© 2013, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm
A day in the life of a farm educator
So many plants at the plant sale are whisked carefully away, from where they have grown since their March and April infancy, ready to delight the home gardener, the budding farmer and the grower of organic produce, flower, fruit and herb. Many plants grown at Holly Hill Farm also are intended for the fields to the expected care and fruition, as well as watchful eye, of the farmer who traverses the three and a half acres of rocky, often wet fields, from which Cohasset gains its name, Quonahassit.
I recently spent the day traveling to smaller fields, near and far on the South Shore. Though I long to power myself to these school farm gardens by bicycle, sometimes, in order to make the appointed rounds on time, I rely on the kindness of a borrowed motor vehicle, as was the case when I headed out first to Norwell’s Cole elementary school to teach and grow with 2nd graders. The wide open topic was Colonial herbs, of which there are at least 50 that they grew in New England. I chose a few choice culinary herbs, started at Holly Hill from seed in February and March. Thyme, oregano, sweet marjoram, rosemary, dear sage, Summer savory, tarragon and chives were the little herbs I brought to hand-weeded, raised beds behind the school. We placed ourselves in the shoes of Pilgrims as we imagined and literally heeling in perennials for the New World. For their near future trip to Plimouth Plantation, I encouraged them to look for similar, well established herbs, and how they might be used in the cook stoves and pots for preservation and good taste. I see a re-visit to the garden come Fall, as mature third graders to gather and dry herbs for the long Winter ahead.
From there, I ventured to the Old Colony Montessori school to harvest almost bolted spinach for a salad. The recent, warm days have encouraged us to forget Winter and think Summer. Spinach as well has taken off on the road to reproduction, as it considers flowers, seeds and the future. Pulled just in time, washed in a spinner, the kids accepted my olive oil and vinegar dressing, with a young garlic plant picked for a little kick in the dressing. Tossed and turned, the kids for the most part happily sought a second helping. Worthy of a picture, the salad was also adorned with opening, purple garlic chive flowers for a little color and spice. With lunch taken care of, I ventured to the Hatherly after school program, where frolicking on the freshly mowed, untreated grassy knoll is of prime interest, after a long Monday of work, perhaps a state test and the regular rigors of a school day. With a little weeding and transplanting out of the way, the kids happily picked palm-of-the-hand sized curly kale leaves for cookie sheet placement. These kale plants were happily transplanted into the garden in early April. The recipe for kale chips, from my resourceful sister-in-law chef, was made easily with he help of the educational, portable propane oven, along with oil and salt. [Who is growing olives in New England to complete the local cooking endeavours?!] Satiated and relaxed under the shade of the leafed-out tree, almost all the students were excited to grow, and eat, more kale.
Lastly, I made my weekly pilgrimage to the Teak Sherman Community Garden in Scituate, for where all the plots are spoken. I planted two donated pumpkin plants, watered them and hoped that a pumpkin, or perhaps the making of a pumpkin bread or pie, would please a visitor to the Scituate Food pantry come October. There is much to say about the eager, community involvement in this garden, or the God’s Garden started last year in Pembroke with organically raised produce, that also provides food for those in need, but that is another column to be written. Today was another educational effort to make accessible healthy, organic produce to children and adults, during the Spring season while school is in session and with the simple notion of starting from seeds at the farm.