© 2014, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm
In case the long Winter is not quite forgotten, I sit with a blanket on in early June, to consider the Farm, the plants and the season. The slowly warming days still yield to cool, breezy nights. The peas are slowly growing. The tendrils are barely attached to the pea fences and trellises. The hope for sugar snap pea pods at many area school farm gardens may not yet be a reality. This edible crop that grows from seed to shiny seed takes about 65 days, and the timing is crucial, so as to have success during the school year. Though radishes only take 25-30 days, the sometimes spicy root crop is not as appealing to a new grower. We farmers and teachers like to grow food with interest and enjoyment, as we grow and teach new and old converts about organic farming.
When kids gathered at school gardens in March to sow peas in the cold, cold growing beds, it was still too cool outside for them to germinate. Many peas were started indoors, with hopes for a smooth transplant. But a lot of crops have a hard time adjusting to the great outdoors, especially here in New England where there are many dramatic changes and fluctuations in the temperature. So teachers and farmers have had to wait and hope and in some cases, sow again the seeds or plug in new transplant replacements. 2nd grade students and young eager farmers from the newly growing Pingree school in Weymouth sowed their sugar snap peas on April 16th, while on their inaugural field trip to the farm. Though mostly excited by the animals and the first time for many visit to the farm, they were pleased to sow peas. When I returned to the school with two flats of peas the other day in late May, there was greater anticipation, as we eagerly transplanted them into their new garden bed in the heart of Jackson Square, beside the kindergarten room where young, tenderly growing and cared-for butterflies were about to fly free. When we determined that the school year would in fact be in session until the 24th of June, there were sighs of joy and frustration. Frustration at the thought of slowly disappearing Summer and joy at the thought of snapping off the crisp, sugary pods for a quick, healthy, local, edible snack.
The very next day, though, the same students can travel to their new neighborhood Whole Foods to purchase peas or any other vegetable, and support the educational programs at the farm. The generous 5% day donation from Whole Foods, allows us to keep teaching and maybe reaching additional school kids in Weymouth, and maybe Quincy and Braintree too. For that matter, who is to say the students from Pingree would not soon be able to grow some crops in their garden for to sell to a Whole Foods or at a farmers market. There is quite a lot of outfield behind the Pingree, where beds could be built, crops could be sown and folks from the community could come take part in some positive efforts to grow food for the school and neighbors. This whole growing and changing and planning and planting takes a lot of work and not everyone has a team of cultivators similar to the staff on the south lawn of the White House. But grow, bed by bed, tendril by reaching and dancing tendril we do. Through cold and eventual Summer sun, the peas and other crops will flourish at school farm gardens and in farmer’s fields. And with enthusiasm, I and others will hopefully soon, while in school or on vacation, be able to snap off a pod and indulge. More to grow, snap, taste and sow again.