row you’d like to cover. You always want the roots of one handful to be on top of the above ground portion of the previously laid handful (see the picture), and it’s best to do this on hotter, sunnier days so the sun will kill the weeds through root exposure. It’s best to lay them on pretty thick, and you may have to do this twice to completely shade out the weeds, but it’s worth it if your crop can afford the bit of weed exposure and you are sick of weeding it.

It’s easier to do on days when the soil isn’t too dry, just because it’s easier to pull the weeds then, but if you’re going to thatch weeds on purpose, make sure to keep a close eye and not let any weeds go to seed, That would be disastrous. If any weeds that you do pull are mature and might be close to seeding, don’t thatch with them or compost them, dispose of them away from where the wind could pull their seed into any plot.

Good luck with your beds gardeners!

-Joe Ingrao, Excel Scholar Summer 2014

LaFarm Market on Thursdays!

Now in the most active part of the season, LaFarm is beginning to bring our fresh fruits, veggies, and herbs to market for students, faculty, staff, and other passers-by outside of Gilbert’s from 11am-1pm every Thursday. LaFarm posterOur first market this past Thursday was a great start, we brought scallions, garlic, eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, a mix of herbs (oregano, sage, and thyme) flowers and young, ready to plant Brussels sprouts!

-Joe Ingrao, Excel Scholar Summer 2014

Monarch Watch at the Farm

As many people (like Gary Nabhan who visited our school and our farm this spring) know, Monarch butterflies are an extremely integral part of the North American ecosystem. They’re pollinators, like bees, hummingbirds, and other butterflies; and like Colony Collapse Disorder Monarch butterfly decline threatens our food prodcution. .


Some Horseradish and Pleurisy root at the farm

Some Pleurisy Root

Luckily, there are plenty of things regular people and farmers can do to make way for Monarchs, mostly having to do with the reduction in the use of pesticides (another reason to buy organic!) and the cultivation of Milkweed, a group of flowering plants that are the only place a Monarch will lay eggs and the only food source for Monarch caterpillars

LaFarm of course, is doing our part. A few years ago, a student planted a few common milkweed plants on the edge of the farm, and this year we are cultivating some pleurisy root, a perennial milkweed commonly called butterfly weed, that is used as a medicinal herb. I and one other student, Jacob Strock are monitoring the common milkweed for the presence on Monarchs as part of the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project. As of time of writing there hasn’t been any sign of the beautiful butterflies, which is a sign common to the last few years of the drastic changes to their migration patterns.

Our cordoned off milkweed preserve

Our cordoned off milkweed preserve

We at LaFarm highly recommend you do something to help Monarchs, whether it be raising a bit of milkweed in your backyard (their pretty flowers can be a wonderful addition to any garden, or just another plant in an overgrown section of land you own,) monitoring some milkweed for larva as part of the MLMP, talking to your local farmers about growing milkweed and decreasing their use of insecticides or just buying organic food when you otherwise would be buying inorganic produce. Check out more at Make Way for

-Joe Ingrao, Excel 2014 Scholar