The first time I had to define “sustainable agriculture” to 2nd graders I was tongue tied! I struggled to find an age appropriate way to explain that concept. Since children learn about natural resources, I decided to frame it that way and told these children that sustainable agriculture means being careful to take only as much from the land that allows it to continue to produce food for us to eat. Ted Hirsch, Head of the Lower School at the South Shore Charter Public School in Norwell explained it beautifully to a group of 1st and 2nd graders recently. I was with Amy Koskowski’s multi-age class on their annual pilgrimage to a beach in Scituate to gather seaweed for their garden beds at the school and the 40’ x 40’ plot they farm at Holly Hill Farm. 22 children, some younger siblings and about 10 parents were gathered on a chilly blue sky day the week before Thanksgiving. It was windy and cold – about 30 degrees – but all the children sat quietly as Ted reminded them of all the produce they harvested at their school and from their plot at the farm – carrots, kale, garlic, potatoes, pumpkins, eggplant and so much more. “We have been taking and taking from the gardens all spring, summer, and fall. Today is our day to give back,” said Hirsch as the children and parents listened attentively. The kids worked really hard to fill two pickup trucks full of seaweed. We took a lot of seaweed but left so much more for others interested in this free, plentiful and historically accurate source of free fertilizer and winter mulch for their gardens.
Giving back to the soil is really the essence of sustainable agriculture. We ask so much from the soil to produce food for us. There are areas at Holly Hill Farm where Farm Manager Deanna Levanti and her summer apprentices grew three succession plantings in one season – for example early spring greens, summer squash, followed by hardy kale or rainbow chard in the fall. That’s a lot to ask of the soil so feeding the soil with a winter mulch of cover crop, compost or seaweed is a very good insurance policy to ensure successful growth in the following growing season.
The education programs we offer at the farm need sustaining too! We charge fees for children to come to summer camps, field trips, school farm garden education lessons and after school programs. Those fees have made it possible to expand the Friends of Holly Hill Farm’s education staff to meet increased teaching needs. We have established partnerships with many schools in the area – currently 40 schools in 8 local towns and a few in Boston where Education Director Jon Belber visited just last week to plant garlic at the Epiphany School. But we offer one program in the summer that is a free community service program for teens. This “Farm Pantry Program” is an opportunity for teens to learn about sustainable agriculture while growing food for those in need. The Farm Pantry Garden, started in 2012 by Jon Belber, just completed its second growing year. “It was very gratifying to harvest many pounds of onions, lettuce, kale, scallions, and potatoes, ride the train to Quincy with the teens who had worked so hard to care for the garden all week, and then walk to Father Bill’s carrying baskets filled with fresh organic food,” said Jon, of his experience last August. However yields were compromised by animals helping themselves prior to harvest. Please help the Friends of Holly Hill Farm raise funds to purchase a much needed fence to surround this 60′ x 40′ garden area as well as to provide funding to run this free program in 2014. Our goal is to raise $5,000 on #GivingTuesday – a day of national philanthropy following “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.” “Giving Tuesday enables communities to come together in caring concern for the well being of their members” said farm owner and resident Jean White. “At Holly Hill Farm, this includes teaching the value of sustainable farming principles that result in healthy food and responsible stewardship that protects the land.” Please visit our website any time on Tuesday, December 3 to donate by using your credit card or PayPal account. Gifts are fully tax deductible and will be acknowledged for tax purposes. In addition to cash donations, the public is encouraged to join us in the Farm Pantry Garden on Tuesday from 10 am to noon to help add a winter mulch of compost to improve soil fertility in 2014. Please consider making a donation of any amount! We need your help to “sustain” and grow this valuable program – there’s that word again! If the soil could speak, it would say thank you for the sustaining addition of seaweed! Those of us who teach at the farm say thank you too for your gifts that help sustain the work we do to educate others about the importance of caring for the land that feeds us!
© 2013, Janice McPhillips. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm