Author: Rachel Young

Week 15: Out Just Before the Storm

The production at the Urban Farm is winding down as classes are starting up. Alexa and I began classes this week, so we had a lot more work on our hands. However, NIcole helped us gather a lot of first year students to volunteer for the week. Some of the students were involved in the POSP program with Sophia the week before. We are extremely grateful for all of the student volunteers, they were a huge help.

Although a significantly smaller amount of vegetables were harvested from the Urban Farm and LaFarm this week, there was still a lot of excess at the conclusion of distribution because a significantly smaller amount of people came to the Stand. Sophia suggested the decrease in attendance was due to most people assuming that the Veggie Stand concluded with the start of school. Alexa and I tried to tell everyone in attendance that next week is the final week of distribution. We hope to have a great final week.

Logistics of transportation, storage and hands to help were a large concern; however, by the end of Thursday night everything came together like it always does. Chef John was able to guarantee us plenty of shelf space in Marquis and Doc M. was able to help us get access to the Spot at the bottom of the hill. Alexa and I were able to have access to a Landis Van in addition to the crew team we had been using all summer. Joe was able to gather help with harvest at LaFarm Wednesday night, so that Alexa and I would not have to go there Thursday morning. We are very grateful for the work he did and hope that he can continue to harvest for us next week. With all of the volunteer help from Nicole, we were able to conduct the Veggie Stand with pretty much no issues.

Alexa and I handed out a survey for all the residents to complete this week to finish out all of our qualitative data collected over the summer. We hope the survey will give us insight into how to improve the Stand next summer. I have really enjoyed my work with the Veggie Stand this summer. I have learned so much about farming practices and food justice. I met amazing people of the Easton community and had a wonderful time all summer!

Week 12: Rolling With the Punches… Or Golf Ball Attacks

Throughout my time as a member of the VIC team, I have learned to always be ready for anything that may happen. This week was looking to be fairly normal and was running smoothly, until Wednesday afternoon. As we returned from Northampton Community College with their donation this week, our van was struck with a golf ball causing the passenger side windshield to crack and shatter. Besides being somewhat shaken, Alexa and I were unharmed. Afterwards, we took all necessary steps in order to take care of the situation. The next morning, Thursday, we proceeded business as usual because we had a veggie stand to run that evening. At any job, it is important to be able to be flexible and calm in tough situations. And this past week’s experience definitely taught me that.


Despite a minor set back with the van, the Veggie Stand ran very smooth again, with many tomatoes to hand out. With about 175 lbs worth of tomatoes alone, we had excess produce after the close of the stand to donate to a member of the Easton Hunger Coalition to be taken to a food pantry. In addition to the tomatoes, we gave them sweet peppers, some kale and beans. We are happy to be working with the EHC, so that all of the produce goes to a good place.

This week we also featured a bug scouting demo, which Pam from the Nurture Nature Center ran with the kids. Bug scouting is important to an organic garden because the gardener must be able to identify which bugs needed to be killed and which are safe. Using no pesticides, gardeners must use only their knowledge, eyes and hands to exterminate any pest that may try to destroy their vegetables. The identification may be tricky, but with a great guide provided by Pam anyone can keep their veggies safe. I think the idea ida was wellreceived and the kids had some fun searching around the garden at 10th and Pine St.

Another large crowd was gathered this week beginning at 5:00, however we did not open the stand until everything was ready around 5:20. While attendees were waiting, we had them fill out a written survey that Alexa and I made for this week. This method seemed to work well because the donation table did not get to congested and it gave the attendees something to do while they waited in line for their produce. We hope to use these surveys as qualitative data when examining and assessing the effectiveness of our local food system model. Specifically, the consumption part of the model, since we have no control over what produce actually gets consumed. In the future, VIC may consider prewriting the surveys and getting them approved by the IRB, so that they can be used officially in published work.

Also this week, we had a “photo shoot” at LaFarm for Lafayette communications. They took photos, video and interviews to post on the college’s website and social media outlets. I think this will be a great opportunity for LaFarm, as well as the entire idea of organic farming, to get some recognition in the Lafayette community.  The communications people even made it down to the Veggie Stand to take some more footage of the VIC program in specific. I hope through their efforts, VIC will be made more well known to students and staff at Lafayette because it is a program that most people do not know about. However, it is doing so much for the local community of Easton, that as members of the college, students and staff are members of Easton.

As the summer winds down and transitions into fall, we hope to gain more volunteers for harvest at both LaFarm and the Urban Farm, in addition to distribution nights at South 10th and Pine. We have already gathered interest from a few students, but we hope to gain a couple more, as the Veggie Stand takes a lot of people in order to run smoothly.

Week 10: Mayor Applauds Stand’s Success

Once again the Veggie Stand was a great success! The weeks seem to be flying by. I am always surprised once it’s all wrapped up on Thursday night that distribution is over for the week once again. However, the following Thursday comes just as fast! We certainly have gotten a routine down for the week – between harvesting at the farms, picking up vegetables at community gardens, and creating signs, recipes and surveys for the stand.

Since Alexa still away oIMG_0923n vacation, I tried to remember all of the tasks to be completed throughout the week. It helps to have a fairly standard routine to follow each day that can also be adapted if need be. After speaking with everyone who participated in VIC last year, the model we have created for this summer seems to be more time efficient and more productive than any of the weeks from last season.

With over 600 pounds of produce, the Veggie Stand “sold out” for the first time. All of the vegetables were taken except for some tomatoes and a few cucumbers and patty pan squash. It was exciting to see all of the returning customers as well as new faces. Two different residents were kind enough to make the workers of the stand dishes to share. This was such a kind gesture, maybe we could encourage this kind of sharing at future distribution nights. Alexa and I planned to have a potluck on the last Thursday night of the season; however having impromptu food tastings is a great way to build more community space.

This week the community involvement demo/event was an activity for kids. One of our Lafayette volunteers, Miranda Wilcha, created a sheet mural, which the kids painted with vegetables and flowers. We hope to hang it at future distribution nights. PIMG_0926ainting was great for the kids because they were able to get a little messy and have fun while learning what each vegetable looks like. I must extend a huge thank you to Miranda for making the mural and helping the kids paint. It looked a little chaotic at times, but I think the kids really enjoyed themselves. VIC was happy to see the Mayor of Easton,  Sal Panto, and the president of Lafayette College, Allison Byerly, at the Veggie Stand. We’re truly grateful for all their support of the program and everything that we are trying to accomplish. I thought it was also good for the residents to know that the Mayor is in support of the Veggie Stand.

In addition to Veggie Stand preparations, I continued my research on nutrition and value throughout the past week. One of the goals of VIC and the food movement on a large scale is to provide, not only locally grown food, but nutritious food as well. By providing the residents of the West Ward with fresh vegetables we hope that they will be encouraged to cook with more vegetables. With the amount of variety that we supply, I hope that residents try to make new dishes or experiment with the veggies to find what makes them taste the best, while keeping them nutritious. When valuing vegetables there are many approaches that one can forgo. There is a dollar value, a pound value, and a nutritional value. And while VIC doesn’t so much examine cost and pounds are easy to measure, the nutritional value of a vegetable is a metric that Dr. M and I are continually trying to establish. We aim to find out, as a total with the vegetables we have each week, how many people we could possibly feed based on Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) of vitamins and minerals.

In conjunction with the most nutritious vegetable, we also want to know which vegetable residents used most often once they returned home. The only way for us to collect data on this metric would be through surveys asked at the stand. In knowing this information, we could possibly reevaluate certain vegetables that we plant. If they aren’t being used then it seems to not be worth the resources to grow that specific veggie. However, since some of the vegetables come from farms/gardens where we do not have control over what goes in the ground, we can not dictate what is at the stand each week. Some vegetables are high in nutrients – kale, for instance – but some people do not know what it is or how to cook it; which is why the educational aspect of the Veggie Stand is also very important. I hope residents enjoy the veggies they pick up and find that vegetables can be tasty and nutritious. I think the Veggie Stand is doing very well and I hope it continues to grow each and every week.

Week 9: Beating the Heat

The week began hot and humid, but luckily cooled off some for Thursday night distribution. The next two weeks will be busy since Alexa is on vacation. So it’s up to me and all our wonderful volunteers to complete the tasks necessary for the Veggie Stand. On Tuesday, an invitation was sent to the mayor of Easton and many other dignitaries to attend the stand next Thursday as special guests. We hope to have a good turnout and use the opportunity to promote WWNP and VIC as a program for the community. On Wednesday, I traveled to the West Easton Treatment Center and Lynn St. community gardens to pick up vegetables for the stand. East 40 also donated a good portion of produce, in addition to community gardeners on the LaFarm plots. We are very thankful to have donations from so many different gardens because not only  are we receiving more vegetables to distribute, but also we are receiving a lot more variety. Many people have returned to the stand to tell us about different vegetables they have tried and really enjoyed.

This week we had the largest amount of vegetables to distribute (over 600 pIMG_0893ounds!)  and attendees (close to 80 residents) at the Veggie Stand. We are happy to know that almost all of the vegetables got taken; by 6:30, when most people had left, we had Nancy Walters from the Easton Hunger Coalition come take the small excess. Earlier in the week Nancy had sent me a schedule of who would be doing the excess pick-up from the stand each week. This will be a helpful tool as we continue with our partnership with EHC. VIC’s goal is to increase food access in the West Ward, by teaming with the Easton Hunger Coalition we are contributing more and more to that goal. Each week the produce goes to a different food pantry within Easton.

Another goal of VIC includes building community strength in order to promote awareness of the gardens and community sustainability of the program. For this week’s Veggie Stand we had a cooking demonstration presented by Easton Hospital’s Chef Jose Estevez. He made a delicious ratatouille with zuchinni, tomatoes, onions and squash. I made sure to inform residents of the special guests we hope to have at the stand next week and the art project that Miranda Wilcha (one of our student volunteers) has created for kids to participate in. It’s important to educate kids about the importance of vegetables and nutrition, and a hands-on art project is a way to have fun while educating. Some of the kids who attended the stand this week were reluctant to try the ratatouille sample; however once they did, they were coming back for seconds.

Again, we had a written survey for the attendees of the Veggie Stand. We seemed to get a good response for written surveys so I decided it would be best to continue with them. Some of the questions were repeats from last week and others were the same. I asked about whether the attendees had come to the stand last summer or in previous weeks. The goal is to see how many new people we have each week. I also asked about where people had heard about the stand in order to find out about how well our advertising worked. I also asked about how attendees got to the stand in addition to what kind of food they chose and why. These questions were asked in order to examine why certain vegetables may not be chosen over others and how that relates to styles of cooking. Overall, the survey was well answered and hopefully we can use them in the future to improve the Veggie Stand in addition to qualitiative data for the article.

I saw a few familiar faces from weeks past, but many new people attended and were excited to hear about the program and the farm. One woman had me write down the address and the times for volunteering at the Urban Farm. Another man signed his name and told me he would like to and is willing to help with distribution nights since he lives right around the corner. In order for VIC to continue we need to continue to recruit community members that are willing to volunteer their time. Even just and hour on the farm, every little bit helps to sustain the program.

I am excited to continue with the Veggie Stand for the rest of the summer. So far it has been a huge success and I am sure it will continue to be so!


First Distribution of 2015!

With a line of 20 people at 5:15 already awaiting the opening of the Veggie Stand, the first distribution last night was a success!!  Ominous clouds hung in the sky, bIMG_0795ut that didn’t stop about 60 people from coming out to the stand at South 10th and Pine St.  We were able to hand out over 500 pounds of produce thanks to the Easton Urban farm, LaFarm, and East 40 (Northampton Community College’s farm).  We also had the dietitian from Easton Hospital, Alison, come with a sample of a healthy vegetable salad recipe and sample featuring veggies we had at the stand. Everything ran very smoothly – even the hasty clean-up due to the impending storm –  thanks to our volunteers from Lafayette and the community. We had just enough people to be able to conduct surveys and explain the vegetables, while refilling the baskets from the seemingly bottomless supply of squash. All of the left over vegetables were handed off to Nancy from the Easton Hunger Coalition to be taken to a food pantry in order to serve as many families as possible.

IMG_0793This whole week had been a whirlwind of coordinating cooler drop-offs and pick-ups for donations, finding cold storage space, putting together various recipes and signs, and harvesting vegetables at the Urban Farm and LaFarm for the stand. All the hard work paid off!  As I saw the smiling faces of West Ward residents picking out their vegetables, I felt pride in all the work Alexa and I have put in to make this project into something great. When out in the field it is sometimes hard to see the big picture outcome; however last night I finally realized the impact VIC has on the community and felt honored to be a part of the project. While the future of VIC is unknown, it is rewarding to know that this week we helped numerous families get fresh vegetables to put on their table.

As the weeks progress, we aim to stream-line our harvest process at both the Urban Farm and LaFarm. We also hope to increase our number of attendees at the stand and create an even more interactive community space. In addition, we hope to stay in communication with dining services throughout the summer, since they provide us cold storage space. We had just enough room this week, but as harvest becomes more bountiful, we might have to find moreIMG_0791 storage places. Alexa and I had to trouble shoot all issues (big and small) throughout the week, which paid off because the stand ran as smoothly as we could have imagined. I now realize all the important details that must be accounted for. For example, the recipe board from last year could not be found, so we improvised with a cork board and an easel to be able to display the recipes for participants. Recipe sharing is important to the building of community strength and we were very happy with what we were able to bring to the community. Overall the first night was a great success and I look forward to many more Thursday evenings at the Veggie Stand.


Week 5: Advertising and Growing

This week Alexa and I worked on advertising the veggie stand throughout Easton. On Tuesday, we dropped off flyers at the Boys and Girls Club and the Health and Wellness Foundation, to be handed out to families visiting both locations. On Thursday, Alexa went to a pub night meeting with members of the cooking matters team. Cooking matters is a program run by Easton’s hunger coalition to teach cooking lessons and provide cooking utensils and food for families to reproduce the meals at home. On Thursday night, I went to the summer nights event held at the Easton Area Community Center by the Kellyn Foundation. I was able to handout flyers to the families in attendance there. We are both very excited to be able to get the word out about the Veggie Stand.

At LaFarm, we have spent a lot of our early mornings harvesting for the dining halls. In the later part of the morning, Alexa and I have done a lot of weeding to prepare the beds for being covered with straw (cucumbers and watermelons) or compost (potatoes). On Thursday at LaFarm, we learned harvest procedures such as weighing, washing and storing the vegetables. The vegetables we used were for the dining hall, but the same procedure will be used when we harvest for the veggie stand. We also, picked up and labelled are totes for harvest. It’s exciting to know that distribution is only two weeks away!

At the Urban Farm, Alexa and I have done a lot of bug scouting on the swiss chard, cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini and squash. Lexi has taught us which bugs are important to squish in order to keep the plants healthy and growing strong. We have continued with tomato stringing; getting better and better each time! On Wednesday night I visited the Urban Farm and Lexi was there with two other volunteers building a wash station using the water from the neighbothood center. This is very exciting news for us because if we can wash right after harvest, then we do not have to use the sinks in Farinon. The wash station will also make the Urban Farm more self sufficient.

We have recently been in contact with Kelly Allen, the master gardener of East 40, which is the farm at Northampton Community College. Mr. Allen is interested in donating to the veggie stand and we are very excited to be in contact with him. Hopefully, as the summer continues Alexa and I can make more connections like these and gain more volunteers for the program!6-16 Lexy Volunteer Welcome Sign


Week 3: Things are Heating Up

It’s starting to IMG_0586really feel like summer: the temperature outside had risen over the week, with intermittent storms throughout. On Monday at LaFarm, we seeded melons, beans, and winter squash, weeded and staked the tomatoes. Alexa and I learned how to use a stake driver to push the stakes into the ground, they went in easy because of the rain that morning. On Tuesday at the Urban Farm, we planted silver bell squash and eggplant, mulched the tomatoes and eggplants, built trellis for the cucumbers, weeded asparagus and grapes and staked the tomatoes. On Wednesday at the Urban Farm again, we shoveled a lot! We mulched the tomato and pepper beds and spread mushroom soil on the empty beds in the front of the farm. Back at LaFarm on Thursday, Alexa and I harvested peas and strawberries and planted onions, leeks, cabbage and watermelon. To plant the leeks and onions we used a dippler, which is something I had never seen before. It made making holes for the onion bulbs very easy. On Friday, Alexa and I met with Nancy Walters from the Easton Hunger Coalition to discuss a partnership between them and VIC. IMG_0583

In the afternoons, Alexa and I used our time to do independent research and contact community gardeners, Pam Ruch and Gelmar about helping with the veggie stand. On Thursday afternoon, we had a meeting with Dr. M, Bonnie, Sophia and Alex. We discussed some of the logistics of the distribution nights. We planned to order certified harvesting containers to make harvest days easier. At LaFarm we had already used the containers, so Alexa and I decided that they would be suitable for us at the Urban Farm. Also in this meeting, we discussed no longer using the term “veggie van” to talk about the distribution nights because it might be a source of confusion. Since the operation is more like a farm stand, we decided to change the official name to Vegetable In the Community: your neighborhood vegetable stand. A lot was accomplished at the meeting and I feel that we made progress towards our goals this summer. I look forward to beginning harvest this July!

Week 1: Starting VIC for Summer 2015


Starting at 7:00am on Tuesday morning at Easton’s Urban Farm, Alexa, Alex, the community intern for the summer, and I planted produce for this summer’s veggie van. We planted peppers, eggplant, watermelon and tomatoes. The Urban Farm has a new drip line irrigation system to water the plants, which we helped to adjust. Right now the Lehigh Valley is experiencing a drought, so the soil was very dry and the new plants needed a lot of water. The Urban Farm has recently undergone and expansion to almost twice its size from last year, which is very exciting for us because more space yields more produce for the veggie van. In the afternoon, Alexa and I met with Professor Cohen to discuss our goals and tasks for the veggie van and our individual research.

On Wednesday, we returned to the Urban Farm to do more planting, watering and weeding. We planted corno di toro, jimmy nardello, better belle, and gourmet orange peppers, cherokee purple, black krim and great white tomatoes, and basil. In the afternoon, Alexa and I did some work in the library: we compiled a list of community volunteers’ contacts, drafted an email to Sofia to send to community members, and created a volunteer sign-in for Lexy to track the volunteer hours at the Urban Farm. Alexa also contacted Alison, a nutritionist from Easton hospital, to see what dates she would be available to present demos and recipes at the stand.

On Thursday, we again were at the Urban Farm planting new vegetables, watering plants from the day before, weeding and spreading mulch. Normally, Alexa and I will spend our Thursday mornings at LaFarm; however Sarah was taking a break this week, so our work at LaFarm will begin on Monday morning. We planted jalapeno and haidulce peppers, sun gold, black krim and yellow pear tomatoes, rosa bianca, pington, ping egg, and egg diamond eggplant, onions and chamomile. In the afternoon, Alexa and I met with Dr. Malinconico to discuss some of the logistics of the veggie van, as well as our individual research goals. After the meeting, Alexa and I went to the library to send an email about volunteering with the veggie van to community members who signed up last summer. We also brainstormed ideas for demos/activites to hold at the distribution nights. It is important for us to set-up the activities for each week of distribution during June, so that we have them planned before the actual distribution begins.

On Friday, Alexa and I attended a lunch and discussion event entitled “Join the Local Food Revolution” hosted by Renew Lehigh Valley and the Lehigh Valley Food Policy Council to discuss Urban Agriculture with various contributors to the local food and food justice movements spreading across the area. The discussion topics included: community gardens, urban farms, growing our own economic opportunities and improving the health of individuals and neighborhoods. The various panelists discussed programs related to urban agriculture established in New York, Philadelphia and the local Lehigh Valley. After the panel, there were table discussions to brainstorm ideas on policy relating to a specific topic. For example, my table was about nutrition and we discussed ways to bring healthy and fresh foods to food pantries to distribute to the community. The event was very informative and an exciting way to kick off the summer.