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Veggie Stand 8/9!

Thankfully we’ve seen much better weather since we last wrote! It was overcast with no threat of rain, so we had a larger crowd at this veggie stand as opposed to the last. We offered produce not only from LaFarm, the Easton Urban Farm, Crayola, and Safe Harbor as usual, but we also had a few on-site donations, the first of the season. Sophia harvested several cucumbers on behalf of a community gardener at one of the plots at 10th and Pine, and stand newcomer Karen gave us several shopping bags full of oregano, parsley, and lemon balm (which is supposedly very good in tea, especially when mixed with mint). They were the first on-site stand donations that we’ve seen this season, which was gratifying and exciting to see. We hope that we’ll see more!

Tomato season is now officially in full force– we had roughly five or more bins worth of both cherry and large tomatoes, both from LaFarm and the Urban Farm. It took a semi-exhaustive harvest to get them all there that Lisa compared to spelunking– crouching between rows of semi-sprawling tomato plants, trying to reach through the dense tangle of branches. We consistently got our hands covered in tomato sap, but all of the time spent harvesting was well worth it– we had plenty for the veggie stand, so much so that we had plenty of leftovers to donate to the Neighborhood Center at the end of the night in spite of people’s enthusiasm to see tomatoes available.

We’ve also changed a few things since the last stand– based on our visitors’ understandably low enthusiasm for filling out our surveys, we didn’t distribute any this week, but instead made the main focus of our information table about asking people for their recipes/pictures of their cooking for the cookbook that we want to compile (hopefully to be completed by the end of the summer, depending on how many recipes we get). We left mostly blank sheets of paper on the table for this purpose, for people to either fill out on at the stand if they felt really inspired (like one of our volunteers, Eve, did last night) or to take home to fill out and give back to us later. Already, we had one person hand us a recipe that she had filled out for us a week ago, and many more people (at least ten!) picked up sheets to fill out and give back to us.

Being the designated person to run the info table this week, I noticed how much lighter the atmosphere felt when I talked to people about recipes instead of surveys. I think that also from the standpoint of community ownership in this project that this is a really encouraging project to collaborate on. I’m personally excited see what recipes we’ll receive in the weeks to come, and how much more we all can learn about how to prepare (and then talk about preparing) vegetables.

Besides the emphasis on recipes for this week, we also had signup sheets on the info table for people to volunteer for helping set up the stand, which I would talk about if people asked me about it. Since most of our potential student volunteers are starting to go home, it would be great to get additional support from new volunteers. We haven’t gotten any signups yet, but we’ll see what happens in the next few weeks. We’re also continuing to raffle off cooking supplies (we’ll be giving everything away on our final veggie stand of the year, September 13th) and to have weekly stand activities– this week, Miranda put together face- and banner-painting. Several people lingered, and people talked to us about their cooking, all of which made this week’s veggie stand a really enjoyable one.

8/2: Veggie Stand #5

It was a week that went smoothly in spite of a few possible challenges– two of us three interns were on vacation (though 2/3 of us were back in time for the stand). In spite of this, the labor shortage was more than made up for with the additional help of volunteers at the Easton Urban Farm and employees at LaFarm with harvesting, and Miranda and Doc M helping with veggie transport on Thursday. Mark from the Urban Farm strategically had us harvest most of the produce meant to go to the stand on Tuesday rather than on Thursday morning as we usually do, since we had a larger group of volunteers earlier in the week and that provided us with more time to clean the produce on Thursday. So we were still able to easily harvest just as much as we usually do– and maybe more, since tomato season has officially started last week at the farms, and the three rows of plants at the Urban Farm alone have been steadily producing several harvest bins’ worth of tomatoes every day.

Weather for Thursday was the next challenge since it was forecasted to rain that night. After watching it downpour at around 2:30, double- and triple-checking weather forecasts, we checked in with Doc M and decided that we were still a go for stand night. And though it rained intermittently during the stand, it didn’t pour, leaving our spirits undampened. The neighborhood also wasn’t too fazed by the weather, with around 35 people showing up that night.

Easton Hospital had a table set up for our stand activity for the week, handing out samples of kale chips and plates sectioned into recommended serving sizes for children. Everyone was excited about tomatoes (and the flower bouquets from LaFarm that Lisa thoughtfully added to her harvest), and we somehow managed to have some left over, probably due to the large harvest and to the lower turnout. Undoubtedly, though, the next time that we have good weather for a veggie stand, we’re going to have much higher demand for tomatoes.

2018 Veggie Stand #3

This week has been our best yet in terms of both attendance and stand-goer engagement.    We had 56 visitors to the stand this week.  Word about the stand is spreading, but there is still more we can do to advertise.  One possible way to attract more traffic is by working with the Easton Community Center.  We were able to meet Lance, who works with the Community Center.  Lance had some great ideas for getting people to the stand and encouraging them to hang around.

This week we were particularly excited about the amount of time people spent at the stand.  There seemed to be a lot more conversation than the previous two weeks.  The number of kids at the stand was also up this week.  Family friendly activities are a great way to boost participation.  People seemed interested in tasting the infused water Miranda brought to the stand, and the kids really loved playing with the bubbles.

We also received our first recipe for what will hopefully become the ViC cookbook!  One of the community members brought a recipe for a zucchini casserole.  We will try to display it in the coming weeks with the hope that it will encourage others to bring their own recipes to the stand.

In terms of produce, we noticed that we had an abundance of squash, zucchini, and cucumbers left over.  It may be helpful to try to coordinate produce expectations between our farmers and local donors.  Overall, week three was very successful!

2018 #2 Veggie Stand

After the accomplishment of our first veggie stand, we as interns were excited and prepared to go into the 2nd veggie stand. We prepared by creating a checklist and creating set tasks for our volunteers, specifically for set up and clean up. Set up went smoothly and without a scratch. Creating the checklist and mapping out the set up really helped everything become more efficient. For instance, instead of being scattered, we made sure to put the unweighted produce in a separate area to weigh it. Our volunteers (Eve and Emma) were of great help and we realized that the VIC stand does well with just a few volunteers depending on the stands activities. Although we do have an objective to get more community member volunteers!

Once the stand was set up and ready to open, we had a line of people waiting to start their pickings. At 5:30pm we opened the stall and people were especially excited to see the onions, garlic, peppers, and herbs. We noticed that kale and summer yellow squash are not as popular so we hope to provide more collards and less kale. Since the 2018 opening stand had a surplus of produce, LaFarm and the Urban Easton Farm decided to slow down on harvesting and supplied around 100 pounds less at the 2nd stand. This resulted in the produce going much faster. VIC hopes to increase the number of people who visit the stand, therefore we will be increasing the amount of produce to keep up with the demand.

VIC is happy with the 41 people who came to the #2 veggie stand, however, our goal is for 60-80 people to come. Therefore, we plan on contacting more community centers to engage more community members to visit the stand. VIC also hopes to draw more people to the stand by providing fresh fruit. The veggie stand hopes its interactive activities will draw people to the stand. At our 2nd veggie stand, Miranda (part of the VIC team), supplied and supported the activities of soccer, bubbles, and vegetable education. The children who came to the stand very much enjoyed running around with Miranda.

2018 Season Launch!

After weeks of farming and preparing for the first veggie stand of the season, it comes as a relief to all of us interns to have had strong launch this past week. With clear skies, abundant harvests, and the help of Sophia, Steve, and a number of student volunteers, the tents were set up and the Safe Harbor produce was weighed in time for 5:30. Apart from us feeling a little frazzled about what to set up first, setup went relatively smoothly, and we decided it would be wise to plan a general sequence or checklist of things that we need to do in order to make the process a little less stressful.

We saw 39 attendees come and go with bags full of veggies, and we had plenty left over to be donated to the Easton Area Neighborhood Center afterward (much thanks to the harvests from LaFarm, the Easton Urban Farm, Crayola, and the Safe Harbor community garden). We also had some kale recipes available, distributed a survey on food security, and Miranda hosted a flower-pressing activity that drew the attention of several kids.

Above: a few of our volunteers handing out produce last week.

We had advertised about a week in advance, posting on the ViC Facebook page and distributing flyers in widening circles around 10th and Pine (our stand location), and it seems that Facebook was the more successful method of the two, even though both drew visitors to the stand (that, and most notably, Sophia spreading the word throughout the neighborhood). In the future we definitely want to make regular use of Facebook to advertise our weekly activities and have more conversations with people in the neighborhood and community leaders to better spread the word about our stand.

Veggie Stand #6

This week was a hectic one!

I think it has just dawned on all three of our ViC interns that we only have two weeks of summer left- and a whole lot to do in that time.

Casey was on vacation for the beginning half of this week, and her assistance was sorely missed. The Urban Farm was rained out on Monday, so Jen and Andie worked an additional three hours Tuesday afternoon, after a hard morning at LaFarm. Casey returned to see sleepy smiles and tired arms from the busy week.

Jen and Andie presented our research on Wednesday, which required lots of prep, but was very well received. Curt, always the proud dad, took audible pictures throughout. We really appreciate all those who came out to support us.

All the work paid off, and the stand ran smoothly, although people have began cuing up as early as 4 for the 5:30 start time. The initial rush took 40 minutes, and depleted most of the veggies. The only things left at 7 were delicious cherry tomatoes and some green beans.

Best unintentional pun so far:

*standing in front of beets as a customer selects some to take home*

Casey: “I’m looking for recipe ideas! How do you normally cook those?”

Customer: “Beats me. I just improvise. Oh! Ha hah. Get it? ‘Beets me!'”

More, better puns needed. Come to the stand next Thursday, 5:30 to 7 at tenth and pine, and share your best veggie puns with us!!

Veggie Stand #4: The First of the Tomatoes

Thursday’s stand went well, especially in terms of our range of available produce and the number of families that we fed– approximately 75! We also had some of the first tomatoes of the season available this week, and they (unsurprisingly) sold very well.

This week’s experience was most similar to our professors’ descriptions of what the Markets at 10th and Pine have been like in years past, with a line forming as early as thirty minutes in advance, and with a slightly overwhelming initial rush of people. As our professors have told us before we began running the stands, it is during this initial rush that produce flies off of the tables– especially popular items like tomatoes and potatoes. This week definitely lived up to that expectation, since the more high-demand items, like green beans and tomatoes, were gone before the initial flood of people had even subsided. The only reason why we didn’t run out of other popular items, such as peppers and potatoes, was because we had received a very generous amount of both from Crayola’s farm in Forks, so we had enough to last us about halfway through the evening.

I worked on restocking the supply of tomatoes, carrying two pint-sized cartons to the table at a time. I was constantly restocking, and it was a brief job given how quickly the tomatoes were taken– it seemed that as soon as I replenished the tables with two more pint-sized cartons, two more were gone. While the fast consumption of our produce is certainly encouraging, the customers who came to the stand after the initial rush were discouraged by the fact that the more popular items had been taken in such a short span of time. These customers then decided that it would be better for them to come to the stand earlier, which is a bit stressful for the ViC team to hear about. Not only does such thinking point to the possibility that customers are treating our stand as if it is similar to a food pantry, but if more people think that they must come to the stand early to receive the most desirable produce, then it contributes to the initial rush, which can be overwhelming for us.

Some possible solutions that we have brainstormed about include replenishing the stocks of produce on the tables more strategically, so that high-demand items like tomatoes can stay on the tables for a longer period of time. We also talked about possibly labeling such items as having limited stock, and leaving an additional suggested donation amount for that particular item. We also are more determined to start the stand at exactly 5:30 next week, and not ten minutes earlier like this week.

In the weeks to come, we also plan on having an informational table set up– complete with a sign-up sheet for Easton Urban Farm volunteers, a poster providing information about LaFarm and the Urban Farm, and optional surveys for customers. We’re also looking to have a presence at 10th and Pine during Easton’s National Night Out by hosting a potluck. So, between getting an info table set up for next week, and having ourselves set up at 10th and Pine for two days out of the week, it will be a bit of a busier week for ViC, but definitely a productive and exciting one!

Welcome Summer 2017!

With the market at 10th and Pine starting up in the coming weeks (save the date! July 6th, 5:30-7!) we’ve been doing a lot of farming in preparation for our market. There’s been plenty of transplanting, weeding, and watering between the Easton Urban Farm and LaFarm over the past few weeks, with many early mornings and a fair amount of back pain for us all. But our hard work is paying off– the plants look healthy and happy, and we’re looking forward to a nice assortment of produce in time for our first veggie stand.

This past week and the Urban Farm, Casey, Andie, and I harvested a lot of peas– 75 pounds (!!), some of which were given to the Kellyn Foundation for their farm stand. We transplanted eggplant, and were instructed on how to use the farm cooler for storing our vegetables in the weeks ahead.

Similarly, at LaFarm, we also spent a lot of time harvesting peas– we did a thorough harvest on both farms, because their season is coming to an end. After the peas, we divided and conquered for the rest of Thursday’s harvest, which included turnips, radishes, kale, and baby squash. There is a routine to the harvest that we are gradually becoming accustomed to– the rinsing, the weighing. The more we harvest, the more we are getting used to this general process, and we are slowly becoming more efficient every time.

This part of the summer is starting to feel pretty rewarding– all of the plants that we transplanted over the past few weeks are growing and thriving, and overall plans for the market are starting to materialize, too. We hope that you’re as excited for the stand’s launch as we are!

In the coming weeks, stay tuned for more farm updates and what veggies we’ll have available!

Welcome Summer 2016!

We’ve gotten a late start with our blog posts this year, so here’s a recap of everything we’ve been up to for the last 5 weeks:

We’ve gotten our shoulders nice and tan working 20 hours per week at the farms– we split our time in half between the Urban farm and LaFarm. We’ve transplanted, weeded, watered, trellised, harvested and mulched our way into the end of June. We’ve discussed the topics of food justice, food sovereignty, community food security, and food agency with Professors Cohen and Malinconico. Sarah Edmonds, the LaFarm manager, and Curt Rowell, the Urban farm manager, have taught us a lot about the daily chores that need to get done to keep the farms on track.

The veggies are looking great, and we are prepping for our first veggie stand of the season on July 6th! We are working on getting flyers printed and trying to figure out how to spread the word about the veggie stand among the Easton community. We have planned to have small events at each stand including a demonstration held by the Easton Hospital nutritionist, lemonade stand, games, music, and a potluck.

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!

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